Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Shawn Jansen
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Pine County juvenile justice continues to make progress

 

December 20, 2018



Pine County Probation is moving ahead in its vision to reform juvenile justice in the county. Terry Fawcett, Pine County probation director, told a room full of community stakeholders at the Pine County Courthouse Wednesday, December 12, that he no longer wants to recommend the placement of juveniles out of the home, except in the most serious cases.

Fawcett spearheaded discussion for the development of some type of evening reporting center for youth in trouble as an alternative to detention. Fawcett explained the decision is about more than cutting costs. Evidence shows detention is ineffective, and detrimental even, for juvenile offenders.

In 2017, Pine County, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and the East Central School District sent a team of six to a week-long intensive training at Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice. Focusing on reducing truancy, a frequent door to the juvenile justice system for many youth in Pine County, Project RISE (Restorative Investment for Student Empowerment) was developed, building on some efforts already in place. Team members County Attorney Reese Frederickson and East Central Schools Superintendent Andrew Almos presented an overview of the collaborative approach of Project RISE to date:

– A juvenile restorative justice program was rejuvenated in which a victim-offender conferencing model called C-5 was used. Fawcett estimated 60 young people have utilized C-5 with a 97 percent completion rate. He knew of only two who have reoffended.

– An alternative to suspension program through East Central called New Direction helps students be responsible for their behavior as well as offers academic support. The program also uses restorative practices.

– A cultural community coach, Lawrence Staples, came on board last January to work with Native American youth. The position is funded jointly by the Mille Lacs Band and Pine County.

– Judge Heather Wynn now holds truancy court at each of the Pine County schools with everyone involved seated around a table. The approach is less intimidating and helps families feel supported.

– An objective risk assessment instrument is being developed for use when juveniles are arrested to determine the appropriateness of detention.

– A graduated response is being developed for youth who violate probation, with sanctions based on the seriousness of the violation and other factors and incentives offered for reaching goals.

Graduated responses have been developed for absenteeism as well, with East Central Secondary Principal Stefanie Youngberg often making home visits to assess a student’s situation, identify barriers to regular attendance, support families, and overall encourage more consistent attendance.

Fawcett said all of Pine County school districts are on board with implementing Project RISE. Moving forward, the vision stated the next step is to implement an evening reporting center to “be a place for juveniles to develop socially, emotionally, and educationally while remaining in their community to be supported by responsible service providers that can assist in such growth. The over-arching goal is to reduce repeat offending behavior and promote juveniles’ behavioral health in their home community while protecting the public.”

Judge Wynn said she thought the evening reporting center concept of programming for juveniles after school and evenings could be broader than juvenile justice so that the kids are part of the community and can be given peer support.

Willow River Secondary Principal Gregg Campbell said, “The kids I talk to want a place to go.”

Almos suggested that schools are a natural fit as a location because the needed infrastructure is already in place — recreation space, kitchen, meeting areas — and thought other schools would be on board with the idea.

Fawcett said they will soon be visiting sites with this type of programming in place.

Though it is not clear yet what this alternative to detention will look like in Pine County, the fact that more than two dozen interested parties showed up to learn more, is a positive sign of community engagement.

 

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