D.A. implements program for troubled kids
In an effort to give wayward juveniles a second chance, Bossier/Webster District Attorney Schuyler Marvin is implementing "First Step," a juvenile diversion program that will give first-time juvenile offenders between the ages of 10 and 17 an alternative to prosecution.
"The goal of the program is to ensure that first-time juvenile offenders who commit non-violent misdemeanor offenses [e.g., simple possession of marijuana, shoplifting, bullying, theft, trespassing, disturbing the peace, etc.] are not charged with a crime," Marvin said.
Instead, they will be allowed to enter a voluntary pre-trial diversion program rather than go to court for prosecution.
"While the focus of the district attorney's office is on prosecuting juvenile offenders, the Louisiana Children's Code [R.S. 46:2600 -2610] recognizes the need for the implementation of innovative, community-based programs to provide treatment, training and rehabilitation of juveniles in lieu of placement in the judicial system," Marvin said. "First Step will give the juvenile offender the opportunity to demonstrate a pattern of behavior that reflects accountability and responsibility."
The program is consistent with the Louisiana District Attorney's Association Resolution adopted January 23, 2009, which states in part "a balanced juvenile system must include both treatment and accountability."
According to assistant District Attorney Michael Nerren, who heads up the District Attorney's Juvenile Division, early intervention is the key in dealing with juvenile offenders.
"This program will allow the court system to focus time and resources on the more serious offenders who require stricter punishment," Nerren said.
The First Step program is designed to steer juveniles away from crime, violence and substance abuse.
Juveniles accepted into the program who complete the curriculum will have the charges removed from their criminal record and avoid going to court or face jail time.
However, juveniles who fail to meet the criteria for entry into the program, or refuse to cooperate will be put on the docket for immediate prosecution.
First Step is funded by the Office of the Governor, Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement.
For information about the First Step program, call 746-1092.
First Step Juvenile Program Facts:
Provide juvenile offenders access to programs and resources that do not compromise the safety of the community, but encourage their rehabilitative effort.
Hold juvenile offenders accountable for their negative behavior, thus reducing further involvement in the juvenile system.
Use community-based programs to provide "at risk" juveniles and their families, referred by the District Attorney's Office, life skills, counseling, drug screens and other ancillary services.
Act as a clearinghouse by exposing the juvenile and his or her family to the many educational, social, mental and rehabilitative resources available.
Provide collaborative needs-based referral services to juveniles and their families.
Provide through the 26th Judicial Drug Court random drug screens during the duration of the program.