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Hard Times

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WOMAN: We felt like we could have an impact. We felt we had something to offer and we could help some of these kids and do a service to the community. NARRATOR: Each month, the Rogersons join with others to give their service in a community-based effort known as Diversion. TOM: She went on a terror alright. JAN: Yeah. STEVE: And you can see it's been with the prosecutors for a long period of time. TOM: Yeah, I guess. NARRATOR: Diversion is a state wide program where juvenile cases are heard by a conference committee of community members like the Rogersons instead of a judge. STEVE: She went through a shoplifting class already -- NARRATOR: Steve Markussen, of the Snohomish County Diversion Unit, says the cases usually involve first-time offenders who have been arrested for misdemeanors and minor felonies. Through Diversion, the community conference committees handle the cases more quickly, and that helps out an overburdened juvenile court system. STEVE: We can look at it, and within a month or so we can have these people through the system and beginning to look at some consequences for their behavior. NARRATOR: On this night, the committee hears the case of a 17 year old girl accused of forgery, a felony. She admits to stealing blank checks from a woman's house and then forging the signature to buy a pizza. Now the girl has to explain her actions to the conference committee members. TOM: Um, how did you get caught? GIRL: My mom found the checks in the kitchen, and called the lady, and asked her if she was missing some checks, and she's like, "Yeah." And so my mom made me take them back to her and apologize and stuff. NARRATOR: As the committee continues questioning the girl, Tom Rogerson senses there are other issues in the girl's life, since she didn't get into trouble until the past year. TOM: Now all of sudden we have a forgery and a theft and another charge that was dropped. Your school attendance is worse than last year. I see a pattern here. NARRATOR: The girl says some of the problems started after an argument with her mother. GIRL: I think it has to do with when I got kicked out of her house. I think that's when everything started happening. JAN: Why did you get kicked out of the house? GIRL: Because, um, well we got into an argument and she hit me, and so I hit her back. NARRATOR: Despite that admission, the committee members think there's still something the girl is reluctant to tell them, so they continue to press her for an answer. TOM: Because you made Diversion, you can make the felony charge go away. Disappear. TOM: If you hadn't been eligible for Diversion, if you'd been up before the judge, that felony charge would be part of your criminal record forever. You say you want to go in the Army? Forget it. WOMAN: So it isn't that we're trying to intrude on your private life, but we need all the pieces to the puzzle to make it work. And anything that you can tell us, that will enlighten us, then we can make a better decision. TOM: Any of the kids you're hanging out with doing drugs? GIRL: That I hang out with right now? Yeah, I guess. Yeah. NARRATOR: Finally, the girl admits that drugs and alcohol may be playing a role in her problems. WOMAN: What kind of drugs? GIRL: Just, um, weed and -- WOMAN: How much? GIRL: Not very often. Maybe, two or three or four times a month. NARRATOR: The committee completes its questioning of the girl. She and her mother are asked to leave the room so the committee members can decide the consequences she'll face. JAN: We do have the right to eject her if we want. WOMAN: Yeah. JAN: And I don't know how everybody feels about that. TOM: I don't have any problem at all with keeping her. JAN: Okay. Is everybody in agreement with that? TOM: I have some serious doubts about -- WOMAN: I have some reservations. TOM: I do too. WOMAN: Umm -- TOM: But she's either going to make it -- WOMAN: She's either going to make it, or she's not. WOMAN: On the restitution, you need to pay that restitution of $27 -- it says down here, "Snohomish County Clerks." NARRATOR: Besides ordering payment for the forged check, the conference committee tells the girl she must complete 40 hours of community service. TOM: Some kind of manual labor, for cleaning up parks, pulling weeds, raking -- whatever work they have to do. NARRATOR: They also strongly recommend the girl obtain counseling for substance abuse and to resolve the problems with her mother. WOMAN: And read that closely. NARRATOR: And as the girl signs a contract agreeing to the committee's decision, Jan Rogerson leaves her with some final advice. JAN: You're almost 18, and you will not have the chance to go through this process again with us. Okay, the next choice that you make needs to be a good one for your own sake. TOM: Okie doke? WOMAN: Okay, you're free to go. TOM: Thanks a lot. NARRATOR: Will this girl stay out of trouble? The odds, at least, are in her favor. Nearly 70% of the kids who go through Diversion in Snohomish County, never re-offend. JAN: This is the trimming that I never got to. NARRATOR: For Tom and Jan Rogerson, that brings a sense of accomplishment. They know it's community people like them that play a big role in the success of Diversion, and the kids that go through it. JAN: If we can help at least part of them, it's a step in the right direction. [Music] ALEX: Take care of Greg for me baby. You know, 17, 18, 19, I was in here. I missed all that. You know 19 year olds nowadays they got apartments, their own cars, you know, they're practically engaged, you know, and I'm barely getting paroled. NARRATOR: After two and a half years of incarceration, Alex Sandoval is getting out of Green Hill. ALEX: Looks like it's over. MAN ON RIGHT: You outta here? ALEX: Bye, baby. NARRATOR: In a few hours, Alex will return to his hometown of Yakima. He'll leave behind the confinement of a juvenile institution. And try to make a new life for himself on the outside. ALEX: Watch that! Watch that! ALLIE: He'd like to think that he's extremely elated and happy, but he's scared to death at this moment. I think for him is that, uh, when you do make changes, he still has to go back to a neighborhood that hasn't changed. You know, so it's going to be tough. ALEX: I think I just gotta stay away from my old friends. That's not all -- I mean there's a lot that has to do with that, but I mean that's a big step, you know, just stay away from my old friends, and that'll help a lot. DRIVER: Now, you said you wanted to physically walk out the gate? ALEX: Yeah, I want to walk out the gate, man. DRIVER: Okay. NARRATOR: Alex walks out of the gate at Green Hill to show that he's served his time. He leaves behind a juvenile justice system that's in need of reform and direction. ALEX: We're out of here. Message received. [Pounds gavel.] NARRATOR: During the last legislative session, two task forces gave state lawmakers recommendations for reform of the 1977 Juvenile Justice Act. GIRL: A cigarette, bro? NARRATOR: The legislature passed, and the governor signed, a runway bill. It gives parents more authority in dealing with runway children. Legislators also approved spending $58 million to rebuild the Green Hill School, and to expand other juvenile institutions. But lawmakers couldn't agree on other changes for the juvenile system. In the end, under pressure to approve a budget, they did nothing more about reforms for juvenile justice. Adam Smith chairs the state senate's Law and Justice Committee. When you get to the actual offender level, there's just a lot of disagreement on what to do about it. NARRATOR: The problems for juvenile justice won't ease any time soon. The 10-17 year old age group will increase through the year 2000. And juvenile arrests are expected to double. SID: We used to say our biggest institution would never be more than 150 youths. We're now talking to legislature about building 300-bed facilities. NARRATOR: There are no simple solutions for our juvenile justice system, but it's clear changes will be needed. Communities will have to step up even more to help troubled kids. And with such a high volume of young people coming into the system, many lawmakers know there will have to be reform. IDA: It's just getting it done. NARRATOR: Ida Ballasiotes chairs the House Corrections Committee. IDA: Now, it is huge. And maybe we have to do it in increments. I don't have a problem with that. NARRATOR: One reform sought by judges, and supported by a governor's task force, is more flexibility in sentencing. It would allow for sentences beyond the standard range, to impact beginning and multiple offenders, plus help in rehabilitation. MICHAEL: It can work as a deterrent to, uh, to future bad behavior if he knows when he comes to court that there's likely to be additional sanctions, especially sanctions that include jail time. NARRATOR: Since so many young offenders have chemical dependency, developmental and psychological problems, lawmakers will have to face up to the need and the increasing costs for treatment. GEORGE: We can't ignore social service needs of these children. It would be a big mistake. They're coming back. They're going to be released from prison at some time. NARRATOR: And there's widespread agreement that a stronger commitment must be made to prevention efforts. Programs that will give kids like these positive alternatives to violence. Sid Sidorowicz oversees the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration. SID: And I think that that's the thing that really the legislature faces in the coming years, is, "Are you willing to pump money into this prevention system, and to really do what it takes to reduce crime, in order to gain the long-term reduction in locked up kids?" ALEX: Ah, it feels like Yakima. NARRATOR: Three hours after leaving Green Hill, Alex Sandoval arrives home. [Car horn.] NARRATOR: Home is a small motel on the outskirts of Yakima, where Alex will live with his older brother, John, John's fianc�e, and their four kids. CHILD: Alex, do you live here now? ALEX: Yeah, I'm back. NARRATOR: They're glad to have Alex back, but they wonder what's ahead for him. JOHN: I still have some fears for him, some concerns �

Video Details

Duration: 11 minutes and 3 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: None
Views: 69
Posted by: atrctech on Nov 3, 2010

Hard Times

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