Advocates say reform of South Carolina’s juvenile justice system is much needed

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) — Advocates in South Carolina are renewing their push to make changes to the state’s juvenile justice system.

Wendy Varner said she doesn’t want another child in South Carolina to go through what her daughter experienced.

Varner and others are vocally supporting S.53, also known as the Juvenile Justice Reform Act. Warner said, “You have to address the problem with the same response in which that problem yields.”

Varner’s daughter spent time at a South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facility and was released earlier this year. Varner thinks reforming the system will help kids and make things better for staff at DJJ.

“I think it would have prevented so much trauma my daughter experienced in that facility,” she said. “Not only for her but the juveniles there with her. We probably wouldn’t have even been having this conversation right now.”

The Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children met in Columbia this week. They heard from supporters of S.53. They said the bill would make some broad reforms to the system.

According to advocates, it would cut down on the number of children who end up in the custody of DJJ. Varner said the legislation would also prohibit the practice of solitary confinement.

Vivan Anderson the Founder and Executive Director of Every Black Girl Inc. said the legislation would also stop the practice of former inmates being automatically placed in alternative schools.

Anderson said it could possibly ‘dismantle the school to prison pipeline in South Carolina.

The legislation would also create a ‘Bill of Rights’ for children who are detained in South Carolina.

Varner said, “Our main goal here is to stop these kids from ever offending.”

The Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children will be meeting on Sept. 30 in Greenville. For more information click here.

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