The Institute for Youth Justice, formerly known as the Spartanburg County Criminal Justice Youth Institute, is a four-month leadership training program designed to introduce Spartanburg County 11th-12th graders to the Criminal Justice System to help them gain a deeper understanding of the inner-workings of the system, eliminate misconceptions, build long-lasting partnerships between youth and criminal justice officials, and empower Spartanburg County youth to become positive contributors and leaders in our community.
The Institute begins in January with an opening retreat that provides an opportunity for participants to connect with one another in an informal setting and hear from an inspirational leader. Sessions are held January through April, one weekday per month, from 8:30am to 12:30pm. A graduation ceremony is held in May.
In 2017, the Spartanburg County Clerk of Court partnered with The Spartanburg County Foundation to launch the Spartanburg County Criminal Justice Youth Institute as a response to tragedies across the country involving officers and the Criminal Justice System. Known today as the Institute for Youth Justice, this initiative is modeled after The Spartanburg County Foundation’s Grassroots Leadership Development Institute.
The Institute for Youth Justice was designed to equip participants with resources and a better understanding of the Criminal Justice System, enabling them to:
- Understand their rights as individuals, as well as the consequences of poor decision-making;
- Be a resource for other youth who have questions about the inner-workings of the Criminal Justice System;
- Share their knowledge with others about the importance of making positive choices;
- Help dispel any misconceptions;
- Form long-lasting relationships and partnerships with criminal justice officials;
- Further explore a career within the Criminal Justice System; and
- Assume individual and collective responsibility for positive change in their communities.
The Institute for Youth Justice provides leadership training, education, and an opportunity for youth to connect with other youth who are interested in making a positive difference in their communities. Participants meet once a month for four months to increase their knowledge of the Criminal Justice System and gain a better understanding of the role they can play in partnering together with criminal justice officials, as well as the consequences of poor decision-making.
Topic sessions include: arrest, booking, hearings, pre-trial intervention, sentencing, probation, drug abuse, and legal aid. Participants will also gain exposure to state and federal delegation.
The sessions will be held at various locations throughout Spartanburg County, such as the Spartanburg County Courthouse, Spartanburg County Jail, Spartanburg City Hall, and Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office, providing students an opportunity to tour these facilities first-hand.
Participation is open to any 11th or 12th grader that attends a Spartanburg County public, private, or home school. Thirty-five students, including representatives from each of the seven Spartanburg County School Districts will be selected to participate. Participants come from diverse cultures and backgrounds with a desire to learn more about the Criminal Justice System and be a leader in his or her community.
Students will be selected to participate based on the following criteria:
Must be a high school junior or senior attending a Spartanburg County public, private, or home school
Must have an interest in learning more about the criminal justice system
Must be willing to commit to help build long-lasting partnerships with criminal justice officials and be an advocate for making positive choices
Must have a desire to positively change their communities
Would benefit from learning more about the criminal justice system, as well as the consequences of poor choices
Must be committed to attending the opening retreat, all sessions, and the graduation ceremony
Academic merits and school involvement should not be a determining factor; rather, the Institute hopes to engage students of varying involvements, backgrounds, socioeconomic levels, and academic achievements
Each year, 12th grade Institute graduates will have the opportunity to apply for a summer internship. This allows those individuals who are interested in exploring a possible career in criminal justice to gain first-hand experience working alongside leaders in this field.