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Marion County prosecutor details plan to keep more children out of juvenile detention

Instead of a nonviolent juvenile offender ending up in the criminal justice system, they will get a one-year membership to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS, Marion County — Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears detailed a program on Thursday that would give low-level, non-violent juvenile offenders a second chance to avoid the criminal justice system.

The "Second Chance Program" will partner with Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis.

Instead of a nonviolent juvenile offender ending up in the criminal justice system, they will get a one-year membership to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis.

"This is a second chance that connects juveniles with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis, a safe place where they experience positive interactions with adults," Mears said. "Ultimately, I would rather spend money to provide this opportunity than prosecuting children for making mistakes."

Mears said they've found that once a child enters the criminal justice system, it sets up a cycle of challenges that can impact the rest of their life. 

Juveniles entering the program will receive a letter notifying them they are getting a second chance and that they need to participate in the program. 

"All of our youth deserve the opportunity to learn how to become responsible, caring citizens," said Maggie Lewis, Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis CEO and executive director. "As the community seeks solutions for helping youth get on the right track, we look forward to serving as a resource for the Prosecutor's Office and others working within the justice system to ensure that the kids who need us most have the opportunity to live a life that is filled with hope and opportunity."

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis will offer homework assistance, college readiness programs, mentoring, and sports.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis will be able to track who is showing up and when. However, Mears said they will not require juveniles to attend a certain amount of time or days each week. They will work with the children to make sure they are aware of the opportunities. 

Last week, Mears held an event to give second chances to adults who are familiar with the justice system.

The workshop helped to get criminal misdemeanors expunged from offenders' records.

"What we're really trying to deal with today is individuals who have arrests or convictions for theft cases, trespass cases, disorderly conduct, these types of issues," Mears explained last Thursday. "If we help people get their criminal convictions expunged, they’re going to get better jobs, and people who are out there in the workforce are not out there committing violent crimes."

Mears is planning to hold similar workshops in the future.