Press Release Contact: Loretta S. Neal
For Immediate Release (803) 896-9518
DJJ chosen as a national Balanced and Restorative Justice demonstration model
The South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) has been selected by the Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ) Project as one of only five national demonstration models for balanced and restorative justice in the country. BARJ is an initiative of the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).
DJJ was selected based on its accomplishments, planning efforts, and commitment to restorative justice practices over the past three years. As a demonstration site, the agency will receive technical assistance through OJJDP for the next three years. During this time the agency will work to systematically integrate existing and future restorative justice practices statewide.
DJJ has adopted the vision to "build and maintain a balanced and restorative juvenile justice system." The balanced and restorative justice model is based on the assumption that when a juvenile commits a crime, he or she must repair the harm to the victim(s) and the community.
Mr. Byars has experience with the balanced and restorative justice concept having served for four years on the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention at the US Department of Justice.
South Carolina's Governor Mark Sanford has embraced the balanced and restorative justice concept as principles that allow for a new way of responding to crime.
Here are a few examples of restorative practices that have been implemented by DJJ:
- Accountability Practices - victim/offender mediation, community arbitration, restitution to crime victims, and community service projects.
- Competency Development Practices - victim impact classes/panels for offenders, anger management training for offenders, leadership skills training for offenders, and skill building for parents.
- Public Safety Practices - electronic monitoring for offenders, victim notification regarding offender status, community policing initiatives, and community involvement in program development and implementation.
The longest standing and one of the most successful restorative justice efforts DJJ has supported is the community-based Juvenile Arbitration Program. The Arbitration Program in South Carolina began in 1983 when 11th Circuit Solicitor Donald V. Myers initiated it.
Today, DJJ works in collaboration with 13 of the state's 16 judicial circuits to provide arbitration programming for first time juvenile offenders charged with committing a non- violent crime. Within the program, ordinary citizens are trained by the Solicitors as arbitrators to assist the offender and their parent(s), victim, and arresting officer to develop common-sense solutions to divert at-risk youths from the juvenile justice system. During FY 01-02 nearly 4,200 youngsters statewide were diverted from the juvenile justice system through the Arbitration Program. A study of the program has demonstrated that 91% of the juveniles did not re-offend within two-years of completion. The success of the program is attributed to each community's involvement and willingness to manage crime in their own neighborhoods.
DJJ's newest restorative partnership is with the South Carolina Habitat for Humanity whereby juveniles on parole or probation are involved in Habitat home building projects. Youth in the community and those housed at DJJ are also involved in building Adirondack chairs that are being donated to new Habitat homeowners. Some of the chairs are also being sold to earn money that is needed to pay restitution to victims of crime. On Thursday, February 27, 2003, DJJ Director Bill Byars will join juveniles at 2:30 p.m. as they build chairs in the carpentry department at our Birchwood High School, 4900 Broad River Road.
"Restorative justice is a back-to-basics mission for juvenile justice,'' said Byars. "It is a common sense response to crime. A truly restorative justice system is one in which victims feel more satisfied, communities are safer, and offenders leave us better than when they came.''
The Department of Juvenile Justice, a state cabinet agency, is responsible for providing rehabilitation and custodial care for the state's juveniles who are on probation, incarcerated, or on parole for a criminal or status offense. The agency is focused on building and maintaining a balanced and restorative juvenile justice system and on achieving its mission, "to provide for a continuum of effective interventions that enables juveniles to become responsible, productive citizens and fosters safe and healthy communities."
Photograph opportunity: DJJ Director Bill Byars will join juveniles on Thursday, February 27, 2003 at 2:30 p.m. at DJJ's Birchwood High School as they build Adirondack chairs as part of the restorative justice project.
South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice
4900 Broad River Road
Columbia SC, 29212-3552