Juvenile crime in the county in the past few years has doubled, and juvenile detentions went from 230 to 489 from 2000 to 2003, said Thomas Bozewicz, executive director of Nova.
The trend is younger youth are going through the system as well, 12 to 15 years old and some even younger than 10.
"It's pretty clear that we had some issues here we wanted to address," Bozewicz
One element of restorative justice is Project Payback
, a court-ordered program in which Nova works with youth to find a job, and make sure restitution is paid and community service is completed.
So far, the program seems to be working.Of about 130 Project Payback cases in the first year, one re-offense occurred, Bozewicz
In 18 months, about 200 juveniles paid back $50,000, completed 2,000-plus hours of community service and helped pay municipal fines of $5,000, he
While Nova only takes partial credit for that success, this is a move in the right direction.
"It's troubled kids doing good deeds," Bozewicz
and Pohl want the conservative, law-and-order community of Washington County to know restorative justice and its programs do not provide an easy way out for offenders.
"This is really an add-on ... a way to assist the whole community on how to address this issue," Bozewicz
"We're really trying to involve much of the community in a community effort," Bozewicz
said."Juvenile justice isn't something for the police department and courts ... it's really community justice."
Another element is Collective Mentoring Circles, started in January, which involves community elders.They review the offense, the impact on the youth, how to bring the person back into the community fold and how to involve other people to help, Bozewicz
said.They'd like to involve victims in the program as well.Bozewicz
said Nova received a huge response when asking the parents of the youth offenders what impact the crime made on their families.Teaching parents good supervision and discipline makes an impact, he
said.Our Savior's Lutheran Church
and the Family Center of Washington County
are addressing that with programs called Smart Discipline.
The goal, Bozewicz
said, is by the time the grant runs out in another year and a half, more funding will be available by another source.
At a glance
For more information on restorative justice, e-mail Pohl at Nova at firstname.lastname@example.org or Bozewicz
at email@example.com , or check its Web site at www.novaservices.org.