Media Archive

Youth center hopes to add more 'Helping Hands'

Article from Bangor Daily News, Tuesday, May 30, 2006

By Diana Bowley
Staff Writer

CHARLESTON - Inmates at Mountain View Youth Development Center's Helping Hands program have maintained cemeteries, cut brush and cleaned up after vandals their own age.

Now area officials hope the center will move its "responsive" justice program up a notch.

"The vision for this Helping Hands program is to continue with the maintenance program but move in the direction of adding programs that would increase their life skills," said Charleston Selectman Terri-Lynn Hall.

Hall, a member of the center's board of visitors, supports an expansion of the program into the building trades.

The center, a 140-bed juvenile facility, detains and incarcerates male and female juvenile offenders 11 to 21 years of age. It serves the northern, eastern and central regions of the state.

The majority of its residents are males 14 to 17. About 10 percent are female, with an average age of 16.

The goal of the center's Helping Hands program is to offer its "best residents," those who are nearing the end of their rehabilitation program, an opportunity to develop a work ethic and to get satisfaction from becoming a positive member in a community, said Jeff Perkins, an operations supervisor.

Perkins supports a limited expansion of the program to help area nonprofit organizations or towns.

Projects that could be considered under the expansion include painting and installation of gypsum wallboard, he said. Maine child labor laws and the educational programs juveniles are involved in control the direction of the program, he said.

"These kids will be our neighbors some day," Perkins said. "We've done as much as we can with their hands, and now we're trying to impact their hearts," Perkins said.

Eric Hansen, superintendent of the Charleston facility, said it is important to provide the center's juveniles with life skills.

When juveniles from the center cleaned a former Charleston school after vandals made a mess, they were shaken at the destruction and damage left behind by others, he said. These kinds of responsive justice projects really open their eyes, according to Hansen.

"It's really an opportunity for the kids to be involved in some victim-empathy work in terms of the harm that was caused to the community and the impact that it had," Hansen said.

Hansen acknowledged that the continuation and expansion of the program is a delicate balancing act. The juveniles are not a labor force because they have lessons and responsibilities at the center, he said.

There are some additional services the juveniles can provide, but they have to be meaningful, he said.

For information about Helping Hands, call the center at 285-0800.

"Content above originated in the edition noted as a copyrighted article and is posted here with permission of the Bangor Daily News. This permission does not extend to reproduction of these articles in any other form or publication."

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.