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Program Gives Minor Offenders an Alternative to Jail

As Published on WSET.com, September 15th, 2007          http://www.wset.com/news/stories/0907/455759.html


Lynchburg, VA - Lynchburg is trying a new program that helps minor offenders pay their debt to society, without seeing the inside of a jail cell.  It's called Community Court, and it's helping offenders give back and move ahead.

Justin Millner - "Nobody is perfect.  Everybody makes mistakes."

For his mistake, Justin Millner was sentenced to community court.  Now, he joins a group of volunteers working on a community cleanup project.

Millner - "I have done graffiti cleanup and we also did a program with Jubilee where we taught kids how to cook."

Community service is one part, life skills is the other part, where they learn things like relationship counseling, education or job training.

Shannon Hadeed, Asst. Commonwealth's Attorney - "Things that help them. That  address something going on in their lives that maybe is causing them to commit crimes."

Only 12 to 25 year olds who commit non-violent misdemeanors qualify, and they are screened to make sure they havenít committed violent crimes or sex offenses in the past, but once they're in, it can be a life changing experience.

Hadeed - "We have had adults who have enrolled in college, gotten their GED, enrolled in college as a result of community court.  We have adults who have gotten jobs as a result of community court.  People who have really turn their lives around."

Without it, participants would have gotten jail time, a fine or their license suspended.  Millner is grateful to be paying for his mistake while giving back to the community.

Millner - "I actually started playing piano for the salvation army church."

Almost every juvenile and about 70 percent of adults complete the program.  Those who don't are given a traditional court sentence.


Copyright 2007 WSET, Inc.             
 

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