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A Better Idea for Juvenile Crime on Hawai‘i Island?

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Several years ago, Hawai'i County Prosecutor Mitch Roth started a program on the east side of the Big Island aimed at working with young offenders. It links actions and consequences – and it’s been so successful he wants to start a similar program on the west side.   HPR contributing reporter Sherry Bracken tells us more from Kona.


Hawai'i County Prosecutor Mitch Roth says the justice system handling of juvenile crime does not lead to a connection between bad acts and consequences.   


“Police arrest a youth, they have a limited amount of time to keep them, twelve hours.  They release the kids to their parents. They do their investigation, they send the case to family court, they send the case to our office. Pretty soon you have, 6, 7, 8 months where nothing has happened to this juvenile. Juvenile comes to court, two or three more months may go by and now they’re getting a consequence a year later. And so these kids get the wrong message, I got arrested but nothing happened.” 


A little over three years ago, Roth set up a pilot project in Hilo to help keep kid criminals from becoming adult criminals.


“The police pick them up, they bring them to the Big Island Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center, BIJAC, they do an assessment, they start looking at what kind of services the kids need they get them into services in the very beginning.  It’s different for every kid—family intervention, drug treatment, truancy issues.  By the time they get to court, they may have done their consequence already.”


Roth says the proof is in the numbers over the past 3 years.


“The numbers at which people re-offend—are around 4 or 5 %, it’s costing about $750 to $900 per kid. If you look at the other kids, we send them to Hawai'i Youth Correctional Facility on Oahu, the kids prison, the recidivism rates from there is about 75% at about $200,000  per youth.”


Roth says his office has received a $250,000 dollar grant from the State Office of Youth Services to start the program in Kona.  His team is looking for a provider partner and expects to begin the service within a couple of months.

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