Barton, K., & Smith, A.
University of South Carolina Women’s and Gender Studies Conference, Columbia, S.C.
Publication year: 2014

The Lexington County Juvenile Arbitration program (JA) is a community-based diversion program for first-time non-violent youth offenders. Started in 1983 by Solicitor Donald V. Myers of the 11th Judicial Circuit, the program has since served as a model for other state programs. Trained community volunteers conduct hearings and assign sanctions to youth, then monitor the case for 90 days. Successful cases will not have a Court record, Unsuccessful cases are returned to the local Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) for Court prosecution. Increasing rates of female juvenile offenders led to collaboration with the Women’s Well-being Initiative to develop an issues-based art and writing workshop offered as a sanction to adolescent girls. The class focuses on common “roadblocks” these girls face including body image issues, eating disorders, relationship violence, and gender stereotypes. Since 2005, WWBI and JA have been partnering to offer this workshop three times a year. Art and writing class participants have the lowest recidivism rates when compared with youth who did not complete the arts class. In a 2011 Statewide Evaluation, conducted by System Wide Solutions, Lexington’s Arbitration Program was reported to have a 11.5% recidivism rate, as compared to the Statewide Arbitration’s overall 16 % rate when looking at the prior 4 years of case completions. They attribute many sanction possibilities, trained volunteers, community service programs and working with services offered by the WWBI as the many reasons recidivism rates are low.