COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD)- The South Carolina Juvenile Justice Department has agreed to reform its main facility for juveniles as part of a federal settlement, the agency announced on Thursday.
The settlement stems from an October 2017 Justice Department investigation in which the department claimed SC DJJ was violating the constitutional rights of incarcerated youth by failing to protect them from staff and by using prolonged isolation as punishment.
According to that report, BRRC officers used “dangerous tactics” on the youth individuals, often on those who were not engaging in or threatening physical violence. The Justice Department says officers punched, choked, and kicked children, among other forms of physical abuse, sometimes resulting in broken bones.
“All children held in the custody of the state deserve safe and humane conditions, that can bring about rehabilitation and reform,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said. “This comprehensive settlement agreement will protect children held in the Broad River Road Complex from harm and the damaging impact of long-term isolation. We will continue working to safeguard the civil rights of children held in detention facilities across the county.”
As part of the agreement, the state agency said they will make changes to increase safety at the facility, including changes to staffing patterns, the deployment of a positive behavior management program, and increased video surveillance.
In addition, the agreement requires that DJJ limit the use of force or restraints, improve its investigation process, and restrict the use of isolation to incidents where the child poses an immediate threat to themselves or others.
“The South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice is to be commended for its commitment to reforming the state’s juvenile detention facility and protecting children in custody,” said U.S. Attorney Corey Ellis for the District of South Carolina. “Today, the state has taken an important step in rectifying the unconstitutional conditions in its juvenile correctional facilities.”