YOUNG FIRST OFFENDER PROGRAM
1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.
The Young First Offender Program is a collaboration between the Parks, Recreation and Library Department, the Human Services Department, and the Maricopa County Juvenile Court. This an alternative program for youths ages 8-12 years who have committed a first offense (approximately 95 percent are shoplifting offenses).
Each participant and parent(s) or guardian must volunteer to participate in the program. They must also agree to allow Human Services’ caseworkers to assess the youth offender and the family to determine if social services to strengthen the family would be beneficial. This is an attempt to prevent future criminal offenses. The juvenile is required to complete six hours of community service as part of this program. By helping the family, the program attempts to give juveniles the support and guidance they need not to repeat negative behaviors and go deeper into the criminal justice system.
The community service portion of this program requires three hours of age-appropriate supervised community service, and three hours of supervised recreational activities. Because of the ages of the juveniles assigned to this program, the recreational component was added as an attempt to introduce them to the benefits of recreation. Juveniles are supervised by a part-time recreation leader who develops community service projects in park sites and recreation centers. All participants in this program are referred to the At Risk Youth Division by the Maricopa County Juvenile Court.
Workshops are offered at locations to make it as convenient as possible for parents to attend. The response from parents has been positive and many have expressed their appreciation for this program. Parents have also stated they feel more comfortable attending a class offered through the Parks, Recreation and Library Department than at the Juvenile Court or at schools. Most parents do not want their child’s school to be informed about the offense. Because of its neutral environment, the Department has a unique opportunity to provide services to juveniles who would ordinarily be served through the court system.
A pre- and post-shoplifting evaluation is done on each juvenile who participates in the program. This is to determine if the juvenile is likely to repeat this behavior. Shoplifting is an addictive behavior that, if identified early, can be treated. An overall evaluation on the class and facilitator are also completed by each juvenile and parent who participates in the program.
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.