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Program offering young offenders a “Second Chance”

By Keith Strange Staff Reporter

October 31, 2013

DOBSON —A new program being implemented by the Dobson Police Department hopes to give county young people a second chance when they make a bad decision.


The program, known as Second Chance, was created by Dobson Police Chief Shawn Myers, and is essentially a tool to keep young people out of the legal system.


“Second Chance speaks to the importance of simply giving kids a chance prior to getting charges issued against them, to turn their lives around and gives them room to grow up and become productive citizens within the community,” Myers said Monday morning.


It all began with an arrest last year.


“We charged a high school student last year for underage drinking,” he said. “He had no record, was an honor-roll student and had a scholarship to Appalachian State.”


After going to court, police agreed to defer prosecution pending the payment of court costs and the completion of hours of community service.


“What ended up happening was they did what they were supposed to do, we dismissed the charges and they were still denied entry into Appalachian State,” Myers said. “That disqualified them.”


Which started wheels turning in Myers’ mind.


“We wanted to see whether we could create a program of our own that can help young people without giving them a record of any kind,” he said.


Myers met with the county district attorney and representatives of the county school system, and reported that both of them are fully in board.


“They think it’s a great idea and already want it expanded to all county schools,” Myers said.


The program requires the young person and their parents sign a contract agreeing to a number of community service hours and attendance at a class held for more than two hours on a Friday evening.


“We picked that day and time because its when most kids want to be out doing things,” he said.


The class involves instruction ranging from alcohol and/or drug consumption, texting while driving and morals and ethics.


In return for successful completion of the class, the payment of any required restitution and the completion of community service, no charges will be filed.


“This is for first-time offenders only, and the amount of community service depends on the seriousness of the crime,” Myers said. “If there is a property crime or larceny, they have to admit their guilt and pay reimbursement or restitution prior to getting into the class. That way there is no victim left out there.”


Myers said there is no cost for the program and it is entirely voluntary.


“There is this feeling out there that the police are here to hassle young people and cause them problems, and that’s simply not the case,” he said. “If we can help turn people around after their first mistake we may be able to help them become productive members of society.”


According to Myers, the program has been in the planning stages since January.


“We had our first class Friday and there were five people in it,” he said. “We already have 11 people signed up for our class in November.”


Reach Keith Strange at kstrange@civitasmedia.com or 719-1929.