CHILDREN'S LAW CENTER

Status Offense ProjectIntroduction

Status offenses are those offenses which are illegal due to the youth’s status as a minor, and include running away, incorrigibility, and truancy.  Many of the youth who engage in status offense behaviors have experienced trauma and/or family conflict and have unmet education and/or mental health needs, which are often overshadowed by the offenses themselves.  Left unaddressed, these root issues place these children at risk for continued involvement in the juvenile justice system and future involvement in the criminal justice system.  

While incarceration is not the preferred response to status offenses and is prohibited by federal law (Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974), it is allowed by South Carolina law under certain circumstances; unfortunately, often due to a lack of alternatives, it is utilized far too often and to the detriment of these children.

In 2014, the Children’s Law Center (CLC) initiated a statewide effort to address the handling of status offenders and the continued use of incarceration for these youth. This effort has involved multiple strategies including data analysis, training, and the formation of a multidisciplinary task force.

Project Overview

The goal of the Status Offense Project is to address the dynamics contributing to status offenders’ involvement in the juvenile justice system in order to reduce or eliminate the incarceration of these youth and ensure they receive the support and services they need to thrive.  Funded by a Juvenile Accountability Block Grant, this initiative has involved the analysis of state status offender data, an extensive review of case files, the interviewing of numerous professionals who work with status offending youth and key stakeholders, legal and Best Practices research, and the development of the Status Offense Task Force. Additionally, trainings will be offered to stakeholders on various components of the status offense system in an effort to educate the public and professionals on the unique needs of this population and how to employ best practices when working with status offenders.

The Status Offense Task Force is comprised of representatives from family court; law enforcement; school-based counseling services; private providers; and the Departments of Mental Health, Juvenile Justice, Social Services, and Education. After reviewing the data analysis and research provided by the Children’s Law Center and meeting several times to discuss problematic issues, concerns, barriers and realistic solutions, the Task Force is has developed preliminary recommendations for responding to status offenses in South Carolina. 

 

 

This project was supported by Federal Formula Grants #2011-JB-FX-0045 and #2012-JB-FX-0031 awarded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice through the South Carolina Department of Public Safety.  The Assistant Attorney General, Office of Justice Programs, coordinates the activities of the following program offices and bureaus:  Bureau of Justice Assistance, Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Institute of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and the Office for Victims of Crime.  Points of view or opinions contained within this website are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.


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