Old jail back in business

NORWICH – The old jail on West Park Place in the City of Norwich is back in business, but this time with the aim of keeping young people from spending any time behind bars in the future.

A handful of public sector employees and their combined, coordinated approach hope to divert youths under 18 who have had a pattern of incorrigible behavior from becoming Persons In Need of Supervision (PINS) and going onto court and, quite possibly, probation. Specifically, the counseling and other services are designed to treat youths within their family unit, keeping them out of Foster Care and juvenile institutions.

Approximately 35 to 40 diversion cases are currently identified in the county, and about 10 percent of them repeat their treatment program for a 2 to 3 year time period. Some are seen up to seven times a month. The youths are identified and referred by parents, school administrators and sometimes law enforcement.

Most are truants or runaways, according to Chenango County Probation Officer Andy White. When asked why, White said: “We have as many kids as we have reasons for why they behave the way they do.” Chenango County’s Probation Department handled PINS Diversion cases for the Department of Social Services, previously. A policy change on Jan. 1 left DSS and its contracted agencies in charge. Probation now handles only juvenile delinquents - those youths who have been charged with an act that, if were they are an adult, would be considered a crime.

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