October 6, 2022

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Justice Department Secures Civil Rights Settlement Agreement Against South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice

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The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina today filed a complaint and settlement agreement with the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice to resolve its investigation of the Broad River Road Complex in Columbia, South Carolina, the long-term residential facility for children in South Carolina’s juvenile justice system. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney Corey Ellis for the District of South Carolina made the announcement.

The agreement resolves the department’s claims that the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice fails to protect children at the Broad River Road Complex from harm from staff and other children and uses prolonged isolation as punishment. 

Under the agreement, the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice will make changes meant to increase safety at the Broad River Road Complex. These changes include changes to staffing patterns, the development of a positive behavior management program to reduce youth-on-youth violence and increased video surveillance. The agreement also requires the Department of Juvenile Justice to limit the use of force or restraints to exceptional circumstances and improve its investigation process. 

In addition, the agreement requires the Department of Juvenile Justice to restrict the use of isolation to incidents where the child poses a serious and immediate danger to themselves or to others. Finally, the agreement appoints an independent subject matter expert to monitor the agreement and make recommendations to ensure the Department of Juvenile Justice’s compliance with the agreement.

“All children held in the custody of the state deserve safe and humane conditions, that can bring about rehabilitation and reform,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke. “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.”

“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.”

The Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina initiated the investigation in October 2017. Today, the department provided written notice of the facts supporting its conclusion that employees at the Broad River Road Complex engage in a pattern of excessive force that harms children and violates their constitutional rights. In February 2020, the department also sent the Department of Juvenile Justice notice of its conclusions that it fails to protect children from harm from other children and engages in punitive, prolonged isolation. The agreement addresses both reports.

The Justice Department filed the complaint pursuant to provisions of 34 U.S.C. § 12601 covering “the incarceration of juveniles.” In addition, the Justice Department and South Carolina filed a joint motion requesting that the court retain jurisdiction to enforce the settlement agreement, if necessary.

The Civil Rights Division is committed to safeguarding the rights of children held in secure facilities across the country. For example, the division recently opened a statewide investigation of Texas’s secure juvenile facilities to examine whether Texas provides children confined in the facilities with adequate mental health care, reasonable protection from physical and sexual abuse by staff and other residents, and reasonable protection from excessive use of chemical restraints and isolation. In Connecticut, the division recently issued a report finding that the Manson Youth Institution’s isolation practices, inadequate mental health services and inadequate special education services violate children’s constitutional and federal rights. 

The department encourages individuals who wish to share information about the Broad River Road Complex to contact the department at (844) 380-6166 or via email at scjuvenile.justice@usdoj.gov. The Civil Rights Division also has a Civil Rights Portal, where people can report when their civil rights have been violated, which is available at https://civilrights.justice.gov/. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt.

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