Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative is successful in Atlantic City
In 2007, a 16-year-old used a gun to rob someone in Atlantic City. He served 38 months in prison, violating parole at least twice. In his residential facility, which was miles from home, he faced gang activity and influence.
In 2011, another 16-year-old committed a similar crime in Atlantic City. His outcome was much better. He was allowed to stay at home while participating in a program called Males Engaged in Reducing Violence Through Employment (MERGE). He has taken his life in a different direction, and is now learning the construction trade. He has dreams of becoming a chef. He says that the programs prevented him from continuing down a bad path.
Why such a difference? Between the time the two teenagers committed their crimes, Atlantic County became part of the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, which looks to keep juvenile offenders out of jail and puts them in alternative programs. Since it was begun eight years ago, the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative has reduced the number of juveniles sent to jail by 60 percent. Last year, there were 6,000 fewer juveniles sent to jail than in the year before the initiative.
Is it doing any good? It appears so. According to the JJC Executive Director, Kevin M. Brown, “Secure juvenile detention in New Jersey is [now] being used appropriately, and young people, their families, communities and taxpayers across this state are benefiting.” Juvenile arrests have declined significantly in the years since the program was created – by one third. Probation violations have also decreased substantially.
There are many reasons for the success, including:
- More kids come out of jail as gang members than enter it. Reducing the number of juveniles in jail reduces gang influence.
- Programs that train juveniles in life and job skills decrease their chances of recidivism.
If your child has been arrested for a crime in Atlantic City, he or she may be able to stay out of jail. Yet, it is still important to fight those criminal charges with the help of an experienced juvenile defense lawyer, since a criminal record could affect a young person’s chances to find a job, rent an apartment or even obtain financial aid.
Learn more about defense options by visiting our pages on Atlantic City juvenile crimes defense.
Source: Press of Atlantic City, “Report details success of New Jersey program that lets juvenile offenders avoid jail,” Lynda Cohen, Oct. 25, 2012