The South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) established a statewide Victim Services Program (VSP) in 1997 following an amendment to the South Carolina Constitution. This amendment mandated that victims of juvenile crime be informed of their constitutional rights and included in the juvenile justice process. DJJ’s VSP operates within the Community Services Division and is administered by a victim services program manager. The VSP program manager is responsible for the overall planning, management, and evaluation of services to victims.
DJJ employees are routinely trained in communicating with victims on victim empathy and a variety of resources available to victims. A well-trained staff is essential to supporting victims of juvenile crime and assisting them through the juvenile justice process.
Restorative Justice Practices
Because crime damages individuals and relationships, DJJ is committed to Restorative Justice Principles for individuals who are impacted by juvenile crime. The Restorative Justice model helps build safe and healthy communities by providing a variety of effective intervention programs for juveniles and numerous statewide services to victims. These services not only seek to give victims justice, but also helps in the recovery process. Victims of juvenile crime receive:
- Contact prior to DJJ making a recommendation to divert or prosecute a case;
- Information regarding any post-adjudicatory hearings to include probation violations;
- Notification that a juvenile (charged as an adult) is released on bond from the Juvenile Detention Center;
- Notification when a juvenile is being transferred to a less secure facility. (i.e., the Department of Mental Health, SCDC, etc);
- Notification in the event of a juvenile escape;
- Advocacy and referrals to community resources.
Restorative Justice also focuses on repairing harm to victims caused by crime. For that reason, juvenile offenders are given the opportunity to repair harm and give back by participating in VSP- sponsored community service projects. Juveniles are also allowed to donate their artwork, handmade crafts, and participate in fundraising activities that benefit crime victims.
Victim Impact Classes
Juveniles also receive training in victim empathy. Victim impact classes are designed to sensitize and educate the youth offender about the trauma associated with victimization. The goals of this training are to prevent re-victimization and to incorporate Restorative Justice Principles.
Bikers Against Violence
In March 2019, DJJ, in partnership with the South Carolina Victim Assistance Network (SCVAN), geared up for a special event to promote victims' rights in the state.
The Agency hosted the inaugural Bikers Against Violence Charity Ride to honor crime victims, as well as raise awareness for victims' needs and the resources available to them. The ride took place a week before National Crime Victims' Rights Week. Nearly 80 riders participated.
It all started in 2018 when SCDJJ established "Bikers Against Violence (BAV)," a coalition of motorcycle riders comprised of members of law enforcement from across the state, with the goal of creating an innovative way to promote victims' rights. From that effort came the idea of a charity motorcycle ride to support SCVAN in their mission to be a voice for all crime victims and those who serve them.
“The SC Victim Assistance Network is thrilled to partner with the Department of Juvenile Justice in the inaugural 'Bikers Against Violence' charity event," says SCVAN Executive Director Laura Hudson. "All proceeds will go to honor and empower crime victims in their journey toward the goal of healing and promoting a violence-free community.”
"Here at DJJ, we understand that an important part of serving youth offenders is also supporting and serving those who've been wronged," explains DJJ Director Freddie B. Pough. "Our young people need to understand the impact their actions have on others and work to repair the damage done in their home communities. As a motorcycle enthusiast, I'm thrilled to turn a personal passion into a platform for lifting up crime victims and demonstrating what it means to love and serve those who are hurting. I'm grateful to Executive Director Hudson and SCVAN for helping us make this happen."
Through this effort, DJJ was able to donate $3000 to SCVAN.