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Impact Story

The Phoenix Center

Services over Sentences

The Phoenix Center project ensures a behavioral health assessment for every juvenile entering the Greenville County Juvenile Detention Center. The evaluation is done by a Phoenix Center counselor and assessments are reviewed by judges before sentencing, increasing the judge’s understanding of the youth’s family and life circumstances and context of the charge. This has led to youth being referred to community services to address the issues that led to their incarcerations rather than extended sentences.

About the Organization

The Phoenix Center works to reduce addiction as a leading cause of family collapse and harm to children in upstate South Carolina. 

About the Grant

Historically, the goal of the criminal justice system has been to identify and punish the perpetrators of crime. But with juveniles, the crime is often an outcome of a child’s experiences or behavioral health challenges. Enter the Phoenix Center project. Started in 2017, this project has reduced re-offenses for Greenville County juveniles by informing judges of the life circumstances a juvenile faces, including abuse and addiction. The assessment and reports provide background information on the youth and the context of the charge, increasing the chance judges will order community resources instead of continued detention. Rather than extended sentences, the assessment might recommend family therapy, anger management or substance use treatment. The juvenile behavioral health assessments have been so well received that judges have requested it to be printed on different color paper for quick reference. 

Why it was Funded

This project demonstrated a unique approach to serve an underreached population. Before the project began, none of the juveniles at the facility received any type of behavioral screening unless requested by the court. Now, nearly 90 percent of juveniles that enter the facility receive a behavioral health assessment. The juveniles are then able to be enrolled and participate in care services that better address the issues that lead to their detention rather than continued incarceration.

The average length of stay at Greenville County Juvenile Detention Center has decreased by 5.2 days from 2016 to 2018.

Project Results

As a result of the program, reincarceration rates have been reduced from the historic rate of 27.1 percent to 23.5 percent. The average length of stay in the detention center has decreased from 11.8 days in 2016 to 6.6 days in 2018.

Ongoing Support

This project continues to seek support from local and county governments as it has shown a demonstrated reduction in costs through decreased stays and re-offenses.