More than 15,700 juveniles on probation in Pennsylvania completed $3.9 million worth of volunteer services in 2012.
According to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC), 162 juveniles from Luzerne County contributed to that number.
The figure seems relatively small compared to the number of juveniles who participated in counties such as Delaware and Berks, with 1,781 and 1,350 participants, respectively.
“We order (community service) each time because it promotes the juvenile to be out in the community, plus it allows for the accountability factor,” said Luzerne County Judge Tina Polachek Gartley, who oversees juvenile delinquency court.
But, Polachek Gartley said, those numbers may not adequately reflect the number of juveniles actually participating in community service.
Polachek Gartley said that when a juvenile appears in court and is either placed at a juvenile facility or given probation, part of his or her disposition – similar to a sentencing in adult court – is to pay restitution.
Or, in other cases, juveniles do not enter the juvenile system at all and are placed into diversion programs, and receive community service through a number of programs, including Youth Aid Panels, restitution programs and fine and cost diversionary programs.
The judge said community service hours and numbers are not included in the numbers released by the AOPC.
Polachek Gartley said it is also likely a juvenile from Luzerne County is in placement at a juvenile facility in another county; therefore, that county would be credited with any community service work that juvenile completed.
“In other words, we might have a lot more (than 162) juveniles participating in community service, but they are in other counties, so those counties get the credit,” Polachek Gartley said.
The 162 juveniles in Luzerne County for 2012, Polachek Gartley said, are likely living in Luzerne County and on probation. That number doesn’t include the juveniles who are in other counties.
Between 200 and 300 juveniles cases pass before a judge each year. That number does not include juveniles who participate in diversionary programs and do not appear before a judge.
According to the AOPC, in other counties similar in size to Luzerne, hundreds of more juveniles participated in community service. They are: Berks, 1,350; Lehigh, 748; Lancaster, 651; Dauphin, 630; York, 602; Erie, 536
Polachek Gartley said juveniles given probation are required to complete community service and to pay restitution to the victim in the case, if there is a victim.
The juvenile is given the opportunity to participate in the restitution program and work toward paying off restitution – up to $1,000 a year – and to complete court-mandated community service.
“Restitution is owed to a victim, and so by (the juveniles’ own) actions they are able to provide that money from their hard work directly to the repayment,” Polachek Gartley said. “It provides for personal responsibility.”