Bush’s bully pulpit

Were they the types to actually pay attention to such things, playground bullies and other youthful scofflaws would probably be cheering some of the cuts being made in President George Bush’s proposed budget.

Among the many things likely to end up on the chopping block thanks to planned cutbacks in federal spending are two programs aimed at area youth, says Deborah Carley, Oakland County’s chief deputy prosecutor.

The first is “teen court,” in which Oakland kids accused of misdemeanor crimes — which can range from vandalism to theft to assault — go before a jury of their peers and one of three local judges. Teens also act as prosecuting and defense attorneys in the “courtrooms.”

Carley says the program is effective because young people can often relate to each other and the crimes they have committed better than adults. “Kids that age know how other kids behave,” she says. “And they’re harder on the other kids, so there’s a low recidivism rate.”

Carley says some 200 teen defendants have gone before the court, while hundreds more have participated as jurors, defenders and prosecutors.

Money available through the Juvenile Accountability Incentive Block Grant has been completely phased out by the Bush budget, and the money will be gone in December 2005, when the fiscal year ends. Until now, “the amount of money has been shrinking every year,” Charley says.

“This is a total, total shame — this is a crying shame,” says Troy District Court Judge Michael Matrone, one of three judges lending time to the program, which he describes as “good government at its best.”

Also on the block is “the bullying program,” in which social worker Lori Parrish visits schools throughout Oakland County. She lectures school administrators and teachers, along with teens and younger children, about the physical and psychological effects from bullying, and how best to deter it.

The cost for both programs is $225,000, Carley says.

But, hey, we’ve got two wars under way, and when guns roar, social spending such as this gets the knife. But there is a bright side. The next time your kid comes home bruised from a run-in with some schoolyard thug, you can assuage the tears by noting that Saddam Hussein no longer poses any threat.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]
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