Juvenile offenders would perform community service in town where crime occurred under proposed law
Judges in New Jersey could soon be able to order juvenile offenders to perform community service in the town where they broke the law under a proposed law.
Lawmakers advanced a bill in Trenton on Monday.
“That’s the way I was brought up, you know? You break it, you fix it,” says Democratic state Assemblymember William Spearman.
Minors found responsible for offenses like vandalism could be ordered to clean up their own mess by performing community service in the town where the lawbreaking took place.
“We want kids to be more responsible, but at the same time, we don’t want to use this as an opportunity to put young people in jail,” Spearman says.
Spearman wrote the bill. He says he wants other options besides sending juveniles to detention facilities like the Garden State Youth Correctional Facility in Chesterfield.
“And I think by forcing them, as I was forced to when I was a child, to come back and help rectify whatever they broke, or the problem they created, it’s good for the community,” says Spearman.
But a representative for the state’s court system cautioned that the bill could have unintended consequences.
“We do not oppose the bill, but we are concerned,” says Andrea Johnson, of the Administrative Office of the Courts. “Consider the person who lives in Ocean, commits an offense in Union or Essex…how do we facilitate the transportation back?”
The bill still passed a state panel unanimously with bipartisan support.
Spearman says the idea for the bill came from the mayor of Westville who was angry when teens who vandalized a memorial there performed their community service in another town.