|City court program on block|
|Monday, 26 March 2012 10:27|
By Steve Kobak for The Hour.com
NORWALK, CT -- Upwards of 100 juvenile criminal cases could make their way back into the criminal justice system with the elimination of an early intervention program that is currently on the city's chopping block, officials familiar with the program said.
The proposed budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year does not include funding for the Juvenile Review Board, a diversionary program for young criminal offend that was previously funded by a Department of Justice grant.
"It's an important cog in our system that we utilize on a daily basis," said Lt. Ashley Gonzalez, commander of the Youth Bureau of the Norwalk Police Department.
The City of Norwalk paid $29,232 of Getner's $50,388 salary in the 2011-2012 fiscal year, because a grant that funded Juvenile Review Board coordinator Jasen Getner's position expired five months into the fiscal year. The board was established in 2008 when the city received a $189,421 grant from the Department of Justice. The city renewed the services of the Juvenile Review Board after it received another $200,000 federal grant in 2010.
The funding cut in the proposed budget would eliminate Getner's position as coordinator, putting the Juvenile Review Board in flux. Getner declined to comment.
Gonzalez said the city would "lose one of the primary diversionary resources."
Youths are referred to the program by parents, police officers and school officials. Youths who committed misdemeanors are refered to the program as an alternative to going to juvenile court. The program also addresses youths who have exhibited at-risk behavior, such as anger issues. The youths are plugged into mentoring, education and counseling services and are provided with healthy after school activity alternatives, such as sports, to keep them off the streets.
The diversionary program has an 85 percent success rate, meaning that 15 percent of the youths serviced by the program get rearrested, according to statistics compiled by the City of Norwalk Department of Youth Services.
Mayor Richard Moccia said Getner's position is important to the city, but budget constraints are forcing officials to make tough decisions. He said the city cannot automatically fund a position that was created through a grant. However, it is still possible for the city to find a way to
"It's a juggling act," he said. "We have a lot of difficult issues, and no one wants anything cut."
Robert Barron, the city's director of management and budgets, said when a position is funded by a grant and the grant money runs out, the city typically does not fund the position.
"If we receive extra money, we could provide extra money and extra personnel," he said.
Gonzalez said he has spoken with Moccia about the issue, and Moccia is "trying to find a way to keep the program alive."