SAVANNAH, GA – Close to 1,000 Savannah teens were referred to juvenile court in 2014. Those who monitor and institutionalize them say it’s time for a change.
“Traditionally the issues of public safety were turned over by the community to the police to the court systems, and it’s not working,”says Juvenile court justice Le Roy Burke.
Experts who study the affects of and statistics involving incarcerations share with community members and leaders that families need to stop kicking the can down the road when it comes to their children.
“It’s up to us as adults to make sure they have good outcomes,” the Judge says.
Outcomes like the life Matt Bennett now leads. The California native saw first hand when violence struck his family.
“I saw my dad get shot nine times right in front of me and I grew up poor,” says Bennett.
Now he like other members of the group known as the Robeson Club are college graduates and act as a motivational speakers to kids in tough situations.
“It’s like they’ve been abandoned and the kids really feel that way and they truly have been abandoned so there needs to be less identification of the problem we have these conferences over and over about but we’re very slow to move towards solutions,” Bennett says.
Three items court representatives spoke about that could impact the lives of youth positively would be the presence of a caring mentor in their lives, being a part of positive events and being around positive friends.
Professors pointed out the issue of youth taking to a life of delinquency is not only an issue for Savannah but on a national scale.The court’s goal locally is to make Savannah unique, becoming a city focused on not taking the easy route to treat unruly teens, but remain invested in them.
“Give em some recreation, give em some jobs they’ll take those, we want to concentrate on those that we’re really afraid of,” says Judge Burke.
Here is a list of several youth initiatives and programs throughout Savannah-Chatham County:
My Brother’s Keeper
Savannah Youth City
Savannah Youth Council
Chatham County Youth Commission
100 Black Men of Savannah
Step Up Savannah
Frank Callen Boys and Girls Club