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Juvenile Court | Spokane County, WA
Juvenile Court

  • Spokane County only has 39 cells for Juveniles.  Governor Chris Gregoire stated,
“Those in the juvenile justice system, whether we like it or not, if we don’t intervene and we don’t help them, are headed for our adult criminal justice system.  Society owes it to young offenders to try to find out what’s wrong in their lives and try to fix it before they turn into career criminals.  Is it mental health?  Is it drugs and alcohol?  Is it a broken family?  Domestic violence?  Whatever it is, let’s get to it.  Let’s help that kid turn his or her life around.”    Governor Chris Gregoire, The Spokesman-Review, June 2, 2007
  • Spokane’s Juvenile Court has the power to widely adjust charges and penalties, and take a child’s criminal history into consideration.  There is currently a great need for adult mentors.  
  • The majority of America's incarcerated children are locked up for property offenses, public order offenses, drug offenses and technical violations of parole. Just 26% are jailed for violent crimes like aggravated assault, robbery, homicide and rape.  (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention) 
  • Missouri's program results are impressive.  "A full 93% of Missouri's juvenile offenders avoid further prison time for at least 3 years after release.  Close to 70% avoid any system involvement at all.  Missouri closed its statewide youth prisons and replaced them with smaller, homier regional dormitory facilities which are sprinkled throughout the state so families don't have to travel long distances to visit.  It is believed that removing them from communities is the worst thing we can do, as it both immerses them in a criminal environment, and removes them from natural supports and connections.  The children's daily activities center around education and therapeutic interventions.  These kids do not want to become lifelong criminals--they want to be successful." 

    Juvenile Court Judge Jimmy Edwards in St. Louis, Missouri established a school for juvenile offenders in 2009—giving hope to teens where most are from broken homes and most have been expelled from school.  In St. Louis the rate of recidivism for juvenile offenders is 27%; at the Innovative Concept Academy it is only 11%.

    Judge Edwards asks, “How do you want these children back in the community—a child who understands what it means to be decent and respectable, or do you want them back as a menace to our community?”  They have no hope, and they ask the judge, “Why should I care about my life when no one else cares about me?” 

    This environment provides,
    “Structure—children want structure.  They might suggest that they don’t, but they want expectations set.”  The judge sets his expectations high.  Students are required to stay there until they earn their GED’s and gain employment.  The academy teaches them to do things differently.  The children get medical and psychological attention, 3 meals a day, and even lessons in Chess. 

    “I tell the kids we are all poor, but that doesn’t matter.  We can be good citizens and productive in our own lives.”  Most Americans don’t understand that, “(Disadvantaged youth) want to be successful.  It doesn’t take a lot of money to correct it.” 

    However, it does take a lot of generosity—most of this school is funded by private donations.  Some of the donations included computers, a gym, and food for lunch.  The true gift for these students is letting them know that somebody cares for them.  
    The Today Show,
    December 21, 2011, http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/26184891/vp/45750098#45750098 and "Holding Out Hope," Elizabeth Stuart, Deseret News, March 25, 2012. 

  • Children Arrested.  About l out of every 20 children ages 10 to 17 is arrested in Washington each year.  Most of the arrests are for property crimes or violations involving drugs or alcohol.  Only one out of 500 children is arrested for a violent crime.  (Governor’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee, September 2005)  
  • Over 1 million children pass through the courts in our country every year, in cases of abuse, neglect, and children who are beyond control.  
  • 85% of all juvenile offenders have reading problems. 
What You Can Do
  • Volunteer to mentor a juvenile offender, one-on-one, even in a locked facility.  Serve as a role model to promote positive values, leadership, and character.  (see Spokane County Juvenile Court)   
  • Assist juveniles in completing court-ordered community service hours as part of their sentence of commitment.  For example, your business may need help with mass mailings, gardening, cleanup, moving to a new location, construction, etc.  Offer age-appropriate projects to these youth.  
  • Teach offenders to read and use their intelligence wisely; encourage them to go to college; and teach them to express themselves in writing, art, drama and music.  
  • Read “Lost Boys:  Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them,” by James Garbarino, Ph.D.
  • Make quilts, treats, or birthday surprises for youth in corrections facilities.  
  • Donate suitable books and good magazines for youth.  
  • Donate tickets to community events for offenders and their mentors.   
Local Organizations
Additional Resources

Spokane County Juvenile Court Services
Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), or Guardian Ad Litem
Help abused, neglected, or abandoned children, age birth to 17. 
(509) 477-2469