COLUMBIA -- The South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice (SCDJJ) announced at an agency event on March 16, 2023, the implementation of the Credible Messenger initiative, which is a transformative mentoring intervention program for youth committed to the Broad River Road Complex (BRRC), the agency’s long-term commitment facility.
The SCDJJ is the first state-wide agency in the country to implement the Credible Messenger Initiative through the Credible Messenger Mentoring Movement (CM3). The overall mission is to connect young people in the care and custody of SCDJJ at BRRC to positive decision-making, to provide preventative incident support through improved communication, and utilize positive adult presence.
“This program is so important to our agency, and I am extremely excited to be able to bring it to DJJ,” said SCDJJ executive director Eden Hendrick. “I’ve seen the real connections mentorship can make with people and I believe this program will be transformative for the youth here.”
Credible Messengers are neighborhood leaders, experienced youth advocates, and individuals with relevant life experiences whose role is to help youth transform attitudes and behaviors around violence. They serve young people whose needs go far beyond the traditional mentoring approach of companionship, confidence building, and typical academic, social, or career guidance.
“We’re so happy to be a part of launching this initiative here in South Carolina and are thankful for the amazing leadership here at DJJ,” said Clinton Lacey, CEO of CM3. “Where we’ve implemented Credible Messengers in New York and Washington, DC, in communities and inside secure facilities, we’ve seen reductions in recidivism, violence, and contraband while increasing safety, wellness, the presence of education and restorative justice.”
Credible Messengers connect with the most challenging young people because they come from similar communities, are formerly incarcerated, or were involved in the justice system (vetted and reformed). Credible Messengers have many attributes. They have turned their lives around, demonstrate integrity and transformation, are skilled and trained in mentoring young people, promote family and community engagement, and enhance the agency’s role in violence prevention efforts.
The Credible Messenger initiative at SCDJJ will operate in partnership with Path2Redemption, a local non-profit organization whose mission is to assist formerly incarcerated individuals successfully transition back into society. The organization was founded in 2015 by Lester Young, who himself was incarcerated at the age of 19 for 22 years, but now works diligently to give back and help young people in similar situations. Mr. Young and numerous members of his team attended the event and are currently receiving specialized Credible Messenger training.
“All our young people need is to be seen and respected and given the opportunity to be heard,” said Young, CEO of Path2Redemption. “Eight years we’ve been building Path2Redemption and all of the people (volunteers) you see here today have a gift, have an experience and despite our differences, we come together to join forces with DJJ.”