The mission of Alternative Programs is to provide youth accountability, community service, restitution to victims, and employment skills to youth - All for the benefit and safety of the community.
About Alternative Programs
The Alternative Programs first started in 1979 when Judge Norblad wanted a sentencing option of work programs for juveniles under court supervision. The initial concept has continued to evolve and grow as has the work sites, gardens, structures, and focus.
The Alternative Programs provides a comprehensive opportunity for youth to give back to the community through community service, participate in work to pay restitution to crime victims, develop work habits, and learn higher level technical work skills for future employability. The program has four components: Community Service (YCSP), Matrix, Focused Utilization of Employment and Labor IV (FUEL), and the Fresh Start Market and Coffee Shop.
Youth participate in community service that are on informal supervision, Formal Accountability Agreements, and formal probation. Youth agree to provide a specified number of hours of volunteer work to benefit the community.
A strong partnership is in place with Senior and Disabled services. Low-income senior citizens and handicapped residents of Marion County are identified and community services supervised crews perform regular yard maintenance, deliver free firewood, and build wheelchair ramps along with other support services.
The community service participants assist other non-profit agencies within the county and perform other county projects.
The Matrix program provides both a short term consequence for youth who have violated conditions of supervision, and a long-term opportunity for youth who owe restitution and need a way to work to earn money to compensate crime victims.
Youth are graded on a five point scale for the following six areas: 1)attendance, 2) attitude, 3)work effort 4)peer relations, 5) staff relations, and 6) safety. If a youth does not pass they do not receive any credit and must repeat the day.
The Juvenile Department has contracts with Public Works, 24J School District, Salem City Parks, and Marion County Parks. Matrix jobs generally involve hard physical labor in all kinds of weather. These include: cutting firewood, delivering firewood, paint recycling, paint pick up, vegetation management, ditch clearing, landscaping and lawn maintenance, County surplus furniture and equipment pick ups, working in the Juvenile Department gardens and greenhouses, landscaping the Juvenile Department grounds, and litter patrols.
Short term Matrix: Ordered for one to five days as a consequence for failure to comply with conditions of probation supervision. Labor is unpaid, but youth must earn appropriate point levels to complete the consequence.
Long-term Matrix: The Juvenile Department holds a value that youth be held accountable to paying restitution to crime victims. Youth are generally given the opportunity to earn the money on their own, but many youth do not have the ability to get work, either because of skill or age, or may owe a substantial amount of restitution. Other youth do not show the initiative to take responsibility for getting restitution paid.
The program focus is on earning and paying restitution to crime victims. It also provides the
opportunity for youth to learn basic prosocial skills, desirable work habits, and exposes them
employment expectations. All money earned is applied toward a youth's restitution until it is
completely paid. The program usually has a waiting list for the available slots which requires
that most youth leave the program once restitution is paid. In some circumstances a youth
may continue in the program and have the opportunity to continue earning money. This
would be done in accordance with the youth's case plan.
Additional money earned in the program through contracts supports portions of the program operations.
Focused Utilization of Employment and Labor (FUEL)
This component is the vocational training program. Youth are generally older, looking at independent living, and employment to support themselves. The program period is indefinite with the focus on youth learning a skilled trade. Youth must demonstrate a higher level of self-management to get into the program. The focuses is on increasing responsibility, higher level skills, and payment of restitution to crime victims.
FUEL work includes construction, mechanics, metal work and wood working, and trade skills. Each youth receives an extensive exposure to different trades, and can select an area of interest to increase their skills which paves the way into the job market. The job responsibilites all fill actual needs. The mechanics program provides all of the maintenance for the Alternative Programs trucks, lawn mowers, chain saws, and other equipment used on Matrix jobs, and does all maintenance on the County vehicles used by probation officers, and other program staff. FUEL participants built the wood bays that store the firewood sold, laid the concrete walkway on the Juvenile Campus, and built the Fresh Start Market and Coffee Shop, and the Community Connections Conference room. In the past, the program revitalized a repossessed property which was later sold.
Safety is a critical component of the Alternative Programs. Staff are required to participate in regular training involving first aid, fire extinguishers, hazardous materials, and equipment inspection training. At quarterly in-service training, staff evaluate tools, equipment, policy and practices to ensure youth and staff safety while in the program.
Youth are also required to participate in a safety awareness program before beginning work. Safety equipment is mandatory as appropriate for each job. Youth are trained daily on safety requirements for the job they are involved in that day, and also are evaluated daily and awarded points for adhering to safe practices.
These youth have engaged in behaviors in their lives that have created risks for themselves and others. Focusing on safety not only provides for the well-being of youth, staff and the community, but also models for youth the value of being safe, thinking about risk, and taking positive action to mitigate risk.