The Pima County Attorney’s Office is looking for volunteers to help at-risk youth throughout the community.
Volunteers with the office’s Community Justice Boards work with youths from ages 8 to 17 who have committed their first or second minor nonviolent crime.
The program allows participating youths to engage in restorative practices with their families and victims and gain a better understanding of the actions, according to the county attorney’s website.
The Monday, June 19 informational meeting at the Murphy-Wilmot Library will give community members the chance to learn what the volunteer commitment requires, organizers said.
When Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall created the program in 1998, the main idea was to try an alternate approach to prevent further crimes.
“I wanted to do something that was different that would intervene in the lives of kids who are just getting started in their juvenile career,” she said. “And perhaps do something in a more significant way that interrupted their crime sprees so that they wouldn’t become that next generation of youth that I had to prosecute as an adult.”
The program’s growth has been due to the volunteers who dedicate their time, she said, adding that the community members who make up the boards are competent and caring.
“I believe the program is so valuable because it sends youth, it sends families the message that the community cares about them,” said Brandy Finley, community justice unit supervisor. “It allows parents to feel supported because parents have to be part of the process too.”
The program lasts about 90 days and is specifically tailored to help the youths comprehend making the right decisions, Finley said.
“We certainly have volunteers who say this is the most valuable experience that they’ve had volunteering and they find it very rewarding,” Finley said. “ I feel like it certainly enhances, it makes you more aware of your communication … but it also allows you to really be more connected to your community.”
New applicants are encouraged to sign up for a period of one year and will be assigned to meet with multiple families near their neighborhoods. Volunteers meet two times a month for a total of eight hours.
“As a volunteer you’re helping empower at-risk youth,” said Trevor Edwards, community justice board coordinator, adding that volunteers will be training with specialists and receive important hands-on skills.
The 18 different boards stationed across Pima County are made up of about 100 volunteers.
On average, the program works with about 400 youths each year and a single volunteer will work with roughly 20 to 25 families per year, Edwards said.
Volunteers are encouraged to come back and work with the program for multiple years and do so because of the effectiveness of the program, Edwards said.
For volunteers like Chris Segrin, who has been serving for 10 years, the program does provide an impact.
“They get individual, one-on-one attention with us,” Segrin said. “One of the common elements is we try to teach how to make bad decisions right.”
For people with a passion or interest in helping young people at a critical juncture in their lives, the board is a fantastic opportunity, Segrin said.
“This is something Tucson and Pima County can be very proud of,” he said.