Currently we suffer from overpopulation in our prisons today. One of the main reasons is due to a constant increasing flow of non-violent drug offenders being sentenced to serve time. Drugs are a major problem in our country, so we must be proactive in our efforts and try to come up with programs that would steer youth away from initial drug use that would potentially lead to future incarceration. There are many programs that try to do just that. These programs focus on the youth to try and keep them captivated in healthier venues as opposed to starting drug use or a life of crime. These programs have seen much success in the areas that they are in by means of crime prevention. This paper will discuss the programs and how they actually help in crime prevention by helping the youth within those communities.
Adult-supervised, youth-development afterschool prevention programs reduce the onset or intensity of alcohol, tobacco, and drug use. These programs serve many important purposes including:
Positive interaction with and supervision by adults
Enrichment programs and activities help youth develop drug/alcohol free hobbies
Occupying free time with positive choices in a supervised element
Helps create a service ethic through community service
Development of social skills and the keys to just say no to drugs and alcohol
The programs with the most positive results tend to be those that combine fun with structure and teach prevention through activities. “When afterschool prevention programs, run by Boys and Girls Clubs, were started in selected public housing developments in New York, drug use, presence of crack cocaine use, police reports of drug activity all decreased significantly. Drug activity decreased 22%, juvenile arrests dropped 13%, and vandalism in the public housing developments decreased 12.5%, and parental involvement increased, compared with public housing developments that were not selected to implement the afterschool programs. The program included structured, adult-supervised recreation and youth development activities combined with a focused prevention activity, Smart Moves, developed by the Boys & Girls Clubs specifically for non-classroom settings” (Bailey, 1998).
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Worldwide over the past couple of decades, we have seen an increase in the amount of recreational organizations being created. Recognizing the increasing jail and prison populations, these places were constructed to benefit the entire community in the long run. These facilities have many things that lured youth in such as batting cages, pools, tracks to run, basketball, weight rooms, a healthy and productive alternative to running around on the streets. Programs that engage the youth while keeping them on a straightened path is what will really make the difference in a community.
One organization that incorporates healthy alternatives to substance abuse and criminal activity in youths is The Boys & Girls Clubs of America. This organization is among the top of the lists of facilities to aid in crime prevention in youth’s. Their programs are nationally recognized as well as tested and proved effective in addressing problems that modern day youths face as well as showing them tools to make them successful throughout their lives’. Programs are available nationwide and focus on areas such as alcohol and drug prevention, various areas of education, gang prevention, pregnancy prevention, athletics, the environment and leadership development. The Boys & Girls Clubs of America commend accomplishments while also adding an extra goal for young adults to aspire for, such as the opportunity to meet important role models on a global scale; these actions have led to a high success rate within the organization. One of the ways that the Boys & Girls Clubs of America commend accomplishments through their organization is through their own “Youth of the Year” awards. These awards are given out to those who show outstanding contributions to the Club, family, and community as well. Each state produces a winner and the winners from each state then compete for the title of “National Youth of the Year”; with the ultimate Youth of the Year being recognized by the President of the United States, which is the ultimate honor (Boys & Girls Clubs of America, 2007). The hopes of this competition is to instill in these young adults that they can accomplish any dream if the put their mind to it and stay away from drugs and alcohol or resorting to violence.
There are over 2,000 YMCA’s worldwide, which makes it the “largest not-for-profit community service organization in America working to meet the health and human service needs of 20.2 million men, women and children in 10,000 communities in the United States. YMCAs are at the heart of community life across the country: 42 million families and 72 million households are located within three miles of a YMCA” (YMCA, 2007). Because of their non-profit services and unique locations around the world, 20.1 million members have joined these clubs, 9.5 million of which are under the age of 18. Thousands of Y’s work with local elementary, middle, and high schools, hospitals, and churches to promote child care and teen leadership and provides services that they may need. So many kids today are starting down the wrong paths in life at earlier ages. The fact the children are being left alone and unattended at their homes between the hours that they get out of school until their parents get home is not helping the matter. Kids are often taking advantage of the situation and doing whatever they want. If this continues to happen for some time before they get caught, they might not stop when asked to. Lucky for us, YMCA’s is the largest providers of childcare in the United States, operating nearly 10,000 childcare sites throughout the United States providing affordable and high quality care to more than a half million children. The YMCA does also “serve nearly 10 million children under the age of 18 through activities such as camping, sports, and afterschool programs. YMCAs are the largest employers of teenagers in the country” (YMCA, 2007).
YMCA’s nationwide even offer an After School Program. It is a safe and caring environment in your child’s own school that is offered at school dismissal (including scheduled half days) until 6:00 PM and before school care begins at 7:00 AM until school begins. You can choose between 2-5 days a week and they also offer childcare on holidays and snow days. During this time your children participate in arts and crafts, games, gym activities, group activities, special events, and trips. Homework time and help is also provided, as well as an afternoon snack. And you don’t have to worry about the type of people that are watching your kids because they are just as much qualified to work with children as are teachers. “Our staff members are selected from a wide range of applicants who undergo strict background checks, most of whom have been with us for several years” (YMCA, 2007).
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This next organization is about taking the next step and preparing youth for their future involvement in the workforce. The Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) was created in 1996 in order to consolidate resources and provide the City of New York with higher-quality, more efficient youth and family programming. Our central task is administering available city, state, and federal funds to strong and effective community-based organizations (NYC Department of Youth and Community Development, 2007). DYCD funds a wide range of innovative, practical and quality programs that positively impact youth and communities. These programs include but are not limited to: Runaway and Homeless Youth Outreach, Youth Workforce Development, Corporate Internships for Youth, Summer Youth Employment Program, and the nation’s largest municipally funded Out-of-School Time initiative. It is programs like these that we need to see more of, programs that prepare young teens for success, sending them off on internships to meet well-known successful people. We need to raise their hopes and help them realize that their dreams can become reality.
Like the YMCA, the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) also has after school programs. With the increased number of parents entering the workforce, the need for expanded quality after-school services to support young people and their families is a must. The DYCD supports two major after-school initiatives: the Out-of-School Time Program and the Beacon Program. As previously stated, the Out-of-School Time (OST) Program is the largest after-school program throughout the nation. The programs offered are free of charge and offer an equal balance between recreational activities, the arts, sports, and academic tutoring and support for elementary school students throughout high school. OST programs operate on most school holidays to meet the needs of working parents (NYC Department of Youth and Community Development, 2007). The Beacon Program is slightly different in that it was designed for kid’s ages 16-21. In this program, young adults are offered the experience of academic support and college preparatory, sports such as basketball and martial arts, as well as art infused themes such as photography. These centers operate six days and 42 hours a week in the afternoons and evenings, and on weekends.
We’ve explored the opportunities of childcare and support during the day and after school hours, but what are these children to do at night? Is this not the most popular time for individuals go out, cause mischief, and commit crimes? What can be done to attempt to suppress this? Seattle Parks and Recreation’s new Late Night Program could very well be the answer. The Late Night Recreation Program is a fun, safe environment for high-risk Seattle youth. “Our goal is to save the lives of our youth, create opportunities for success and provide positive alternatives to drugs, gangs, and other undesirable activities,” stated Betty Jean Brooks the Interim Superintendent. The Late Night Recreation Program targets youth’s most prone to harmful behavior and shows them the possibility of having a positive future. It offers a variety of activities: educational services such as tutoring, computer and teen parenting programs, inter-cultural activities such as ethnic dance and bead-making and athletic activities such as basketball, volleyball, martial arts and other sports. According to the Seattle Police Department, crime has been reduced an average of 30 percent near the Late Night centers.
A new program has also come about in Vancouver and Richmond called Night Hoops: Nocturnal Basketball. Night Hoops is a late night basketball program for youth 13-18 yrs. of age. Its goal is to use basketball as a vehicle to promote asset development in a supported environment. Night Hoops offers youths the opportunity to experience the thrill of playing on an organized basketball team. The youth really benefits from having something as fun and positive as this. Those who need an alternative to where they spend their Friday and Saturday nights don’t have to look far. Youth who are experiencing difficulties at home, in school, and would benefit from physical activity and being around positive role models would be perfect candidates.
Religious Youth Group organizations put on by local churches is also an option. Along with religious education classes for children, these groups offer programs for youth age 12 – 19. The First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Antonio has created two different groups: Club M2U and YRUU. Club M2U is for Middle School students (grades 6 – 8). Focus is on having fun, making friends, and doing projects together. Some of their recent activities have been ice skating, collecting school supplies for hurricane victims, and planning an Animal Dedication service for the entire church. The YRUU serves youth from 14-19 years old. Guided by national goals and purposes, each local group determines its own vision. The five components of balanced youth programming are Worship, Community Building, Social Action, Learning, and Leadership. Youth in this program have many opportunities to grow into leadership at group, congregational, district, and continental levels. There is a youth group similar to this where I live. It is held on Friday nights from 8-midnight. There is a lesson service for each group of kids (10-14 and 15-21) in the beginning and then the last 2 hours we are free to partake in recreational activities such as basketball, volleyball, floor hockey, Frisbee, football, etc. And what I thought was great was to see all these other kids from other towns coming over to be a part of this event. It is really quite impressive for a word of mouth establishment.
With all the opportunities the youths have within their reach it is still beyond me why so many become involved in breaking the law. The continuation of education these young minds of how bad gangs and drugs and violence are is most important, and not only after school but in school as well. The G.R.E.A.T. Program (Gang Resistance Education and Training) is a school-based, law enforcement officer-instructed classroom curriculum that is intended as an immunization against delinquency, youth violence, and gang membership. G.R.E.A.T. lessons focus on providing life skills to students to help them avoid using delinquent behavior and violence to solve problems. Because this is a four-component program (elementary school, middle school, high school, and summer classes) it is not something that is easily forgotten. It would be a major problem and of no significance if they only taught it to you in one of those sections. If you were taught it at a young age, you might not understand and often forget and if you were taught it in high school you might laugh at the program and not pay attention at all. The thoroughness throughout the years is the most effective form of education.
The other program that is offered to you through school is the D.A.R.E. program (Drug Abuse Resistance Education). This is one of the highly acclaimed programs that give kids the skills they need to avoid involvement in drugs, gangs, and violence. This is a series of classroom lessons that teaches children from kindergarten through 12th grade how to resist peer pressure and live productive drug and violence-free lives. Because this is a police officer led discussion, I feel that with the powerful authority figure you can get more across to the kids and they are more apt to listen to what he/she is saying. Once the students understand and commit to memory what it is the officer is saying they can then precede through life not having to worry about falling victim to the perils of crime.
As you can see, there are countless organizations that are trying harder and harder every day to grow and promote their establishments so that there will be less crime. We can’t expect the children to make all the decisions and to know that all these programs are out there either. Parents need to look into these types of organizations around their area for their children and suggest them. The children are not going to know about them without the parents help. Maybe a late night basketball program is exactly what your son/daughter wants and you just didn’t know because you never brought it to their attention. Youth groups are a great way to meet new people in a safe and friendly environment. If they still seem uninterested there is still the trial and error approach. Tell them that you and he/she will go once, just to see if they like it or if there is anything there that they are interested in. YMCA’s and the Boys & Girls Clubs have almost anything you could possible want to do. You can’t go wrong here so use it as a reserve option. The effort is being made to help, but this isn’t a one-way street. Parents, let your children know about the opportunities they are missing out on that will help keep them out of living a life of crime.
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