12 OCTOBER 2004


Young offenders repay community, but method not ideal, critics say

They cleaned up debris after last year's 鄭spen fire on Mount Lemmon. They helped out at some of Tucson's major events, such as El Tour de Tucson bike race and AidsWalk.
They pick up trash in parks, mend books at libraries, stuff envelopes, remove graffiti and clean out animal cages.
Children as young as 8 years old are being sentenced to community service in Pima County for crimes ranging from shoplifting at the corner Walgreens and scrawling graffiti on a wall to mistreating animals and using drugs. advertisement Community service is a standard punishment for first- or second-time offenders who commit relatively minor crimes. Some who work with the area's youngest offenders consider it an ideal consequence, particularly if it is tied to the offense requiring a child to repaint a wall he marred with graffiti, for example.
But others question whether the tasks kids are given are enough to dissuade them from getting in trouble in the future. And they are looking for ways to better connect kids to their communities as a way to reduce recidivism.

典he idea that you can punish a 10-year-old into behaving is unlikely to work, said Dennis Embry, a nationally recognized expert on youth violence who is president and CEO of Tucson-based PAXIS Institute, which develops and markets behavior-change programs.
的f they've done damage to a particular thing, torn up a lady's garden, repairing the garden and restoring the harm done is appropriate, he said. 填nconnected community service is unlikely to do anything. They just don't have the logical power to get anything out of that.

Almost two-thirds of the nearly 9,400 children referred to Juvenile Court last year were ordered to work at local parks, churches, charities and other organizations as a consequence for their offenses or as a diversion program to avoid court proceedings.
的f they do something to injure the community, we want them to do something to pay the community back, said Hector Campoy, presiding judge at Juvenile Court. 展e want them to think about what they've done. I don't know if we expect a catharsis, but we want them to have some connection with what they've done.
Many of them seem to be making that connection.
Of the 606 juveniles who successfully completed community service to avoid going through court in 2003, 47 were rearrested within a year, an 8 percent recidivism rate, according to court statistics.
By contrast, generally accepted national studies show that 30 percent of children referred to Juvenile Court are referred again at some point.
鉄tructured intervention and accountability are usually enough to keep most kids out, Campoy said.

After 10-year-old Antonio Lopez was caught stealing license plates, he was sentenced to 20 hours of community service.
One recent afternoon found him straightening books and wiping down tables at the main library downtown. He also picks up trash at Reid Park Zoo.
Antonio, a fourth-grader, is a diligent worker but not all that happy about his tasks. He knows that what he's doing helps the community. But that, he said, is not that important to him.
He doesn't quite understand his contribution. He only knows he has to stay out of trouble.
His grandmother, Diana Esquer, who recently took over the job of raising him, said the boy told her he wants to do better. But she worries he will get in trouble again.
The odds of success are in Antonio's favor. A 2003 study found that 15 percent of the children in his program in 2002 ended up back in Juvenile Court within a year of completing their community service. Last year, the program served about 120 children.
But it's difficult to say whether community service was the key to keeping graduates of the program out of trouble, said Brenda Flynn, division manager for probation services at the court center.

典his is a young group. It's difficult to know which piece of the puzzle might have an impact, she said. 溺aybe getting in trouble was a wake-up call to them or their family. Or maybe it's because we gave them consequences. Or maybe not.
Years ago, Antonio's grandmother said, when a child acted out, the parents were responsible for taking the child to the victim and settling on a punishment and repayment.
Now the police are called and the child ends up with a smeared record.
Youth-violence expert Embry calls Esquer's approach tribal justice. And he's working with the Pima County Attorney's Office to put it to use in the form of Community Justice Boards.
Since 1998, justice boards have been working with delinquents on ways to hold them accountable and pay back communities. Children referred to the boards must be first- or second-time offenders, have no behavioral issues that require therapy or medication, and live in areas served by the boards.
The boards, run by volunteers, hold family conferences in which the child makes an admission of wrongdoing and those involved examine the core issues that caused the behavior and set an appropriate, meaningful consequence.
鉄ending a kid to do graffiti abatement a ZIP code away does nothing. It's being accountable inside your neighborhood, Embry said. 撤eople say, 'You made Mrs. Jones' yard look better,' and Mrs. Jones waves and says thank you, even though the kid trashed her garden the week before.

Joyesha Chesnick
11 October 2004

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