Juvenile Justice reform, the anti-DEI campaign, and a bill that heightens the risk of racial profiling

With apologies for coming in a day late, here is your State House Dispatch for the week.

Juvenile Justice reform now

All too often, the state of South Carolina criminalizes children and removes them from their communities for behavior issues that do not pose a threat to those around them. Rather than provide resources that help children get their lives on track, we have pushed them into a school-to-prison pipeline. The overcrowded, dangerous facilities of the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) are often the first stop in that pipeline.

A bill up for consideration this session, S. 266, would decrease the length of time that children may be held for “status offenses,” or offenses that would not be considered punishable if they were committed by an adult. Examples of status offenses include truancy and running away from home.

If you would like to help push this bill forward, you can use this form to send a message to your state senator today:


S. 266 received a favorable report in a subcommittee last week following testimony in support from experts including SC DJJ Executive Director Eden Hendrick. The bill is set for a full hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, March 26 at 3 p.m. in Room 308 of the Gressette Building (1101 Pendleton St., Columbia).

New bill could increase the risk of racial profiling

Senate Bill 154 is an anti-racketeering bill whose sponsors claim it will help police crack down on gang activity including "retail theft operations." The bill received a favorable report in a subcommittee last week and will also be considered at the full Senate Judiciary Committee meeting Tuesday, March 26 at 3 p.m. in Room 308 of the Gressette Building (1101 Pendleton St., Columbia).

The bill has support from prominent law enforcement officials including South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel. We have serious concerns about this bill from a civil-liberties perspective, especially because of how vaguely it describes a "criminal gang."

“From the language, it seems that three members of a family or three Gamecock fans with matching attire could be considered a criminal gang,” ACLU-SC Senior Advocacy Strategist Josh Malkin said at the hearing last week. “Practically, I worry about the threat this language poses to racial profiling and the First Amendment right to associate.”

The campaign against diversity, equity, and inclusion

House Bill 4289 differs from the outright bans on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs being passed in other states, but several of its sponsors have made it clear that the intent is to chill speech and discourage efforts to increase diversity on South Carolina college campuses. In a state that has continually defunded education for Black youth, where Black students are vastly underrepresented in our flagship universities, this attack is unacceptable.

We anticipate this bill will be up for debate on the House floor this Wednesday, March 27 or Thursday, March 28. We'll be there with our coalition partners in ProTruth SC calling for an end to this blatant attack.