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Legislatively Speaking

August 22, 2017 - 12:40am

There is local discussion on opioid abuse and increase in theft and burglary. We are not alone.

Recently I joined Legislators, Senators and Representatives from 13 Western States, to focus on common problems and strategies to reduce crime. We had a robust discussion on crime prevention and what we can do today to make a difference, and new programs that are underway. The majority of our time we talked about youth programs.

The strategies and funding of state programs varied by state and I shared Hawaii Islands’ program, “Juvenile Assessment Center.” This is how it works: when youth are picked up by police they go to the assessment center. If they are eligible, professionals will work with them to get support services.

Your Hawaii State Legislature has been working on other policies to empower individuals who work with youth, such as behavioral counselors in public schools and early identification of youth who may be in crisis. We are improving programs for foster youth and children who have been traumatized.

Great strides are being made by our Judiciary Branch through specialty courts which are problem-solving court sessions. They include Juvenile Drug Court, Girls Court, Truancy Court, Family Drug Court, Zero-Three Court, 18-21 Court and Permanency Court. Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald has said “specialty courts are the way of the future.” In specialty court, youth who face incarceration work with comprehensive teams to get back on track in school, assist struggling parents with young children to gain the proper parenting skills, and assist at-risk girls to find positive paths for themselves.

Our session starts in January. If you are interested in crime prevention and want more information on what’s being done nationally, go to the Council of State Governments Justice Center website at csgjusticecenter.org. If you want to recommend and advocate for programs and funding for crime prevention in Hawaii, please contact me at repevans@capitol.hawaii.gov.

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