Kuna Juvenile Justice Council program director Zella Johnson reported to Kuna City Council members this week that the Juvenile Justice Council is disbanding.
Started in 1998, the Kuna Juvenile Justice Council has served as a local diversion program for first-time youthful offenders. For the past 13 years, the council worked with hundreds of offenders outside the court system in order to relieve the court system and to produce better outcomes for the offenders. Rather than criminal punishment, the council doled out alternatives, such as community service as reparation for non-violent offenses. For example, a juvenile caught committing graffiti might be assigned painting detail.
“This is a sad, heartfelt thing,” Johnson told council members. She said the council has been referred fewer and fewer cases and that the volunteers who have served on the council, some as far back as inception, “need a break.”
She also said that the juvenile cases have changed in nature and are more often repeat offenders, which the council doesn’t handle.
“This is not Farmer John’s son did something wrong any more,” Johnson said.
Kuna Mayor Scott Dowdy said the Ada County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office increasingly prefers to handle juvenile cases in house, rather than with local councils such as Kuna’s.
“I’m not sure what their rationale is,” Dowdy said. “It seems local efforts are more effective than when it’s administered at the county level.”