JROTC program provides discipline, leadership in a correctional setting.

Author:McLeod, Mavis
Position:South Carolina Dept. of Juvenile Justice's Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program for correctional institutions - Stemming the Violence

In November 1993, the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice took a big step forward in providing more effective rehabilitation for juveniles committed to long-term correctional institutions. The DJJ worked with the United States Army to activate a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps unit at Birchwood High School in Columbia, S.C., the first JROTC unit to be housed in a correctional setting.

JROTC is not shock therapy or a boot camp. It is a military-style program that promotes citizenship and teaches teambuilding, discipline and leadership skills. The DJJ is already seeing improvements in participants' attitude, self-concept and behavior.

Launching the Program

In the spring of 1993, Kenneth L. Moses, DJJ's deputy director for operations, called on the agency to improve the quality of education and enhance extended day programming. In a brainstorming session on how to accomplish these objectives, a committee included JROTC on a wish list. Ellen A. Cauthen, superintendent of education, spearheaded the effort to implement the program, which was launched last fall.

The application process was somewhat complicated because military officials had numerous questions and misgivings about running the program in a correctional setting. At the same time, the downsizing of the U.S. Army has officials looking for ways to expand JROTC so some personnel can be reassigned rather than forced into early retirement. This made Army officials more willing to take a chance on this project.

The JROTC program is housed at Birchwood High School as part of the DJJ's special school district, which is certified by the South Carolina Department of Education. Birchwood High School serves approximately 400 incarcerated juveniles in grades 9-12 housed at three facilities on DJJ grounds.


JROTC is a 24 hour-per-day, seven day-per-week program, so it is conducted in two residential units. The original unit is located in the John G. Richards Facility and is served by one social worker, 10 juvenile correctional officers and a supervisor. The instructors are trained in a system that emphasizes courtesy, respect, responsibility and service to one's country. These men and women serve as positive role models for juveniles both in the facility and when they return to the community.

A new unit opened in February at the Birchwood Facility. Although the Department of the Army only subsidized three instructional staff persons, these residential units are staffed...

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