Coastal Voices: We can stop juvenile crime

May 31, 2007 12:00 am

This is the first annual public report from the Del Norte County Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Commission. We are a state-mandated committee of approximately 15 people. Our members are appointed by the Superior Court and are comprised of individual citizens including two juveniles from the community at large who volunteer their time and meet monthly.

Our task is to advocate for our community children who are under the supervision of the Juvenile Court and we operate under the provisions of the Welfare and Institutions Code, Section 225 of the State of California. Specifically, we conduct detailed yearly inspections of Juvenile Hall, and Bar-O-Boys Ranch, and make numerous informal visits during any given year to these sites as well as McCarthy Education Center. Another regular duty is to attend and keep track of Juvenile Court proceedings on a weekly basis. We receive monthly reports from the Chief Probation Officer of Del Norte County and the Director of Bar-O-Boys Ranch and have regular contact with the Del Norte County Office of Social Services.

Services available

Our role in overseeing the care of our community's youth who need Juvenile Court supervision is simple: to work cooperatively with the Juvenile Court and its agencies and personnel to both safeguard and enhance that care of our youth and to exert a positive influence on both the children themselves and those who care for them.

Last year, the JJC took it upon itself to investigate services available to juveniles in our county who did or may need drug and alcohol related services. We were motivated by our concerns regarding these ongoing problems amongst our teenagers and by the community wide effort of the Meth Summit.

During the months following we contacted the following agencies: HASP/Jordan Street Recovery, Harrington House, Bar-O-Boys Ranch, Del Norte County Drug and Alcohol Services, Individual Living Skills Program, Tobacco Use Prevention Program and HIV Aids, CASA, United Indian Health Services, Yurok Tribe, Planned Parenthood, Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous, Rural Human Services, Remi Vista, Del Norte County Mental Health Services and the Del Norte County School District. We received enormous support and cooperation from these agencies.

But, what we learned surprised us. While we have a significant education and prevention effort in our community we have only a few agencies providing direct drug and alcohol intervention services (counseling and rehabilitation). Therefore, it is easy for a young person in need to find education from many dedicated and effective sources but difficult to find immediate intervention services. HASP, Bar-O-Boys Ranch, Del Norte County Drug and Alcohol Prevention Services, United Indian Health Services and Remi Vista are the only agencies currently offering direct services and we believe that this is not enough.

Many of our youth who need help are not "mainstream" individuals; that is, they do not regularly attend school nor do they have a personal support system that encourages education and prevention. At present, the Del Norte County School District is trying to establish an improved referral service through the Del Norte High School Counseling Office with Del Norte County Drug and Alcohol Prevention Services and Remi Vista. They deserve praise for their foresight and they have set an important precedent. However, our teenagers need more. All the agencies we interviewed want to do more but are restricted by a lack of funding.

Findings

Juvenile statistics for our county last year involved 385 individuals who committed 525 violations. A professional estimate of the individual charges is that 50 percent involved drugs or alcohol. A study prepared for the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs showed Del Norte County's rate of juvenile arrests for drug and alcohol offenses was roughly 50 percent higher then the statewide average, but adolescent admissions to drug and alcohol treatment programs were less then one-tenth the statewide average.

According to the 2005 Healthy Kids survey, which surveyed more than 2,000 students in grades 5, 7, 9 and 11, about 78 percent of 11th graders had used alcohol, 47 percent had smoked marijuana and 12 percent had used methamphetamine or other illicit drugs. Del Norte County High School reported 59 suspensions in the 05-06 school year for drug or alcohol related incidences.

Recently we interviewed 18 individuals housed at our Juvenile Hall who agreed to speak to us. We asked questions regarding their use of drugs and what they recommended in terms of improving present conditions that they and other youth face in our community. A show of hands showed that 16 used alcohol, 15 used marijuana, 8 used methamphetamine and a majority indicated that they could obtain drugs within a half hour on the street. Clearly, a majority used both drugs and alcohol. Some of their recommendations to address this problem were:

•More and earlier intervention, education and rehabilitation efforts

•Development of youth oriented activities in our community like the Skateboard Park.

•Support from a transition program to help them adjust to living a productive life after they are off probation

We also sought opinions from parents in the community whose teenagers were on or had been on probation for juvenile offenses and they admitted to great frustration at the lack of counseling, remediation, and youth oriented activities – all of which can help an adolescent at risk.

Recommendations

In summation, following these last few months of discussion, interviews, data gathering and evaluation, we present the following recommendations:

•We recommend that the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors direct its staff to explore new and/or renewable sources to provide treatment services to our youth.

•We recommend that all responsible agencies cooperate to design and implement an updated and workable referral policy for an expanded base of drug and alcohol services sorely needed by our community.

•We recommend that outreach efforts be made by all agencies to AA/NA and other support service groups to increase adolescent specific meetings and support groups.

•We recommend that new ideas and programs be initiated to aid our community and its youth in these matters.

Reach the commission via Commissioner John Murphy at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

us or 464-2537.

Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Commission

Recently California

mandated that each Juvenile Court establish a commission to advocate for children under the courts' supervision. Last year, a commission formed in Del Norte County. It includes the following members:

•John Wilson

•Tony Luis

•Mike Muldoon

•John Murphy

•Mary Jo Duncan

•Martha McClure

•Alicia McKellar

•Paul Dillard

•Susan Ramirez

•Meghan Osburne

•Jeff Dickson

•Jon Alexander

•Laura Jewel

This is the commission's first annual report, which was released May 24.