"It gave me my life back." - How crime reduction programs are working

Edward Jenkins talks about how drug court changed his life. / Lisa Edge

CONWAY, S.C. (WPDE) - Horry County's crime reduction programs seem to be working. Thursday afternoon, the Public Safety Committee heard updates about pre-trial intervention, drug court, and the jail diversion program.

So far, all three are having a positive impact on the community and are reducing the number of repeat offenders.

The pre-trial intervention program allows people who are charged with offenses that range from shoplifting to third degree burglary to avoid going to jail. Once they complete the program, which includes community service, the charges are dismissed.

Drug court is an alternative to those facing drug related criminal charges. It began in 2008, and since then, only 17% of people who completed the program were convicted of felonies.

One drug court graduate who has stayed out of trouble is Edward Jenkins. He'd gone to jail twice before the charge that landed him in drug court.

"I'm so grateful today for this program because I got a second chance. I'm not stuck in that selfish mode no more. I want to help people. I want to give back to the community," said Jenkins. "Today I'm a completely different person because of this program. It gave me my life back."

Today Jenkins is a county employee.

The jail diversion program is aimed at stopping the revolving door of offenders, ending chronic homelessness, and keeping its graduates employed.

In May of last year, Nicholas Robinett graduated from the jail diversion program. He went from struggling with alcohol and drug addiction to getting clean and starting a family.

"I was the type of person that when things started going well for me, I'd do whatever I could to self-destruct, because it made me feel uncomfortable," he explained. "I have my family back in my life today. It went from when I turned myself in - 'You're not our son, we don't want to have anything to do with you, do not contact us,' to a restraining order - to me being able to pick up the phone today and call them if I need to. So I personally owe my life to this program."

Robinett now serves as a peer counselor.