Community Connections Program Description
Community Connections is committed to:
- hold youth offenders accountable to fulfill their obligations as community members;
- connect youth with citizens and agencies in their own communities;
- support youth in developing practical job skills, improving pro-social attitudes, and strengthening confidence to find meaningful employment;
- expanding their educational and life experiences;
- provide a positive work environment for youth;
- expand and cultivate meaningful community partnerships, involvement, and projects; and
- apply the values and principles of balanced and restorative justice in our practice.
Clackamas County Juvenile Department (CCJD) is committed to the principles and values of Restorative Justice. In practice this means our department is committed equally to the needs of victims of crime, the needs of the youth committing the offense, and the needs of the community in which the crime occurred. We believe that the needs of each of these stakeholders are mutually dependent with the needs of the other.
Approaching community service through a restorative lens differentiates our program from traditional community service programs by emphasizing that:
- youth understand that service work is their opportunity to repair the harm they have done;
- youth are working along-side community members;
- community service projects provide opportunities for youth to learn new skills;
- positive contributions to community can be both rewarding, empowering, and fun;
- youth are a necessary and vital resource for a community to thrive; and
- projects encourage youth to reconnect with their community and develop a value of community involvement.
After committing harmful acts, youth offenders often feel shamed and excluded by their communities. When we perpetuate those feelings of exclusion by prohibiting our at-risk youth from pro-social community-building activities, we don’t allow them to build a new foundation of inclusion, trust and safety. This exclusion can diminish the opportunities to experience and understand the impact their actions have caused, leading to greater potential of committing additional crimes.
Communities must play an integral part to holding youth meaningfully accountable, providing the support necessary for at-risk youth and families to succeed, and in building a foundation of safety necessary for communities to thrive. Community Connections provides one avenue for communities to play a significant role in reaching toward these goals.
Youth need community role-models to help them understand the impacts of their actions and how to be meaningfully accountable to these impacts. Youth also need role-models to help them understand how to co-exist within their community, the importance of being involved, and to help instill a sense of value in themselves and the world around them. In order to set the stage for this valuable community interaction we have created the Community Connections Program.
The Community Connections Program provides a forum for positive community role-modeling through the use of community service opportunities. These opportunities allow youth to work towards making things right for their offense by becoming integrated into community-valued projects, while simultaneously expanding youth’s pro-social attitudes, networks, support systems, access to education, and employment skills.
Victims of Youth Offense
Victims have not traditionally been directly involved in the Community Connections program, however it has provided a resource for meeting a commonly voiced concern for victims. Victims often request that in order to be accountable, youth give back to the community in meaningful ways. Often, victims will request that youth perform their community service in specific ways in their own community, and Community Connections has worked hard to meet these needs when they are expressed. Community Connections works to ensure that partnering community projects or agencies are of value to victims and communities that we serve.