Bill To Expand Union County Anti-Gang Program Statewide Moves Forward

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TRENTON – Legislation to allow judges sentencing a delinquent juvenile to include the option of ordering participation in instruction in preventing gang and youth violence was released Thursday by an Assembly panel.

The bill (A-2692) would emulate Union County’s Christopher’s Program, which is a cooperative effort between the Superior Court, the Union County Probation Department and the Union County Human Services Department.

“This program works, so let’s expand it statewide to save taxpayer’s money, but most importantly, save lives,” said Assemblyman Joe Cryan (D-Union). “We can either keep tossing young people into jail without guidance, or we can take sensible steps to rebuild lives and provide better futures. This is a smart idea, both fiscally and socially.”

Under the program, juveniles receive interactive instruction in gang and youth violence prevention and in ways to avoid gang involvement. Speakers with particular education, training, or expertise in gangs and youth violence prevention are scheduled during six-week sessions. These speakers are chosen by the probation department and are approved by the governing body.

Juveniles are eligible for participation in Christopher’s Program if they are between 13 and 17 years old, have a history of gang involvement or are assessed as being at risk of gang involvement by the court and are sentenced to the county juvenile detention center, probation, or home confinement.

Under Christopher’s Program, eligible juveniles are required to complete at least 12 hours of class time during a consecutive six-week session.

This bill, as well Christopher’s Program, is named in honor of Christopher Booker, who was brutally tortured by gang members and left to die alone in a vacant field in Newark.

The bill was released by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.

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