State grants to help Howard juvenile offenders, inmates Youths to meet victims

job-hunt help planned

September 17, 1998|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

First-time juvenile offenders in Howard County and their victims will meet face-to-face in a few months, and inmates at the Howard County Detention Center will be learning how to prepare for job interviews and balance checkbooks -- thanks to state grants announced yesterday.

"The program helps offenders realize in the most direct way that they've done something wrong," said Chuck Porcari, a spokesman for Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, whose office administered the grants.

The state Department of Juvenile Justice was awarded $30,000 to conduct community meetings between youth offenders and their victims.

First-time juvenile criminals, who admit committing misdemeanor offenses, are eligible for the program. Experts have said such programs help victims address the emotional toll of crime while giving juveniles a rare look into the consequences of their actions.

"It can provide additional closure and information for the victim," said Howard County State's Attorney Marna McLendon, whose office will assist state juvenile caseworkers.

McLendon's office was awarded $29,045 yesterday to hire a victims' advocate to help those affected by juvenile crime. That advocate also will coordinate volunteers who work with victims of domestic violence.

Victims aren't the only ones receiving assistance. In several months, inmates at the Howard County Detention Center will be taught job-seeking skills under the Life skills Education Employment Program (LEEP). The center received $54,000 yesterday.

Though state and federal prisons offer inmates similar in-itiatives that usually last months or years, those incarcerated in Howard's jail can be harder to reach because they stay behind bars an average of 90 days, said Melanie C. Pereira, director of the detention center.

That means the detention center's job coach and other instructors must work quickly to teach job-seeking skills, including resume writing and interviewing techniques, Pereira said.

Some of that instruction will focus on answering the toughest questions they will face.

"It's very difficult for someone with a record to get a job," Pereira said. "They'll learn how to address the issues of their incarceration honestly."

Pub Date: 9/17/98

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