SOCIETY HILL -The Community Juvenile Arbitration Program of Chesterfield, Darlington, Dillon and Marlboro counties are continuously promoting ways to help change and improve the lives of juveniles who get into crime.
The program, in conjunction with Jay Hodge's Fourth Circuit Solicitor's Office, holds Juvenile Arbitration Training sessions, in which those interested can train and earn certification to work as volunteers within the juvenile court system.
"Volunteers are never on the payroll, but make themselves available to help with juvenile cases and court hearings strictly as a volunteer, said Barbara McLendon, Coordinator.
On Apr. 17, Tonia Davis, Director, and Barbara McLendon, Coordinator of the Fourth Circuit Arbitrator Certification conducted the training at the Society Hill Town Hall from Apr.7-17. The graduation and reception ceremony took place at ABE Consulting located on Main Street in Society Hill.
Ernest Barrentine, Dillon, Melinda Robinson, Dillon, Shirley Thomas, Chesterfield, M. Diana Charles, Chesterfield, Lydia Coachman, Chesterfield, Randy McAllister, Florence, and Lafeyette Jackson, Marlboro, completed the 21-hour training course to work as volunteers through the Fourth Circuit Community Juvenile Arbitration Program.
There are a several requirements that one must meet in order to become a juvenile arbitrator volunteer.
You must be at least 21 years of age, have a valid S.C. driver's license, high school diploma or equivalent, no criminal record, and 21 hours of certification training. Certification classes include the following topics that teach important steps, various types of cases and laws. Topics and discussion sessions such as Juvenile Criminal Justice, Criminal Law, Victimization, Communication Skills and Hearing Format are highlighted.
"No child starts out in life with the ambition of becoming a criminal. The goal of the Fourth Circuit Solicitor's Office is to offer alternatives and diversions to bad habits. We believe in changing people's lives instead of throwing them in jail. Helping them expunge their records by restitution and accountability is a part of that goal," said Solicitor jay Hodge.
By removing the less serious cases and allowing the courts to concentrate on serious and violent crimes, Juvenile Arbitration promotes court efficiency and helps reduce the workload on Family Courts, according to Hodge.
Program guidelines conclude that all of the volunteers who have met the eligibility requirements, have been approved by the court and have completed their training; will act as Arbitrators in the mediation of juvenile cases within their community.
On the other side of the coin, juveniles must also meet certain important criteria, which results in completion of the program. He or she must attend with a parent or guardian, must admit guilt, and has 90 days to complete contract of he program.
Juvenile Arbitration is a "restorative justice" program. With a back to the basic approach, it recognizes and supports the community's need to sanction crime and ensures public safety for everyone.
Some examples of Sanctions that may be imposed upon a juvenile is restitution for damages up to $500, donations to charitable organizations, education classes, assignments or research, attendance at self-help groups, or awareness programs, referrals to social service agencies for evaluations, jail tours and community service.
There is a process that the DJJ (Department of Juvenile Justice) goes through in order to get the results necessary for each case.
First the Department of Juvenile Justice makes a recommendation to arbitrate cases involving juveniles that have no prior record; and have been charged with a non-violent crime. The Solicitor's Office reviews the nature of the charges and determines if the case qualifies for the program. Once the case is accepted, all parties involved are contracted and an Arbitrator is assigned to that case. Within three weeks, a hearing date is then set. A trained Arbitrator will conduct the hearing, which will determine the facts of the case. He or she will then assist the participants of the hearing to negotiate an agreement of sanctions. This restoration is necessary for the juvenile offender to complete to clear his or her record. The juvenile's progress is also monitored towards completing their assigned sanctions to help keep them focused on doing the right things in life.
For more information or to become a volunteer, please call