Re-engagement program aims to replace jail time for mischievous youth

Wayward juveniles would be taken to Frank Garrett Center instead of magistrate

By Deven Clarke - Crime and Justice Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - District 1 Councilman Roberto Trevino and youth advocates at a West Side community center are pushing for a proposed ordinance that Trevino said will prevent minor crimes from leading to major offenses. 

“Minor crimes coupled with disengaged youth can present bigger problems in the future,” Trevino said.

He’s hoping his fellow City Council members vote to approve a $345,000 youth re-engagement program as part of the new budget.

“The whole idea is to give them a path forward,” Trevino said.

Through the program, students who consistently skip school and youths found committing minor crimes, such as vandalism, certain gang-related activity, and graffiti, would be brought to the Frank Garrett Community Center instead of the Central Magistrate’s Office.

"They can come in here, do their homework, report," said Greg Jackson, who remembers playing at the Frank Garrett Center when it opened.

Jackson, who's now a volunteer, decades later, said he's excited about the idea of the center also being used to help keep youths out of major trouble and help them find their niche.

Once at the center, program volunteers said, juveniles would be given a formula for success, which would include mentorship, tutoring and athletic coaching, instead of a prison ID.

“We have an arts and crafts facility. Some kids are not going to be athletes, but they may be the best artists or poets down the line,” Jackson said.

The center will provide distractions from criminal behavior and the chance for youths to learn the consequences of their actions before it’s too late.

“We don’t want this to escalate to major crimes, so the point is to nip this in the bud,” Trevino said.

“I think all of us have had more than one chance in life, and I think once the kid sees, or the young woman sees, that somebody cares, that makes all the difference,” Jackson said.

The City Council will vote on the program in mid-September. If approved, Trevino said, the center hopes to serve 600 minors within the first 12 months, starting in January.

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