Darlington County group holds meeting to discuss youth incarceration issues

South Carolina (SC) is currently out of compliance with the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018 (JJRA) Deinstitutionalization of Status Offenders (DSO) core requirement. The DSO requirement prohibits the secure confinement of children for status offenses (e.g., incorrigibility, runaway, and truancy), limits to seven days incarceration when a youth violates a judge’s Valid Court Order (VCO) related to a status offense and requires the state to follow specified procedures regarding these VCO incarcerations.

In October 2020, the Children’s Law Center (CLC) of the University of South Carolina’s School of Law was awarded a federal Formula Grant to assist the state in eliminating incarceration for status offenses. The CLC reviewed South Carolina juvenile incarceration data and identified those counties with the highest number of detentions and commitments associated with status offenses. Darlington County ranked within the top 5 counties that committed children to the Department of Juvenile Justice for truancy. 

Placing these children in secure hardware facilities exposes them to serious and violent offenders, worsens pre-existing mental health conditions, and does not address the unmet needs often driving the status offense behaviors (e.g., parent or child mental illness, substance use, abuse, and trauma). 

The CLC created a DSO community stakeholders coalition in Darlington County to help improve outcomes for children and youth at risk of or incarcerated for status offenses. The Darlington Community Foundation has consistently participated since the initial DSO stakeholder meeting on June 9, 2021. Throughout the process, they have hosted and participated in every meeting, facilitated new connections and partnerships with private and public non-profit agencies and organizations, and provided various services and supports to address the needs of children and their families. The DSO stakeholder coalition in Darlington welcomes those community-based organizations to help us expand our efforts to deincarcerate children in Darlington County. Their next meeting will be Tuesday, June 27, 2023, from 10 am -12 pm at the Mathews and Kings Education Center (115B Exchange Street, Darlington, SC). 

In the meantime, please feel free to contact CLC’s Juvenile Justice DSO Project Coordinator, Tanya Barton at Tanya.Barton@sc.edu

Author: Stephan Drew

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