Clemson helps build a “community behind the fence”

By Pam Bryant

S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice

The “Community behind the Fence” is the name of a Clemson-led project to redesign the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice’s (DJJ) Broad River Road Complex in Columbia. This is part of a collaborative partnership to create and enhance services for the state’s at-risk youth, juvenile offenders and their families.

“Clemson University is proud to partner with the Department of Juvenile Justice to address one of society’s most critical challenges: supporting the proper growth and development of our teenage populations,” said John Kelly, Clemson vice president for Public Service and Agriculture.

Clemson personnel facilitated the visioning process, called a “charrette,” for the three long-term, secured juvenile institutions at the 210-acre complex. The process brought together more than 200 people with an interest in the facility, including leaders from public and private organizations, the faith community, and DJJ staff and volunteers.

“In times of constrained budgets and reduced services, it is critical that communities combine efforts to implement services for at-risk youth in South Carolina,” said Bill Byars, DJJ Director. “The charrette was effective in helping us identify the best available resources for the continuous improvement of the agency, as well as the services we provide to the youth in our care.”

Through a series of eight input sessions, participants helped formulate a conceptual framework to guide future development of the facilities and property. The sessions were led by Ben Boozer, program director for Clemson’s Institute for Economic and Community Development, and Bill Steiner, director of the non-profit organization Community Builders. The charrette was made possible by a grant awarded to Clemson by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Leadership for Institutional Change Initiative.

Perhaps none of the participants could dream of the possibilities like William and Thomas, two juveniles at DJJ’s Birchwood High School who helped draw the facilities and landscaping design. They spoke of feeling important and cared for, and expressed gratitude for the privilege of working on the design team.