Groundbreaking Young Adult Prison Reform Initiative to Expand to South Carolina

The Vera Institute of Justice, in partnership with the South Carolina Department of Corrections, will help develop unique young-adult units in prisons state-wide

NEW YORK, NY — In recent years, young adults have emerged as a priority population in criminal justice: they are involved in a greater share of facility incidents, have a higher likelihood of ending up in solitary confinement, and return to prison at far higher rates compared to any other age group. Today, the Vera Institute of Justice announced a new partnership with the South Carolina Department of Corrections expanding its successful Restoring Promise Initiative, which partners with state and local corrections agencies to transform living conditions for incarcerated young adults (ages 18-25) across the country in order to advance four key goals: create safety, strengthen communities, facilitate healing, and advance equity.

Restoring Promise draws on lessons from youth development, juvenile correctional best practices, international examples, and the voices of those directly impacted by the current system – incarcerated young adults and facility staff. South Carolina joins with partners in Connecticut and Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office (MSO) in Massachusetts in the Restoring Promise Initiative.

“The criminal justice system in the US has long prioritized punishment and isolation over accountability and restoration – a method that has failed to yield positive results on every measure of safety and community wellness”, said Alexandra Frank, Senior Associate in Vera’s Center on Youth Justice. “Our work with Restoring Promise has already demonstrated that applying a participatory and restorative justice framework that ingrained systemic challenges results in sustainable change for people who live and work in prisons, as well as their families and communities. We’re so pleased to build upon this work and partner with the team at the South Carolina Department of Corrections as they take this bold step to reimagine their approach to working with incarcerated young adults.”

“We are thrilled to partner with the Vera Institute of Justice to build on our successes by continuing to develop innovative and ground breaking ways to rehabilitate our young adult populations,” said SCDC Director Bryan Stirling. “We are committed to improving public safety by reducing the number of young adults who return to our prison by making tools available to start productive lives on the outside.”

“Becoming a partner in the Vera Institute of Justice Restoring Promise Initiative greatly enhances the Department’s ability to transform the conditions of confinement for young adults,” added SCDC Director of the Division of Youthful Offender, Parole, and Reentry Services Virginia Barr. “This program will ensure that these participants leave SCDC better than when they arrived.”

This initiative began through a partnership with the Connecticut Department of Correction (CT DOC) where Vera staff worked with the department to design and implement a radically new approach to working with young adults now known as the TRUE Community. TRUE opened at the Cheshire Correctional Institution in January, 2017 and CT DOC is already seeing striking results across measures of safety and wellness for both young adults and staff.

Inspired by the success in CT, Vera began a partnership with the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office (MSO) in Massachusetts which is due to open a young adult unit in their jail in February, 2018. Now, through a competitive application process, South Carolina DOC was selected to embrace this concept statewide for young adults and advance the national movement around young adult prison reform.

Through their participation in Restoring Promise, South Carolina continues the national, bipartisan momentum to urgently build and improve justice systems that ensure fairness, promote safety, and strengthen our communities.

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