Pierce County Juvenile Court’s Diversion Program aims at giving youthful offenders a second chance. The highly successful program is dependent on volunteers who serve on nine boards across the county. The court is now accepting applications for persons interesting in serving the community as Diversion Program volunteers.
Last year more than 2,000 boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 17 were served by the program. Facing trespassing, shoplifting, possession of alcohol and similar charges, Diversion kept them from going to court. “The program gives these young people a chance to learn from their mistakes and eventually erase the charges from their criminal histories,” said Juvenile Court Volunteer Services Manager Lin Spellman.
Volunteers spend two evenings a month participating on a Community Accountability Board. They meet with kids and their families and help determine a positive path for each child that could include counseling, educational seminars, community service and-or restitution. Board members have opportunities to learn about the Juvenile Court system and delinquent behavior and to influence a young person’s life in a constructive manner.
The University Place board meets every other Wednesday night at City Hall. There are 14 volunteers the most senior of which has been in the program for 8 years. That board saw 117 kids last year. The Lakewood board meets every other Tuesday, has 16 volunteers and saw 136 kids last year. The senior volunteer there has 11 years experience in the program.
All volunteers must make a one year commitment. We have volunteers ranging in age from 16 to 80 from all walks of life. It is a community response to crime in their respective communities so it is important that we have people of widely differing ages and backgrounds.
Ninety percent of the youth that come through the program do everything the volunteers assign them and 70% do not re-offend. It is a legally binding process that holds the youth accountable for their crimes and provides them with the help they need to become productive members of their respective communities. Both boards need additional volunteers to keep up with the offenders in their areas. We have observations available for applicants as well as excellent training.
For more information about being a Diversion Program volunteer, contact Spellman at 253-798-3837 or firstname.lastname@example.org.