Saturday, May 31, 2008

Ephrata's Youth Aid Panel Improves Community

When Lancaster County Assistant District Attorney Monica Mosely told the Lancaster County Commissioners that there was a real need for three more Youth Aid Panels in the city and township, NewsLanc was curious as to how the panels were working in other parts of the county. Mosley said the rest of the county was adequately covered, so NewsLanc checked with Ephrata about their youth aid panel.

"So far in 2008, we have taken ten juveniles through the youth aid panel who otherwise would have gone through the criminal justice system," Ephrata Mayor Ralph E. Mowen said. "It has been our experience in the past that on many occasions the juveniles were not being held accountable especially on minor, summary violations. The parents usually paid the fine and nothing happened to the juvenile. In some cases, I suppose, the juvenile paid the parent back through chores at home but I’m not positive of that."

In Ephrata, the disposition of the juveniles through the youth aid panel is based on many considerations. "A few of the factors are age of the juvenile, type of crime, amount of planning or lack of planning and victim impact," Mowen explained. "The majority of juvenile crimes we have seen this year are retail thefts of items with little value."

"They have generally been given twenty hours community service. The community service is usually at the Ephrata Recreation Center or the library. We also request they do a report on the affects of retail theft, to society, themselves and parents. We also ask them to explore their future. If they want to go to college we make them meet with their counselor and come back with a plan. If they want to get in to a High School Vo-tech study, we ask them to meet with their counselor to determine if they qualify and/or find what they need to do to qualify."

The mayor added that "Most of the feedback we are getting when these juveniles come back in for their exit interview is very positive."

Mayor Mowen also added that he is always looking for community volunteers to serve on the Ephrata Youth Aid Panel.