First-Time Youth Offenders can “Make it Right” with the Alternative Accountability Program
In October of 2014, the Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) began a collaborative effort to launch a pilot program called the Alternative Accountability Program (AAP). The AAP was developed to better manage resources for first-time youth offenders. The collaborative effort consists of the FCPD, Fairfax County Juvenile Court Services, Northern Virginia Mediation Service, Fairfax County Public Schools, Neighborhood and Community Services, and the Fairfax City Police Department. The AAP’s goal is to hold the young person(s) accountable for criminal offenses, without placing formal charges.
The pilot program started at the Mount Vernon District Station and with all school resource officers in the county. It has progressed and now includes the Franconia and West Springfield District Stations. During this pilot program, 68 cases were referred to AAP. Of those, 66 cases completed the alternative process successfully. These cases were comprised of 106 youths and only one of those who completed the AAP has since reoffended. Mount Vernon District police station commander, Captain Shawn Martin, stated that the Alternative Accountability Program is “An opportunity to hold kids accountable for their wrong doing outside of the court system,” and explained that AAP will become an agency wide program in September 2016.
To qualify for the program the offender must be from 12 to 17 years of age, and referred to AAP by the involved officer. The alleged incidents cannot be violent, drug, or alcohol related, and the young offenders cannot have had any prior criminal contacts with police or the court systems. Most of the cases referred to AAP involve larcenies, disorderly acts, and trespassing.
Once deemed eligible, the young first-time offenders along with their parents, the victim, the police officer, and the other AAP facilitators meet at a community location where a conference is held. Emphasis is placed on the juvenile accepting responsibility for their actions, and presenting an explanation for their behavior. Additionally, their parents are present to listen to their child’s account of the incident, as well as the victim’s point of view. The victim is encouraged to share how this incident has impacted them, and ask questions of their offender. The victims have reported that participating in this process helps bring closure to their incident. This is different from the typical court process, in that the victim is intimately involved in the resolution and outcome of the case. An emphasis is placed on making amends for the harm caused.
A “Make it Right” contract is drafted with conditions and set deadlines to optimize the restorative justice aspect of the program. The youth is then required to complete community service and/or pay restitution. When appropriate, the offender may conduct chores or work at the victim’s residence or business to “make it right.”
The FCPD is excited about the expansion of this worthwhile program to the entire department, as it allows us to work with the community to assist in the development of our future generation of Fairfax County residents.
For more information please visit: https://nvms.us/fairfax-rj/