CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The US Supreme Court is ruling on a decision that could give parents who aren't paying child support a lawyer before a judge sends them to jail.
The case was brought to the Supreme Court by a South Carolina father who was jailed when he said he couldn't afford to pay $50 a week. During Wednesday's court proceedings, the justices talked about programs that could help. One of those programs is available in the Lowcountry.
"You got some of them who don't got no background, just down on their luck, can't afford to pay but they get treated like their criminals," said father of six Jamichell Mazyck.
About a year ago one might have called Mazyck, a father of two and stepfather to four, a deadbeat Dad.
He missed three child support payments and a judge sentenced him to a year in jail, away from now 7-year-old James and 3-month-old Jamichell Jr. who wasn't yet born. Four months into his sentence he wanted to change.
"It actually takes you to be there to help them out," Mazyck said.
it was a step changing his life forever. He asked his corrections officer to visit with counselors from Father to Father. Executive director William Jenkins says the project helps people who many would call deadbeats with an alternative to incarceration.
Jenkins goes through stacks of letters everyday coming from fathers and mothers in jail. They can't afford to pay their child support. They can't afford attorneys and they have no one else turn to. He says programs like Fathers to Fathers can cut out the need for attorneys in some cases and help people turn their lives around.
"There are a lot of things that can be done without using an attorney, the guys are able to get quite a bit done," Jenkins said.
The program requires these parents to get jobs, pay back child support, and learn to be good parents.
Since 1998 it has helped 1,500 men and women get out of jail and on the right track.
Parents like Mazyck, who is thankful to trade the orange jumpsuit and provide his children support... monetarily and morally.
"Actually makes you proud being a father," Mazyck said.
The Fathers to Fathers program is funded by charity, state and federal funding. There are six programs like it statewide.