Jobs, education, mentors help lower crime among youth

CSRA News

(WJBF) – Despite crime reports involving some of the area’s youngest people, leaders say work is being done to reduce recidivism rates in the juvenile justice system.

You see the reports about shootings and murders and sometimes those offenders are the CSRA’s youth. So we sat down with the commissioner of the Department of Juvenile Justice to see what’s being done to lower crime among that population.

“When they see people within their community that they look up to and they see the things that they have, they want them too,” said DJJ Commissioner Tyrone Oliver about youth who idolize illegal money makers in communities. “And they want it fast. It’s like a microwave. They want it instantly.”

Gangs. Drugs. Guns. Living the fast life. That’s what Oliver said sends most young people to Augusta’s Youth Development Campus and other DJJ facilities in Georgia.

“Don’t get involved in gangs,” he said. “Don’t commit crimes and just trust the process and eventually you will get it. And then when you get it, it’s going to be legitimate money that the police can’t take away from you when you get arrested.”

That process is spelled out in various programs within the DJJ system, which Oliver was appointed to run by Governor Brian Kemp a year ago. Around 1,000 juvenile offenders up to the age of 21 are spread across 25 secured facilities. And in Augusta, the Regional Youth Detention Center averages 45 people on a short term basis, while YDC keeps around 70 long term. DJJ data shows six youth in RYDC have a murder charge and 19 are being tried as adults.

“When they have gainful employment, they’re making legitimate money it will deter them from criminal activity. Also, it keeps them busy,” he expressed.

Oliver added that DJJ supervises 10,000 youth each year in communities statewide through probation programs. In Augusta, there are currently 170 youth under supervision.

The Pinky Cole Foundation, which operates Slutty Vegan, recently offered 30 jobs and an annual $10,000 scholarship to DJJ. The vegetarian restaurant announced Augusta is on its short list for its next location.

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Oliver is issuing a call to action for other businesses to follow Slutty’s Vegan’s lead and offer jobs to DJJ offenders looking to turn their lives around. He said he also recently met with Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis and Georgia State Legislature leaders to discuss ways to improve youth and crime and he’s looking forward to some partnerships after the election.

Along with jobs, Augusta’s YDC is building a new barbershop, offering construction to students and a GED program. 12 young people have even registered to vote using an absentee ballot in the upcoming election. There are also seven Dual Enrolled students at the Augusta Technical College.

So far, the FY2015 recidivism rate is nearly 35 percent. New numbers are released for FY2016 in January.

“You got to have a plan. Put your mind to it. If you put your mind to it and you stay the course, it will happen,” Oliver said.

There is an opportunity for you to get involved with the DJJ working locally or in the state of Georgia. Visit the DJJ website for more information and click on the Careers tab.

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