Seeing the person, not the crime

For her internship in the Washington County Juvenile Department, Jenna Richards ’19 was simply herself — a personable, caring person.

Richards, who is majoring in criminal justice, law and society at Pacific University, had already planned to volunteer as a mentor to youth in the county’s juvenile justice system, long before she learned she could earn college credit for the activity. As she works with the county’s Supervising, Training and Employment program, she doesn’t serve as a paralegal or advisor. She acts like a friend.

She doesn’t know, for example, why one of her clients, 14-year-old Donna — not her real name —is in the system. She doesn’t need to. “I’ve always wanted to be someone that she feels she can rely on and just talk to as a friend and be able to trust,” Richards said.

While they sometimes talk about trauma, which the vast majority of young people in the juvenile system have suffered, “it’s not in a way that she would think, ‘Oh, I’m talking to a therapist, I’m talking to someone in the juvenile justice system.’ It’s just, ‘I’m talking to a friend.’”

So she and Donna do what friends do — they grab a coffee at Starbucks, wander through shopping centers and walk in the outdoors.

That kind of relationship fits neatly with the aims of Pacific’s criminal justice, law and society major. Dr. Taryn VanderPyl, visiting assistant professor in the program, said a primary goal of the program is to “see the individuals involved, rather than just the crime involved.”

“I do have this advocacy and drive to help victims, but also those who are involved in the system and those who are misunderstood,” Richards said. “I’m realizing that the punitive way we have come about the system is not working and is not going to work. We really need to look at it with a rehabilitative approach.”

Video by Robbie Bourland

 

Oct. 25, 2018