(WSAV) – A recent report ranks South Carolina ninth in the nation for the most juvenile arrests.
The data comes from the South Carolina Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (DJJ).
More than 13,000 youth cases were processed by the South Carolina United States Department of Justice in 2017, and though only 20% of those cases actually resulted in commitment to a detention center, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) says South Carolina still ranks high for the number of juvenile arrests.
The DOJ reports that in 2017, over 1,500 kids between the ages of 10 and 17 were arrested in South Carolina. The most common offenses were aggravated assault, battery and burglary.
“A lot of the young people who are involved are a part of the system for non-serious crimes,” Tracey Tucker of Campaign for Youth Justice said. “Disturbing schools, public disorderly conduct.”
Only 10% were charged with violent crimes.
Of the 10,000 juveniles referred to the South Carolina DJJ, some had cases dismissed and some were placed in youth arbitration programs. Experts say these programs are necessary to change the state’s statistics moving forward.
“When young people are detained, they have higher recidivism rates, meaning they are more likely to return to a system,” Tucker said. “That’s why we have to have community based programs because they get at the root causes of what’s really going on with an individual.”
Experts say school plays an important role in keeping kids away from crime.
“The majority of their time, meaningful time, is spent at school,” Lashawnda Woods-Roberts of the Roberts Appleseed Justice Center said.
There has been a recent push to institute more mental heath programs and resources in schools because of this idea.
“It’s a quick fix,” Woods-Roberts said. “People don’t want to deal with problem kids. Most of these children were suspended. Oftentimes, when a child has a referral to DJJ, there were some signs before.”
A few counties in the state have implemented intervention and prevention programs, but there is not a state-wide program that addresses youth offenders.
“Their brain doesn’t develop fully until 25, so if you’re giving them adult consequences without intervention, I don’t know how effective it would be,” Woods-Roberts said.