New Alternative Program Keeps Offending Juveniles Out of Lock-Up

New Alternative Program Keeps Offending Juveniles Out of Lock-Up
Posted on 08/20/2016

By Rosie Nguyen Aug. 20, 2016

 

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - A new program is aiming to decrease crime in the community by keeping juveniles out of lockup. Lane County Health and Human Services’ Youth Services and Family Mediation departments are piloting a youth diversion program that is intended to decrease recidivism rates (reoffending) in youth.

 

 In the last 10 years, there have not been any diversion opportunities for youth in Springfield. Springfield Restorative Justice (SRJ) is a youth diversion project centered around improving the lives of Springfield youth who are responsible for crime as well as those directly impacted by youth crime.

 

SRJ is different from the traditional juvenile justice system in that it focuses on collectively identifying and addressing the manner in which the responsible youth (the youth who was responsible for a crime or misdemeanor) caused harm.

 

Through the process, the responsible youth also recognizes the needs and obligations present in order for both parties to heal. "It is so much more effective to do things in the community to work with kids and families than to lock kids up," said Rob Selven, Youth Services Case Worker.

 

 "If I would have had opportunities like that, I wouldn't have really wouldn't have messed up quite as much as I did after I got put on probation because I thought it was kind of stupid so if I would have learned to take accountability and apologize to the people that I got in trouble in the first place, then it would have helped me out. But I didn't," said Matt Warren, Eugene Resident.

 

Youth diversion programs similar to SRJ, like Eugene’s Teen Court program, have been proven to decrease recidivism rates in the community, encourage empathy in responsible youths, and save the city money. A study conducted by the University of Oregon showed that students who participated in and completed the Eugene Teen Court and its sentencing protocol were less likely to recidivate than those who participated but did not complete the program.

 

Financial reports reviewed by the University of Oregon show that diversion programs tend to also be more affordable than traditional forms of juvenile justice.

 

According to a 2015 study conducted by the University of Oregon, the average cost for a youth defendant to go through Eugene Teen Court is $1,204. The average cost of putting a defendant in Lane County Youth Services Detention is $633.34 per day. This means that after 48 hours, traditional detention practices become more costly than Teen Court participation.

 

 Lane County Program Supervisor Rob Selven stressed that SRJ is a viable alternative to traditional juvenile courts because it shows responsible youth how their actions have affected others and builds relationships between them.

 

 “[To some], victims are not a person. They’re ‘somebody who lives over there’, they’re a house, they’re whatever, they’re not a person. When you move people into a relationship it has an impact, because it creates an opportunity for compassion and empathy,” Selven said. Selven also pointed to the fact that SRJ is currently taking volunteers who would be assisting youth in a rehabilitative manner.

 

The volunteers that SRJ needs would be serving on the Restorative Panel as community members. The ideal volunteer is someone who is invested in the city of Springfield, is able to work compassionately with youth and those harmed by youth crime, has an interest in restorative justice and/or victims’ services, and is available Wednesday evenings from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

 

The most desired volunteers are business owners or business-oriented people. Right now, there are 12 teens enrolled in the program, with the hopes of getting 25.

 

 They're hoping to run the pilot program until December and have more permanent funding to continue it. For more information on how to apply, call (541) 682-3962 (press #5) or email [email protected]

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