Pee Dee program hopes to help young adults involved in juvenile, adult justice system return to community

Updated: Sep. 25, 2017 at 9:04 PM EDT
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FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Pee Dee Healthy Start Incorporated organized an event to introduce a new partnership with the Dannon Project.

The two organizations are working together to try to cut down the number of people who go to court over and over again.

The meet-and-greet event was held at Trinity Baptist Church Monday afternoon with Municipal Court Judge Judge Andra Sparks from Birmingham, Alabama. He believes in the benefits the Dannon Project can bring to Florence County.

It originated in Birmingham almost 15 years ago after a family lost a loved one that was killed by someone who had recently been released from jail on a nonviolent offense. It then became their mission to help support people who have served jail time or have a criminal past.

"If we don't find those ways to help individuals help themselves, then we will continue to see crime increase," said Gilleon Frienson, the chief municipal judge in Lake City who attended the event.

The goal was to let people in the room know how to partner with the justice system to in order to offer support.

Madie Robinson, the executive director for Pee Dee Healthy Start Incorporated, said the program will offer long-term benefits in the form of recruiting industries and work to help young adults be better prepared for employment.

"It can only help raise the level of understanding and functioning in our community," Robinson said.

The Pee De Healthy Start invited multiple magistrate and municipal court judges from around the Pee Dee, a parole officer from the Florence County Sheriff's Office, Florence School District One's Superintendent Dr. Randy Bridges and the Pee Dee Coalition to hear about the Dannon Project.

"We got a letter from the solicitor's office that this is an approved program and is to be used in our court system," Frienson said. "We just got that information last week and will be working on it very soon."

The Dannon Project will help people transition back into society, so that means job readiness, educational support, drivers license academy, and accountability reports.

"We do have a criminal problem here in Florence and it needs some, some work. So this program, I think, is the work we need to do because the jail system, the justice system, can't do it alone," said Frienson.

Robinson agreed the partnerships created from events her organization hosts will help even more,

"We need to encourage and get that line of thinking and stopping the cycle of recidivism and how it's good for the entire community," Robinson said.

Frienson said the most satisfying thing about helping people is, "just seeing the smiles on their faces and the progress in their families and to hear those stories how a court system helped them make that difference."

The Pee Dee Healthy Start's office on West Pine Street is where anyone can apply to be enrolled with the Dannon Project or ask for a referral.

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