Source: (1997) Perspectives. 22(1): 30-34.

The program was developed as a result concern about the increasing number of misdemeanor cases coming before the Lexington County Family Court. An effort was initiated to develop a diversion program that might allow more effective resolution of nonviolent juvenile cases before they were registered on the court docket. Research revealed that a juvenile arbitration program had been operating in Seminole County (Fla.) since 1978, using unpaid volunteers to hold community hearings that included the juvenile, the parents, the victim, and the referring police officer. The South Carolina program began with grant funding and then received funding through the Lexington County Solicitor's Office. The program's success in empowering communities rests on four distinct elements of its essential philosophy and design: the juvenile population served, the waiver of fees, the nonlegal nature of the hearings, and the volunteer arbitrator. The program is used for first offenders accused of property offenses; they are required to take actions to pay restitution and do community services and often take actions to make up to victims for the intangible losses as well. The Lexington County program and others in South Carolina achieved success rates of 93-94 percent in 1995-96. Abstract courtesy of National Criminal Justice Refernce Service,