June 4, 2012
The 180 Program: Prosecutors Help Young Offenders Make A Turnaround
In January of this year, the PAO partnered with community leaders in the Rainier Valley and formally launched the 180 Program, an innovative new program designed to divert approximately 350 youths out of the criminal justice system each year. The 180 Program is designed to reach youth who are facing their first or second low-level misdemeanor offense. Instead of filing charges against the young offenders in Juvenile Court, the PAO invites them to participate in a half-day Saturday workshop sponsored by community members. At the workshop, youth have the opportunity to hear and learn from others who have made mistakes in their past, but went on to make a 180-degree change in direction in their own lives. The youth also engage in small group exercises where they talk about the issues affecting them and receive personal direction on how to make a 180 change in their lives. As part of the workshop process, community members share their stories and insights, and offer youth an opportunity to connect with positive role models who can help them make their own 180. "When the voices of the community are heard and embraced in the hearts of our youth, then we can expect changes," said Pastor Doug Wheeler, Director of Zion Preparatory Academy, a leading community partner in the 180 Program. Since the beginning of this year, more than 125 juvenile offenders have been successfully diverted out of the court system and back into the community, including 39 youth who attended the May 26 workshop.
Community partner Allen Belton speaking at a 180 workshop.
Diverting 350 youth out of our juvenile court system generates considerable financial savings in public defense, detention and court costs, but a more sustainable value of the 180 Program is to reach young people in a personal way, to get them to express their goals for their lives, and to get them back on a positive track toward those dreams, and away from criminal activity on the streets. In the 180 Program, the youth meet positive role models, and learn that their choices have long-term consequences that can get in the way of their dreams.
The 180 Program utilizes the power of the Prosecuting Attorney's Office and the personal connection of their communities in a unique collaboration to reduce ongoing crime, save county resources and invest in the positive aspects of a future generation. For more information about the 180 Program, contact program manager Donnie Griffin at 206-296-9068, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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