J A N 2 0 1 4 F E B
J A N 2 0 1 4 F E B
During my previous career in Law Enforcement, I can’t tell you how many times I heard the phrase “remember, these youths are our future leaders”. With those words in mind, I would often reflect as I looked at the seriousness of the charge, and the attitude (and sometimes the appearance) of the individual in front of me, and think, this is our future? Really?
In Chester County, when a juvenile comes into the justice system charged with a crime, it is at the discretion of the judge to divert the individual from court and guide the offender into these programs. I have learned to make an assessment to determine if the young adult in front of me has positive strengths. For this to be successful, it is not necessary to dwell on the past issues, but instead to focus on the future with the potential for a positive outcome with some concentrated direction and guidance. This concern is echoed among my peers, with whom I work in Chester County as well. We attempt to look at the issue at hand from both a judicial perspective and the need to help the youthful offender without putting the community at risk. As our Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Ronald Castille recently said in addressing this situation; “Community service, whether court-ordered or as an alternative to formal court intervention, is another great example of an initiative where the judiciary can improve lives and save tax dollars as justice is pursued,” Chief Justice of PA Ronald D. Castille. (May 22, 2013). Recently while attending a drug court graduation ceremony, I learned of the “ALL RISE Philosophy” (NADCP-National Associa- tion of Drug Court Professionals) that was pre- sented and read by a representative of the Public Defender’s office. Although this program is for anyone who meets the criteria, I noticed that the graduates were of all ages. As I listened to the message, my thoughts were how to incor- porate this when addressing issues involving to- day’s youthful offenders? The phrase “All RISE” now has a distinct and different meaning for me. It is surely a social meaning as it is described in the body of the All Rise scroll when used in the following message. In short, ALL RISE suggests very strongly that we all see beyond the chaos and the wreck- age in a person’s life. We evaluate the individual; we seek out their potential, their hope and their humanity. Once this is accomplished, we take the proper action. As ALL RISE mentions: Because when we know that when one person rises out of drugs and crime, we ALL RISE. (NADCP-National Association of Drug Court Professionals/nadcp.org) What a powerful and righteous statement. About the Author: Magisterial District Court Judge John R. Bailey has over 34 years of law enforcement experience, retiring in 2011 as a Detective Sergeant with the Tredyffrin Township Police Department in Berwyn, Pa. A graduate of the FBI NA session 223, Judge Bailey has a Master’s Degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Judge Bailey is an adjunct professor teaching Youthful Offender at Delaware County Community College, and author of the following article “Policing in a Distressed Economy” National Acad- emy Associate Magazine (Fall 2009).
I am sure we have all considered such ideas at one time or another; however as I’ve grown older and wiser, and begun a new career as a judge, I’m reevaluating the youth in our society. I realize that we in the law enforcement com- munity need to shift our perspective a bit in helping our younger population. As many of us in a lengthy career have done, I, too, awoke one morning and decided that it was time to change lanes. I consciously selected a profession that kept my “head in the game” but from a different perspective. I never wanted to walk away from the career I loved so much and not continue to serve the people in my community. I am blessed to have been elected Magisterial District Court Judge in the commu- nity where I’ve lived and raised my family for over 31 years. I am also fortunate to serve in a county that is pro active and progressive in many of the youthful offender programs. These programs are initiated through the criminal justice system to assist youthful offenders who’ve gone afoul of the law, but in whom we haven’t lost hope. Now, I find myself looking at the label of “youthful offender ” with an altered perspec- tive, and most importantly thinking differently about such people and their crimes. Not a week goes by, where I don’t have a young man or woman standing in front of me charged with a minor offense such as retail theft. I usually wonder if the youthful offender is in- volved with drugs, or was the crime committed out of boredom or for excitement.Sadly, these individuals have no idea that their lives are at a crossroads. From the youthful offender’s per- spective, I can see it’s difficult to understand that committing unlawful acts carry long term con- sequences. It’s hard for them to foresee the long term impact of getting caught shoplifting. It’s even more difficult to convey to them society’s perception with regards to crime. Whether a per- son concealed merchandise worth $25.00 from the local convenience store or embezzled money, a thief is a thief, regardless of the age, and sadly for them, employers don’t want to hire a thief. Additionally, I recently learned that many colleges do not consider applicants with prior
histories of shoplifting, theft or disorderly con- duct violations, or excessive underage drinking infractions as well. These learning institutions have dropped potential students if it’s discov- ered that the individual had been convicted of the above offenses. My struggle, as I look at each case fairly from not only a parent’s view, but also one who has to evaluate the facts and render a fair decision has me grappling with the realization that the individual in front of me doesn’t understand that profound impact that a record will have on the path they chose for life. What a dilemma. How do you straighten and guide someone who, whether they like or not, is part of our country’s future? This topic was the subject of many discussions during an 11 week session I attended at the (FBI) Na- tional Academy in 2005. Listening to the is- sues from my fellow classmates, I realized how global the problem is and also how pervasive. The discussions with my law enforcement peers (at the time) were not only instructive and in- fluential to me; they helped crystallize my desire to help influence young adults. One change I made was to run for Judge, the other was to begin teaching at the college entry level. Now, I have the privilege of returning to the commu- nity college where I first attended shortly after high school, and where later I was admitted as an adjunct professor. How appropriate it is to teach a course entitled “Youthful Offender” to an audience who can relate and feel comfort- able enough to express their views and concerns about close friends, siblings, or life in their neighborhood. As I listened to their stories, I saw two issues: the first scenario being present- ed is usually about the students themselves, and the second is how society in general has failed to hear the pleas from young adults and adoles- cents for help in the past. What’s developed in the last several years within the law enforcement community is a trend to evaluate the circumstances of the youth- ful offender, and request the court’s consider- ation in giving breaks to these first time offend- ers. This is a welcomed change for the youthful offender and is being championed by attorneys because the young adults of today face different challenges from when most of us grew up.
John R. Bailey
Addressing the issues involving today’s youthful offender A Perspective from the Other Side of the Bench
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