Local Buzz: Mentors instead of cell mates

Published January 2010 Vol. 14 Issue 1

Colorado Springs non-profits find alternatives to prison for juvenile offenders.

by Chris Bolte

Robert ran away from home at age 17, dropped out of school and couch surfed throughout the Colorado Springs area for four months. He was reluctant to talk about what, exactly, he did, so left it at he “got into trouble” and found himself in a treatment program through the Division of Youth Corrections. Through this program he was able to attain his GED and get started on a new path.

His circumstances are not at all uncommon.  Dropping out of school has ramifications for young adults; idle time, isolation and even being cut off from many services provided for those still attending school. It can be a recipe for bad decisions.

Minor charges specific to youth are things like truancy or running away from home, gateway crimes.  Some youth continue on this track to more serious crimes.  They can be sent to the Division of Youth Corrections or, even worse, adult prison.

From there, if a youth returns to the same peers upon release, the same temptations to commit crimes and return to the system all over again are all but inevitable.  This is what we have come to know as the recidivism problem.

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