Wayne County wants to explore “Talk It Out” program for juvenile offenders

The number of juveniles being arrested and charged with crimes in Detroit is staggering. In 2017, 1,586 juvenile crimes took place in Wayne County. 160 of those crimes resulted in violence while 470 were property-related crimes. And, 1,037 juveniles were between the ages of 15 and 16 when they committed these crimes.

Many juveniles commit crimes based on environment, social status, and economic disparities. In a city that has over 160,000 juvenile residents, there should be other methods of policing in place aside from apprehension and jail time. One of the methods that Wayne County Prosecutor Kim Worthy is exploring is a new program called “Talk It Out.” The juvenile mediation program would allow victims of crimes to speak to the offenders about the ordeal. Worthy believes that this will cut down on juveniles being submitted into the criminal justice system.

“Certainly, we don’t want our juvenile offenders to transfer into adult criminality and into the justice system,” Worthy said. “We want to look at every case individually. We will screen the complaints that come in from police departments the way we regularly do.”

The qualifications for the program are:

  • The juvenile must pay a $50 and attend all mediation sessions.
  • The victim must agree to speak to the juvenile.
  • There can’t be more than one victim involved.
  • The offense must be a minor violation and there can’t be any priors on the juvenile’s record.
  • The juvenile’s parents must sign off for them to be a part of the program.

Worthy said that once a juvenile completes the program, their record will be cleared, and the process will move forward for other juveniles.

“Upon successful completion, we will formally deny the charge,” Worthy said. “There will be no charge and then we will make sure that the case that’s successfully diverted to this program are confidential and unavailable to the public. We must also say the juvenile will only be accepted into this program once because we want to make sure that we have a deterrence.”

The “Talk It Out” program serves as an opportunity to mend the community through communication and conflict resolution. While forgiveness may be a process, it can be started through the process of conversation and empathy on both ends. The program will also alter the School-To-Prison Pipeline system and reduce the amount of juvenile recidivism. Both instances affect millions of black kids every year which makes post-secondary education or employment nearly impossible. A program like this will improve the lives of our youth and the greater community.

The Wayne County Dispute Resolution Center is seeking out volunteers for the “Talk It Out” program. If you would like to volunteer, please call 313-561-3500.

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