Senate Bill Could Eliminate Jail Time For Juvenile "Status Offenses"

Running away is one of the most common reasons that a child is in custody. In more rural communities these children could be also housed with grown inmates.

Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Running away from home is one of the most common reasons a child is detained in juvenile custody in South Carolina and in more rural communities, these children could also be placed in local jails with adults.

"Children in South Carolina should never go to jail if they don't have to," says Senator Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington.

Senators Katrina Shealy and Brad Hutto are sponsors of Senate Bill 580. On Monday morning, these senators discussed the bill with different agency representatives, explaining that "status offenses" should not result in jail time.
 
"580 attempts to focus on rehabilitation and treatment rather than punishment," says Sen. Hutto, D-Orangeburg.

A "status offense" is an offense that would not be a crime if it were committed by an adult, like skipping school, acting out being beyond a parent's control or running away from home. 
  
"Running away from home was the fourth most common reason for juvenile detention in South Carolina," says Sen. Hutto.

Bill 580 attempts to change that and also works to make sure no child is held in an adult jail for longer than six hours. That includes children being charged as an adult for a crime. 

Stephen Scoff with the Children's Law Center says keeping children detained for a status offense can hurt them in the long run.
  
"So when you have a kid who has a status offense and you are exposing them to those individuals who should be secure detention, you're increase the likelihood that they will recidivate," says Scoff.

Instead, senators are working to find other options for children who get picked up by law enforcement for these offenses.
  
"Trying to initiate training for law enforcement and people at detention centers for people to recognize the problem that the children may be experiencing when they encounter them, isn't always answered by arresting them," says Sen. Hutto. "What we found is making sure they get services, making sure they get counseling is the better route."

The proposed bill still needs to go before the full judiciary committee before it's heard this coming session.
 

© 2017 WLTX-TV


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