4-H Restorative Community Service Garden @ C.A.S.E.E.
The Problem: Accountability or Alienation?
Mandated community service, commonly performed using work crews, is typically seen by juvenile offenders as punishment. They often see work crew duty as humiliating and a waste of time, further alienating them from their communities.
The Premise: Accountability, Integration and Change Through Service
Principles of Restorative Justice suggest that a more effective response to criminal attitudes and behavior involves holding juvenile offenders accountable through meaningful service that re-integrates them into the community.
The Partners: 4-H, Clark County Juvenile Court and Battleground School District
The WSU Extension Clark County 4-H Youth Development partners with Clark County Juvenile Court and the Battleground School District to co-sponsor a food bank garden on the grounds of the Center for Agriculture, Science, and Environmental Education. It is grown and tended by a team of juvenile offenders and 4-H volunteers.
The Purpose: Accountability and Positive Youth Development
As part of a community team addressing a local problem, juvenile offenders make amends as they build social bonds that affirm their worth as individuals and community members.
The Program: Learning Life Skills, Building Community
In the garden, youth work side-by-side with adult volunteers trained in the 4-H principles of youth development. Youth are intentionally guided to reflect on what they have learned, accomplished and contributed. Garden produce is donated to a local food bank.
Outcomes and Impacts
Life Skills Development
Analysis of narrative data indicate that youth participants learned information related to all 8 4-H project areas and 6 4-H Life Skills Focus Areas, including Useful Marketable Skills, Healthy Lifestyle Choices, Wise Use of Resources, Self-Responsibility, Communication, and Decision-Making.
Healthy Food for Needy FamiliesIn 2004, 4400 lbs of fresh organic produce were donated to a local food bank in a county in which obesity has been identified as a growing problem. The food bank serves 400 families each month.
Positive Experiences with Adult Role Models
“We get treated like criminals. People assume we’re bad kids. But you always made us feel welcome, and were kind to us. Thank you for treating us with such respect, and like we’re your equals”. (Comments from youth participants during volunteer appreciation event, October 16, 2004)
Community Attitudes Towards Juvenile Offenders
A recent survey conducted by Clark County Juvenile Court investigated the perceptions of adult volunteers (77% return rate, N=69) who work with juvenile offenders in restorative community service projects:
- All saw significant value in having young offenders work beside community members to make amends.
- 99% reported that young offenders made meaningful contributions in their community projects
- 99% agreed with the goal of integrating young offenders into the community in positive ways
- 97% would be willing to work with young offenders again
Want to Volunteer Your Help?
If you are interested and able to encourage and model positive interactions with youth while working side-by-side in the garden, then you have what it takes to be a mentor. While gardening experience is a plus, it’s not necessary, since we have staff who are knowledgeable in this area. Since it is not the role of the mentors to serve as advisors, counselors, or law enforcement agents with the youth, no special training is required in this area.
Call Jodee Nickel, the garden coordinator, at 397-6060 ext. 7708, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like to see the project in action, stop by the garden during one of the meeting times and tell the 4-H staff person in charge that you’re there to check it out. We’d love to show you what we do, and why we think you’d love volunteering with us!