COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice (SCDJJ) is implementing several initiatives in 2023 that are designed to improve and enhance safety for staff and youth, as well as support the agency’s rehabilitative efforts. Many of these initiatives will begin at the Broad River Road Complex (BRRC), the agency’s long-term commitment facility located in Columbia and then move to other facilities.
During January 2023, the first wave of the Rapid Response Team (RRT) started at BRRC. The RRT is designed to focus on de-escalating and controlling non-compliant behaviors quickly and safely. RRT members have successfully completed both fitness testing requirements and enhanced trainings and will work directly with youth in the units, building positive relationships, while partnering with juvenile correctional officers. Ultimately the goal is to establish RRTs at all SCDJJ secure facilities.
In addition, the agency is implementing the Credible Messengers initiative, which is a transformative mentoring intervention program for committed youth. Credible Messengers are neighborhood leaders, experienced youth advocates, and individuals with relevant life experiences whose role is to help youth transform negative attitudes and challenging behaviors. Credible Messengers are highly vetted and receive specialized training from a national firm who has established similar programs throughout the country. The mission of the Credible Messengers initiative, which is more than a traditional mentoring program, provides preventative incident support through communication and positive adult presence.
SCDJJ is also collaborating with the National Partnership for Juvenile Services (NPJS), an organization that provides professional development and technical assistance and promotes best practices and standards to the field of juvenile justice and delinquency prevention. NPJS has started the Back-2-Basics (B2B) program. B2B focuses staffs’ attention and energy on basic facility practices. It also creates a robust system of accountability where the supervisors and leadership “inspect what they expect." NPJS is also assisting in overhauling and simplifying the behavior management system by using proven strategies that both increase accountability and overall change youth behavior. NPJS consultants are embedded within the facilities and working side by side with SCDJJ staff to provide on the job training, coaching and support.
The agency is planning numerous capital improvement projects focusing on improving the safety and security of the existing facility. Currently, the agency is in the middle of constructing internal doors to each sleeping area of BRRC ‘open bay’ dorms. Other safety improvements in these dorms includes removal of outdated fixtures and replacement with stronger items especially designed for this environment. These enhancements add additional safety for staff and youth. The agency is also planning to do extensive renovations on existing buildings and grounds focusing on safety and security.
“These initiatives along with much need capital improvements will be instrumental to increasing safety, security and the ability to provide rehabilitative services,” said executive director Eden Hendrick. “Our staff is working diligently, and it will take time to fully implement all of these initiatives, but I am excited about them and the future of this agency.”