Providence youth accused of minor infractions may soon have their cases heard in a boardroom instead of a courtroom. The Providence City Council this month established a new Juvenile Hearing Board (JHB) to provide youth with community-based alternatives to incarceration. The panel’s seven members and alternates were recently appointed by the City Council. As a body, the board is comprised of experts and advocates uniquely qualified to review non-violent juvenile cases and determine appropriate sanctions. Cases will be forwarded to the board by the Providence Police Department.
“We want to direct children and families to much-needed resources instead of the state court system,” said City Council President Luis Aponte, who spearheaded the effort with a focus on best practices in juvenile justice. “Juvenile detention facilities are filled with kids whose behaviors could’ve been safely and effectively corrected in other settings. Prying kids from their families and communities often creates much more damage. It’s also costly, and doesn’t serve in the best interests of public safety.”
Across many sectors, JHBs are widely considered instrumental in juvenile justice reform. The formation of the Providence Juvenile Hearing Board has been endorsed by Chief Justice Michael B. Forte of Rhode Island Family Court, Providence Police Chief Col. Hugh Clements, and Executive Director Tobey Ayers of Rhode Island for Community and Justice.
CHIEF JUSTICE MICHAEL B. FORTE, RHODE ISLAND FAMILY COURT:
“The Rhode Island Family Court encourages all communities to create juvenile hearing boards in order to keep children whenever possible out of the formal court system. We applaud the Providence City Council’s initiative and pledge to collaborate with the city’s board whenever requested.”
COLONEL HUGH T. CLEMENTS, JR., CHIEF OF POLICE, PROVIDENCE POLICE DEPARTMENT:
“In policing the capital city, we are constantly challenged with crime where juvenile offenders are involved. Our department’s community policing philosophy surpasses our everyday interactions with citizens and extends to identifying and deterring individuals who are entering the drug, gun or gang game at an early age. This Juvenile Hearing Board will serve as an essential resource to both the City of Providence and the Providence Police Department to afford our non-violent juvenile offenders with an opportunity to move beyond a life of crime and receive rehabilitative services, avoiding incarceration. We are grateful to the City Council and President Aponte for establishing this board and look forward to working with the newly appointed members in developing greater relations with our youth population.”
TOBY AYERS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, RHODE ISLAND FOR COMMUNITY AND JUSTICE:
“In an era of mass incarceration, our children’s futures and our state’s economic future depend on keeping juveniles off paths to prison. That’s exactly what the JHB will do. Our data from the 34 other Rhode Island JHBs shows that juveniles they see re-offend at very low rates, at a cost of virtually zero, compared to the high costs of sending a child to court—a win-win for children, families, Providence, and our society. We thank the Providence City Council, the Mayor and the Police Department for re-establishing the Juvenile Hearing Board in Providence. JHBs are a successful Rhode Island innovation we can all be proud of, and now Providence can be part of that success.”