The Clark County Juvenile Court has significantly transformed its approach to community service. Our past experience has been that community service often failed to achieve the potential value it has for offenders, victims and the community. One obvious change in our approach to community service is the elimination of work crews for juvenile offenders in Clark County. Rather, the Juvenile Court partners with a large array of community groups and organizations that provide juvenile offenders with a wide selection of meaningful opportunities to make amends for the harms done. Offenders work on projects or with ongoing services in the community that help make our county a better place to live. Work includes services for the elderly and low income, environmental enhancement projects and neighborhood improvement efforts: neighborhood clean-up days, neighborhood park improvement projects, Habitat for Humanity building projects, habitat enhancement with groups like Friends of Trees, working with food banks, homeless shelters, growing food with 4-H for local food banks, working in senior citizen homes, building play structures in public housing projects.
A critical element in making community service genuinely restorative is having community volunteers work along side offenders. These volunteers provide positive role models and connections that integrate the youth into the community. It is equally important to invest time in preparing the community to work restoratively with young offenders. Offenders also need to be prepared to approach their service with a restorative perspective. The Juvenile Court has developed processes and support programs that very intentionally do this preparation work.