Students in a classroom [Illustrative].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Financial support from nongovernment sources to prevent recidivism among juvenile delinquents is not charity but an investment in society, Shimon Siani, the director-general of Yedidim – one of Israel’s leading social service organizations working with youth and young children – told President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday.
Working together with the Youth Probation Service of the Social Services and Welfare Ministry, the Immigration and Absorption Ministry and the police, Yedidim developed a Second Chance mentors program, whereby juvenile offenders are guided into more positive behavior modes that enable them to integrate in society with greater ease and motivation.
Yedidim has been working with children, youth and adults in 120 municipalities for almost quarter of a century and devised the Second Chance program some 20 years ago after police realized that the rate of juvenile crime was in excess of the ratio of juveniles in the population.
Many university students work as volunteer mentors to the young offenders. Being closer in age, they often relate better than older adults. Fifty percent of the funding for the program comes from the state and the other half from external sources. Currently, the outside funding comes from the Arison Foundation in Israel, and the remainder from Australian sources including the Orion Foundation, the Pratt Foundation, the Besen Family Foundation, the Andrew Rogers Family, and the Dorothea Gould Foundation.
Generally speaking, juvenile offenders, including those who have been rehabilitated, have trouble being accepted for army service. One of the aims of Second Chance is to get the IDF to look at the person in front of them, and not at his or her past.
A case in point was Lt. E., 20, from Ashdod, who at age 16 committed a crime with two other youths and was sentenced to house arrest. Yedidim mentors persuaded him to complete his high school matriculation exams, and convinced him there is merit in contributing to society. Yedidim got him into a workshop with horses, so as to break the negative aspects of his routine, and he found this to be a helpful experience.
Yedidim also got him to get into the army, where five months ago he was promoted to become an officer.
Without the Second Chance program, he could have just as easily become a lifelong criminal. “I wanted to give back to the country what it gave to me,” he said.
Siani was very proud to report that Second Chance has an 80 percent success rate.
A large number of cases that come to the attention of Second Chance mentors involve immigrant youth who are traumatized by their new environment and who don’t feel at home in Israel.
Explaining the overall change, Lieut. E. said: “If you fall and get up, you are stronger than you were before you fell.”