Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Other states around the country are looking at how our state's Juvenile Justice System is keeping children from finding themselves behind bars.
According to a new study, on a typical day Youth incarcerated at the Department of Juvenile Justice has dropped from 1,500 to about 980 within the past 10 years.
"We feel that we are at a "Golden Age" right now," said DJJ Director Margaret Barber.
42% is a number that puts a smile on Barber's face. A recent study shows that youth incarceration is down over the last decade in our state.
"We are now looked upon from other states and they are saying what is South Carolina doing?" said Barber.
DJJ has created 22 programs and initiatives for youth that are incarcerated and programs in the community to prevent youth from ever stepping foot behind their gates. Barber says it's best to get them while they're still in the community.
"If we are doing a job that is very adequate in their area then those young people don't penetrate the system, they don't come to hardware secure, they don't come to Columbia, they don't have to be removed from their homes."
One of the most effective programs that DJJ uses in the community is TASC; Teen After-School Centers.
"Those are the hours where kids seem to get into trouble, they get out of school and they start hanging on the streets; we wanted to put these centers in place and these are centers that took very little money but it took a tremendous amount of heart from volunteers. "
Volunteers like Charnice Starks Ray who works at a TASC site at St. Paul AME Church.
"Not only does it provide a safe outlet, but it provides a place for parents to know their children are able to get their homework done and get the support they need to continue to improve in school," said Ray.
Ray says the program allows volunteers like her to be positive role models and offer guidance for students.
"When that child becomes an adult they are able to come back and say thank you, and in return they want to give back, so it really is a great feeling in the end."
There are TASC sites in every county in the Midlands along with other programs.
If you would like to become a volunteer CLICK HERE.