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ALPHA Center’s Wright receives Youth Arbitrator of the Year award

Posted: May 26, 2016 5:27 p.m.
Updated: May 27, 2016 1:00 a.m.
Martin L. Cahn/C-I

Ed Wright, a member of The ALPHA Center’s Youth Diversion Program team (second from right), accepts the 2016 Kershaw County Youth Arbitrator of the Year Award from 5th Circuit Deputy Solicitor Brett Perry. Also congratulating Wright are ALPHA Center Executive Director Paul Napper and Youth Diversion Program Director Brooke Tidwell.

Ed Wright, a member of The ALPHA Center’s Youth Diversion Program, is the 2016 Youth Arbitrator of the Year. Wright received the honor during a lunchtime celebration of the program’s success at The ALPHA Center on May 20.

Brooke Tidwell, director of the diversion program at The ALPHA Center, said Wright invested “many, many” hours into the program.

“He works here at The ALPHA Center full-time. He runs our drug court program, and I cannot thank him enough when I need something. At the drop of a hat, he is there to hold a hearing,” Tidwell said.

On behalf of 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson, Deputy Solicitor Brett Perry presented the award to Wright, along with Tidwell and ALPHA Center Executive Director Paul Napper.

Perry said the solicitor’s office appreciates all The ALPHA Center does in Kershaw County, calling the partnership “great.”

“We just appreciate all that Ed and all these other arbitrators do. It’s a tremendous difference that you make in the lives of these youth getting them back on track where they need to be and keeping them out of the system. We’ve got far too many that are there and from day one, Solicitor Johnson has been committed to these types of diversion programs,” Perry said.

Napper said Johnson couldn’t be at the May 20 celebration. So, with Perry in Johnson’s place, Napper presented the solicitor’s office with a recognition of its own in the form of a silver platter.

“(It’s) in appreciation of (Johnson’s) work that he’s done not only in arbitration, but he helps fund our drug court. Brett, along with Solicitor Johnson, introduced a new program -- a DUI intervention program -- that we’ve had for almost three years,” Napper said. “All three of these programs they participate in, have a better than 90 percent success rate. You’re hooking your wagon to a pretty good star when you’re hooking it into Dan Johnson.”

Napper also talked about how Camden Police Department Chief Joe Floyd began a lot of similar diversion programs before the state ever recognized his department was doing so.

“Joe has always been a friend of The ALPHA Center and gets very little credit for working with young people that has done over the past 10, 12 years,” Napper said, prompting a round of applause.

As the program ended, Perry presented an award to Napper as well from the solicitor’s office.

“The solicitor’s office has enjoyed working with Paul from day one on all the diversion programs we have going on in Kershaw County and, specifically, as it relates to the youth arbitration program,” Perry said. “It’s been a tremendous success and none of this could have happened if it had not been for the hard work and dedication of Paul Napper.”

Earlier in the program, Tidwell updated those in attendance on the arbitration program’s success. The partnership between The ALPHA Center, solicitor’s office and law enforcement agencies is in its fourth year. Youth arbitration hearings are held at the Kershaw County Courthouse, but with arbitrators instead of judges to determine what sanctions will be assigned to the juvenile to “restore the harm done” to the victim or community.

“Such sanctions could be… we make them write apologies. We always, always make them apologize to the victim, to their parents and to anybody who needs an apology,” Tidwell said. “Community service or a charitable donation, those are two that are very popular. They normally get one or the other. We do have restitution. And one of the ones I really love is enforcing the school sanctions.”

Tidwell said if a student’s offense took place at their school, arbitrators will make sure whatever sanctions the school district applies are enforced. She said arbitrators will also look into the offender’s grades and help find ways for them to improve their grades.

Since 2012, when the program launched in Kershaw County, 298 juveniles have been referred to arbitration and conducted 282 hearings. Out of those, 239 have successfully kept offenders from going back to family court. Tidwell said this is a 93 percent success rate, two percentage points higher than the statewide average for such programs.

Arbitration is free to both offenders and taxpayers.

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