(This is the second segment of a two-part story on DJJ)
Even with all the cuts that the Department of Juvenile Justice has faced over the last two years, the agency is seeing success in its mission, mainly due to two programs.
DJJ Director Bill Byars, commonly called “Judge Byars” since he once served as a family court judge, has led the agency for the past seven years. He says the effectiveness of the programs is reflected in the fact that the juvenile crime rate is down 30 percent, nine percent more than the previous year. He says that has been reflected in a drop in the number of referrals or warrants.
Byars says the Intensive Supervision For Released Offenders program is working wonders, focusing on kids who have been released, to keep them from going back to DJJ or going to prision. He says too many kids were returning and an answer was needed. Byars says the key to the program are the case workers, who work with the youth intensly, and the families.
Also, the state’s wilderness camps, run by Clemson University, now house youth whose main issue is that they couldn’t stay in school, so they don’t have to be kept in the tougher lockup facilities.
Byars says his agency will oversee 30 percent or 20,000 fewer juveniles this year than when he took over the agency. Seven years ago there were 90 females in lockup behind razor wire. Now there are only a dozen. The number of youthful offenders locked up now is one-third less than it was a year ago.