Keeping Kids on Track
"We'll even see a kid for stealing a candy bar," said Glenna White Crawforth '68, supervisor of the Ada County Juvenile Court's Neighborhood Accountability Board, a volunteer program in Boise, Idaho, that resolves police complaints a-gainst young first-time offenders.
"NAB--appropriately named," said Crawford--"addresses shoplifters, minor cases of arson, runaways, kids who'd either drop through the cracks or clog up the courts." If youngsters do go to court, she said, months might go by before they'd see a judge, "who is more likely to get car thieves and so blow the kid off. Kids got the message that it was no big deal."
Crawforth recruits and trains some 40 adult volunteers for the NAB program, which stresses accountability, community protection and rehabilitation. Two or three members meet in a private room for half an hour in an evening with an offender and his or her family, going over the police report, compiling a family social history, discussing options. How does the offender feel? Are the parents handling the situation appropriately? Should the case go to a probation officer?
"We can close a case right there," said Crawforth. About 90 percent of the offenders face community service, restitution, essays, letters of apology, even anger-management classes. "We can do everything a judge can do except put a kid in detention," she said.
Fresh out of Colby with her English major and several courses in psychology and sociology, Crawforth planned to teach but instead traveled and worked in Europe for IBM for two years. Then with her husband, Rich, she headed west to his hometown of Boise.
She was a part-time manager for Tupperware for eight years, then resuscitated an ailing study-abroad program at Boise State University, then switched to p.r. work with the Meridian, Idaho, chamber of commerce. A self-described "complete easterner," the Cambridge, Mass., native and mother of three says she knew Idaho was "the rodeo rather than the ballet," but what really got her goat at the week-long Meridian Dairy Days was the female mud wrestling.
"I have a tendency to come in and create a program or fix something," she said (Meridian got a program of authentic craftsmen instead). "Then I tend to move on."
After four years of helping the kids of Ada County, Crawforth says NAB is "really having an impact." In one year's time the program dealt with 1,580 kids, and only 20 percent reoffended, a third the number in the court system. "We've become a prototype for Idaho," she said.
Crawforth also has been president and board member of the Idaho State Historical Museum, which she says was a great way to learn local history. In the meantime Boise has acquired a performing arts center, a philharmonic orchestra and a ballet company.
"We keep getting listed as one of the best places to live," she said, an easterner who counts the transition to westerner as one of her successes. "Don't tell anybody about what a great place Boise is. I worked for the chamber of commerce in Meridian, but now I'm ready to close the door."