Most of us have been there. Chances are that at some point in your life, you have received some type of government citation that required you to pay a fine. Maybe it was a parking ticket, or some other traffic violation. As adults, we have resources that allow us to pay those fines. We can work and pay the fines from our income, or perform community service to work off a fine in most states. But what about juvenile offenders that have to pay fines and restitution? What about juvenile offenders living in poverty or group homes that have no way to perform community service and have no way to pay fines?
Teens tumbling through the welfare system often don’t get as fair a shake in court as those who have support at home and school, and that can throw them deeper into trouble. Also, kids who end up as wards of the state because their parents abused them run out of options if they act up in foster and group homes and are no longer welcome. Like other kids, they’re doing kid stuff — tagging playgrounds, breaking windows, smoking weed — but with no safety net to catch them, they fall much farther than their peers in more stable settings.
Gary Campbell, a former Lakeshore schools superintendent, said “ …landing in the juvenile justice system can set up a ‘vicious spiral’ that defeats kids rather than helping them.” As part of sentencing, juveniles are often required to pay a fine, court costs and restitution to any victims. But the kid doesn’t have any money to begin with, so he’s already set up to fail. He’s got no job and no way to acquire the resource. The result is that instead of giving juveniles a jump-start back into society, we set them up with requirements they can’t do.”
For example, a prosecutor or judge looking at a teenager who gets popped for drinking but has a good home life likely will give the kid a chance to prove him or herself and have the charge dropped. But a prosecutor looking at the same crime committed by a kid plagued by mental health issues or stints in foster homes often decides that rough-and-tumble life excludes him or her from working off the charge. That can result in higher rates of detention and incarceration.
Many state and local governments that have focused efforts on Justice Reinvestment strategies that focus on juvenile offenders have seen long-term improvements in crime rates and a decrease in juvenile offenders that become adult offenders. These programs focus on reducing the factors that drive juvenile offenses and re-offenses.
Our Trauma Informed Approach
Writing for the Soul Workshop™ offers communities an amazing resource for Justice Reinvestment, with a strong focus on changing behavior and empowering our at risk kids. Unlike many other programs that are more focused on manual skills, like trash pick up or graffiti removal, our program offers a way for at risk youth to improve their writing, become published authors, plus having the ability to immediately earn income to help with their fines and restitution. Our program offers immediate results that lead to life long behavior change, and new skills to break the cycle of poverty and entanglement with the justice system.
Writing for the Soul Workshop™ was organically created and developed in impoverished areas. Developer of Writing for the Soul Workshop™ Eric L. Jones, Sr. talks about the workshop:
“I gave birth to this program in South Kansas City. My first participants were Crips and Bloods. It wasn’t the differences that brought them together, it was the pain. Watching them write for me made me realize this one thing …writing could actually, literally, set them free. One of the most life changing experiences I had in prison was Victim Impact Week. For the first time in my life …I saw my victims as fathers and sons, mothers and daughters. I thought about the people I hurt. I thought about everything I’d tell them if I could. As a justice reinvestment program, Writing for the Soul Workshop™ gives juvenile offenders a platform to say, ‘I’m sorry.’ Now that’s freedom.”
You can help support our efforts to give at risk youth a platform to tell their stories as part of Writing for the Soul Workshop™, and to earn money promoting our books to pay off fines and court costs. For more information about Writing for the Soul Workshop™ and how we can impact your community, fill out the contact form below.