Before juvenile offenders face probation officers and county judges, an alternative option exists for minors who break the law.
That option is the Lycoming County Youth Commission - a volunteer program begun in the mid-1980s by former Lycoming County Judge Thomas C. Raup that aims to stop juvenile delinquency before it destroys the lives of young offenders.
County judges, attorneys, local law enforcement and commission volunteers got an update from Ed Robbins, chief county juvenile probation officer, about the program Wednesday evening at the Lycoming County Courthouse.
CRAIG S. McKIBBEN JR./Sun-Gazette
Lycoming County Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Ed Robbins explains features of the Youth Commission program.
Robbins thanked volunteers who help run the local commissions, three of which are in the city and one each in Montoursville, South Williamsport, Muncy, Loyalsock, DuBoistown and Jersey Shore.
Juveniles who commit misdemeanor or summary offenses are referred to the program from arresting police departments, schools, district judges, nonprofit service agencies and the court.
Judge Richard A. Gray told the audience he prefers handling juvenile matters because it's "one of the few areas where I think I might be able to change something."
"If properly and promptly handled, most first-time juvenile offenders will learn from their mistakes and not become involved in more serious or repeated offenses," the commission's planning document states.
Robbins said the Lycoming County Youth Commission saves taxpayers money by keeping minor infractions out of the court system and makes in impact on the lives of young offenders.
He said the program helps keep troubled kids out of possible jail time and away from older offenders with a longer criminal history.
"Why not get them to a program that's more hands-on?" Robbins said.
Hearings - which are limited to those who have admitted their guilt for the offense - are held by commission volunteers. The juvenile offender and their parents talk with members to determine details of the incident and craft a course of action.
Offenders often are assigned a mentor to whom they must check in. Community service hours, curfews and nominal fee can be imposed
In Jersey Shore, Charles Rhinehart, commission chairman, said the success rate is near 80 percent for those who come through the program.
Rhinehart, along with Tiadaghton Valley Regional Police Department Officer Brian Fioretti and Sgt. Nathan DeRemer, held a mock hearing involving an actual case that recently was brought to the Jersey Shore commission.