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Campaign grant used for juvenile justice issues Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Thursday, Oct. 23, 2008 -- 12:00 AM
 

Join With JOB — a public meeting

By Pat Casucci, Catholic Herald Correspondent


BELOIT — Justice Overcoming Borders (JOB) is sponsoring a unique opportunity for the public to voice their concerns on issues of importance in the state-line area at a community meeting on Thursday, Oct. 30, at 7 p.m. at the Eclipse Center, 1701 Riverside Dr., Beloit.

“Our Common Destiny: Building a Community for Change” is the theme of the public meeting. The evening will include song and celebration, prayer, public testimony on issues of importance, response from public officials, and a call to action.

According to the public meeting information, several concerns are noted with the question, “Are you concerned that”:

  • Quality health care is out-of-reach for half a million Wisconsin residents while our health insurance costs are 23 percent above the national average and rise about 10 percent each year?
  • Our municipal courts can only sentence youth to cash fines rather than alternative programs such as community service or other action designed to “restore” them to the community?
  • Our police may be required to act as immigration agents at taxpayer expense, rather than responding to the pressing needs of our community?
  • Many of our friends and family with non-violent drug or alcohol related offenses are being sent to prison (a cost of $28,662/year) rather than treatment (only $6,100/year) or other alternatives to incarceration?

JOB is a coalition of faith communities in the state-line area that unite to act for justice, build power, and promote the interests of local residents whose voices are often not heard in the public arena. Its primary focus is on issues of economic and social disparity that affect the state-line area. Beloit Catholic parishes — St. Thomas, St. Jude, and Our Lady of the Assumption — actively participate in JOB.

JOB president, Ruth Kolpack, said the public is invited and urged to attend the community meeting. Persons wishing additional information can call 608-201-5326.

  

BELOIT — A $5,000 grant received this past summer from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development is being used for the youth justice project of Justice Overcoming Borders (JOB) in Beloit and the state-line area.

The grant’s purpose is to organize youth and adults to address the needs and aspirations of at-risk and disadvantaged youth in the state-line area, according to Tom Boswell, Evansville, JOB community organizer.

Objectives include identifying and resolving issues, recruiting youth leaders, and enabling youth to gain leadership skills and act as agents of change in the community.

The grant has helped build and sustain the JOB Task Force on Juvenile Justice Issues to plan and coordinate youth leadership development.
Stephanie King Norton, St. Thomas the Apostle parishioner in Beloit and an assistant dean at Beloit College, is chair of the Task Force on Juvenile Justice Issues. The group’s focus is to act for justice, build power, and promote interests of local residents whose voices are often not heard in the public area.

Expressing gratitude for the grant, King Norton said, “The grant helps us raise awareness, to be creative as a society, and to listen to our youth.”

Current action issues

The task force is planning action on concerns that were identified at a local public roundtable on juvenile justice held last March. The concerns include: inequities in terms of poverty, lack of resources, and how fines youth receive, even in middle school, can impact a young person.
Identified by the task force as a “pressing need” are fines incurred by youth due to various behavior issues such as truancy or fighting. Boswell said the citations are often exorbitant, $300 or more, and can be a financial and mental burden to young people for many years, even leading to arrest once they turn 18.

Presently, the Task Force on Juvenile Justice Issues is actively preparing to ask the Beloit City Council to change the municipal ordinance regarding youth citations. Currently, the City of Beloit ordinance does not allow for options for youth to do community service, or other ways, to pay their fines.

Boswell stated, “Our youth have scarce opportunities to make money to pay such fines and there are no options at this time, such as community service, a reduction in the fine if one stays out of trouble or gets good grades, etc. We hope to truly make a change on this issue for our youth.”
King Norton added, “We are making the community aware such fines exist. And that they create stresses on the lives of our young people. I see there could be an opportunity to come up with something productive by working with school and community leaders, as well as youth group leaders.”

She added, “I think exorbitant fines put a weight and burden on the lives of young people. What is the incentive to do better with a fine hanging over their heads?” She said she expects a “favorable response” to the group’s request for a change in the youth citations ordinance from the Beloit City Council.

Dedication to JOB

King Norton is committed to community initiatives and has extensive experience with volunteerism. As an assistant dean at Beloit College, she is director of the newly created TRIO department overseeing the Upward Bound and Help Yourself programs as well as the Student Support Service and McNair Scholars program.

King Norton explained her dedication to JOB: “I have passion for social justice issues and want to bring about change for those with no voice. This seemed to be a good vehicle.” She is an alumnus of the international leadership and performance organization, “Up With People,” having traveled as a student and staff member from 1989 to 1994 to 27 countries and 40 states.
Community initiatives

Boswell said the Task Force on Juvenile Justice Issues became the catalyst for another initiative, the Youth Adult Task Force, that now plans monthly recreational nights for high school youth in conjunction with several area youth organizations. Boswell listed additional methods in place:

  • Conduct a local leadership training session for youth and adults planned for January 2009.
  • Conduct a series of listening sessions with youth to identify potential leadership.
  • Provide ongoing mentoring to youth and adult task force leaders.
  • Research issues, develop strategies, and raise up issues in the community through public events. Of note is the JOB public meeting on October 30 (see box)
  • Continue to address local issues throughout 2008-2009, including a large presence at Madison Action Day at the State Capitol in early 2009.

Boswell said all efforts of the Youth Justice Project involve partnering and collaborating with Youth 2 Youth, Rock County Youth Network, and area churches.

 
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