Quiet Corner JRB Spotlighted in Hartford Courant


Representatives from community service organizations and several area schools met in Thompson on March 19 for a presentation on the Northern Quiet Corner Justice Review Board. Facilitated by the Thompson Ecumenical Empowerment Group, JRB Supervisor Diane Farquharson and JRB Case Manager Jennifer Plaza gave a brief rundown on how the program works and who could refer juveniles to the system.

NQCJRB has been in existence since 2012 serving the towns of Eastford, Pomfret, Putnam, Thompson, Union and Woodstock. In that time, 42 juveniles have been referred by school personnel, state or local police, or the juvenile court system. The diversionary and prevention program is aimed at children aged 7 to 17 who have been habitually tardy from school, have been defiant of school rules or who have committed non-violent misdemeanors.

"We're almost the last resource for them to get them into a program and get them services," said JRB Board Chair Steve Adams. "They could easily be sent to juvenile court in Willimantic, but the schools or police think they might be good candidates for us."

Keeping them out of the juvenile court system is the goal of the program, but it comes with requirements. The JRB reviews each case and hears from each individual referred before deciding to take a case. If they do, students must agree to the sanctions imposed by the board, complete them in a specific time frame and sign a contract to that effect.

"We don't necessarily go easy on them in the hearing," Adams said. "You have to be tough on them. You have to get them to acknowledge their responsibility."

The restorative justice model works only if students do take responsibility for their actions. Whether those actions were stealing, bullying, or smoking marijuana in school, kids have to acknowledge they did wrong and are willing to perform community service for restitution. The benefits for kids and their families is that participation opens the door to other community services they might not otherwise get. And children are not saddled with a juvenile record.

"Behavior of a non-violent nature is better dealt with at the community level," Plaza said. "We can bring services to families through this door." Participation in mentoring, drug screening, employment programs and youth-related programs are possible as part of a holistic wrap-around. More than 15 programs in education, support, youth services and food security are available through TEEG.

TEEG Executive Director Donna Grant cites poverty, family instability and the lack of access to resources as the main challenges for families in northeastern Connecticut. "The reality is the disparity of resources starts before kids are born," she said. Aberrant behavior isn't more rampant among the poor; their access to resources is different. "That's the reality. And where does it all come from? Poverty."

A preponderance of cases involve single parent households. Adams is quick to point out his is not a criticism of single parenting. "The reality is we have so many moms and dads working their butts off at low paying jobs, making no money, and it's all they can do to pay the rent, heat and food." Many of them are working two or three jobs. "They're overwhelmed," he said.

And there are so many working families who need assistance that the TEEG food pantry is now open two nights a week. "The line stretched out the door this week," Grant said. "How do you parent sufficiently when that's your reality?"

TEEG plans to introduce two new community-based programs for area youth. The Supper Club will bring together students aged 15-18 with business leaders in the community. They'll meet on a monthly basis for dinner and discussions. Topics will center on careers and the education required for them, establishing a strong work ethic and pointers on how to navigate through the working world.

A community drama program targeted at kids with behavioral issues is also in the works. Using drama as a therapeutic modality, the program aims to help kids feel connected to the community. The program will have access to the Bradley Theater in Putnam.

For more information on the JRB, or for other information on the services provided by TEEG, go to http://www.teegonline.org.

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