When a juvenile is charged with a crime, the case is sent to the Solicitor's Office. If the case is appropriate for Arbitration and approved by the program director it will be diverted by an Assistant Solicitor for completion of the program requirements. The Director of the Community Juvenile Arbitration Program, a division of the Solicitor's 0ffice, will establish a hearing date and inform the following parties.
The program is voluntary and at this point the juvenile or family member may decline to participate. These cases will be returned to an Assistant Solicitor for formal Family Court proceedings. Those that accept Arbitration will proceed through the hearing process. At the hearing the Arbitrator determines the facts of the case and formulates appropriate consequences. The Arbitrator will also attempt to determine if the juvenile's family is in need of assistance from available resources (counseling, crisis intervention, assessments, family services, etc.). The Arbitrator will determine sanctions for the juvenile such as:
The Arbitrator will monitor the progress of the juvenile in completing the requirements. If the Arbitrator realizes other assistance should be given the youth or family, the Arbitration Office will make any other appropriate contacts. When all requirements are satisfied the case will be closed as a Diverted charge and no record of conviction or adjudication will be made. The youth who completed the program can truthfully say that he/she has never been convicted of a crime. It is hoped this will end the juvenile's involvement with the Criminal Justice System.
The program is built around citizen volunteers who act as the Arbitrators to conduct hearings and monitor the juvenile's progress in meeting the requirements. To develop qualified Arbitrators a training course is provided with classes in the following areas:
Once the Arbitrators have passed all requirements, they will be assigned two cases per month. They will also be expected to follow up previous hearings, for a total time commitment of approximately eight hours per month, or two hours per week. In a typical case it will take approximately three months for the juvenile to complete defined requirements and have his/her record cleared.
Juvenile Arbitration has a 9% recidivism rate statewide and less than 8% recidivism rate in Charleston County.