After School: Still the Prime Time for Juvenile Crime in Montana
Afterschool Fights Crime in Montana
The more than 5,000 law enforcement leaders around the nation who are members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, have long known that the hours immediately after school lets out, when parents are likely not available to supervise, are the prime time for juvenile crime. Over the past 20 years, law enforcement leaders across the country have relied on high-quality afterschool programs to provide supportive, stable, and enriching environments with caring adults that keep children and youth out of trouble and safe, while supporting their academic success, and social and emotional development.
The Prime Time for Juvenile Crime in Montana
In Montana, juvenile crime peaks between 2-6 p.m. on school days, with about 27 percent of all juvenile crime on those days occurring during the hours following the last school bell.
Program Highlight: Center for Restorative Youth Justice, Kalispell
The Center for Restorative Youth Justice (CRYJ) in Kalispell, Montana traces its roots back to 1998 when a peer court—where first time minor juvenile offenders receive sentencing from their peers who serve as judges, lawyers, and jurors—was established in response to high rates of juvenile crime in the county. A collaboration involving the Juvenile Probation Department, local police, city leaders, and community volunteers, this diversion program has evolved over the years to incorporate more community-based restorative justice practices rooted in connection, direct service, education, self-awareness, and communication.
Referrals to CRYJ come through the county youth courts system. Program participants first engage in a family conference with parents or guardians and a CRYJ staff. Employing a restorative model where youth share challenges they are facing and identify the supports they need moving forward. Youth create a restorative agreement, which outlines their specific set of required activities as a part of their CRYJ term. For example, youth attend a weekly community impact circle where several youth and their support people (family members, guardians, or close friends) join staff and community members to discuss the impacts of their actions and share their experiences. Youth also attend afterschool workshop sessions that cover topics from life skills, such as cooking or resume writing, to mediation, yoga, and reflections that help youth learn how to express themselves.
By focusing on community-based interventions, we’ve been able to drastically reduce the need for out-of-home placements, [which has] very little return on the investment.
Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Nick Nyman
According to Chief Juvenile Probation Officer, Nick Nyman, embracing this restorative approach has made a huge difference in the county, in part by helping to keep youth in the community feeling more connected and less likely to commit future crimes. “By focusing on community-based interventions, we’ve been able to drastically reduce the need for out-of-home placements,” Nyman says, explaining that “money being spent placing kids out of our community [has] very little return on the investment.” Meanwhile, CRYJ has documented a 97 percent program completion rate and an average recidivism rate among program participants of only 10-12 percent. Post-program evaluation data has shown that 92 percent said CRYJ “helped me understand how my actions impact others.”
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