COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A new plan to keep youthful offenders from landing back behind bars as adults is gaining traction as the Department of Juvenile Justice studies recidivism rates.
DJJ acting director Freddie Pough wants to house juveniles closer to their homes. Pough says his plan is about reducing recidivism -- a plan being evaluated now by Clemson University.
There are now about 100 adolescents housed at the DJJ in Columbia, the only facility in South Carolina where the youthful offenders are held. There are camps for some of the juveniles not held under maximum security in other areas of the state, but Pough wants to move some of those 100 housed at Broad River Road at the detention center closer to where their homes and families.
There are evaluation centers in Union in the Upstate and Ridgeville in the Lowcountry, but Pough wants to transform those facilities into the one like on Broad River Road.
"A lot of our families are below the poverty line, and it's difficult for them to make that weekly trip to Columbia to visit with their loved one," Pough said. "So in return, it's problematic because the juvenile sometimes feels neglected. Also, for our older young people you know, 16, 17, 18 years old, who we're trying to help get back into society and become productive citizens. If we can accomplish that in the community in which they're from or at least the region that they're
from, we stand a better chance of them leaving our facility and then going to work and continuing that process."
Pough believes that with more family visits and the ability to get and keep a job close to home, there are better chances juveniles can re-enter society. He has met with Gov. Henry McMaster and announced the proposal last week in a cabinet meeting. He's waiting on a rough price of the plan as Clemson runs numbers and studies the process of transforming buildings and staff to make it happen.