The Montgomery County Juvenile Court is using an intervention program to steer young non-violent offenders away from the criminal justice system.
The juvenile court’s intervention center launched a program last May called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT. The goal is to interact with youth to learn why they are committing crimes and help them turn away from it before they become adults and build a criminal record.
“The more people we keep out of the court system, the more successful we are,” Montgomery County administrative judge Nick Kuntz said.
Sending youth to detention centers for non-violent crimes such as theft or vandalism can do more harm than good, Kuntz said
“We learned that locking people up does not fix anything,” he said. “We want to keep children who are minor offenders away from children who are serious offenders.”
A total of 94 juveniles have gone through the program since it was created in May of 2014, according to statistics provided by the intervention center.
CBT is comprised of multiple classes and is divided by age and gender, according to Kuntz.
Anger management and theft prevention classes are offered to juveniles who are over the age of 10. Participants are required to attend group therapy or one-on-one sessions to learn how to change their behavior before they become adults.
Out of 12 males who are currently enrolled in the program, only two have received new charges, according to statistics provided by the Montgomery County Juvenile Court intervention center.
Only one out of the 11 girls currently in the program has received a new charge since enrollment.
The program also provides skills classes and therapy to children who are under the age of 10. Youth enrolled in these classes are trained to express themselves in ways that will solve their issues without becoming violent.
“We focus on building a support system and value system,” said Kuntz. “Those things give youth the hope they need to work towards a better life.”
Juveniles can enter the program after a minor offense or they can be signed up by a parent. Many of the classes are offered multiple times a week. Kuntz said it is important for the court to reach out to children because it is not normal for them to turn to crime.
Clarissa Brown, who lives in Dayton, said she sees young people getting involved in crime because many of them are surrounded by it.
“The kids copy each other,” she said. “It is really hard to reach a teenager who is already committing crimes.”