Funding to expand Teen Court

LIHUE — Hale Opio Kauai has some new funding to help expand its youth diversionary programming.

The state Legislature announced Wednesday that $105,406 would go to Hale Opio Kauai Inc. for the operation of the Kauai Teen Court. The family centered accountability-based diversionary program started in 1995 and is for first-time misdemeanor or status-offending youth between the ages of 10 and 18.

Teen Court has a 90 percent success rate for diversion for first time offenders. How many are helped in a given year depends on the number that are detained by police for engaging in criminal activity — and then referred to Hale Opio for services, said Hale Opio Executive Director Laverne Bishop.

“We have gone from as low as 225 and as high as 450 kids per year,” Bishop said. “We average between 325 and 350 annually for Teen Court.”

Bishop said Teen Court services will continue with an expansion at the request of the county prosecutor, and return to an assessment and case management system for young people arrested more than one time. The services are for kids who continue to penetrate the juvenile justice system but are not a threat to the safety of community.

The Youth Level of Service/Case Management Inventory served 75 Kauai youth as a pilot program last year. The risk assessment tool aids in case management and in preventing repeat youth offenders and getting them involved in other youth-directed and family centered programs.

“It is recommended by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges,” Bishop said. “It is an evidence-based practice that is used nationally.”

The YLS/CMI program is designed to help the more difficult cases change their life trajectory before they can start building an adult criminal history, she said.

County Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar described Teen Court as an invaluable component of the juvenile justice system on Kauai.

“We’re pleased that they have been able to open up services to additional sectors of the at-risk juvenile population on Kauai, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with them in the years to come,” Kollar said.

The Legislature provided Hale Opio with $435,000 last year for building improvements to upgrade their energy system.

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