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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Juvenile Crime Prevention- a Horse Lover's Opinion

Anyone who is an animal lover may be able to relate to this post. I grew up around horses. I started riding around 7 years old and didn't stop until the first year of law school. This week my family had to make the difficult decision to euthanize my competition horse Chrytique (The spelling is different- he was named after his father, Chrysos). I was introduced to Chrytique when he was three years old and started riding him competitively when he was seven. Needless to say he has been in our family for almost twenty years. His legs finally gave out on him this week and we had to say goodbye. So, in honor of Chrytique, I wanted to give a horse lover's opinion on juvenile crime prevention.

I have been an attorney for nearly ten years now. I have sadly seen many children work their way through the juvenile and subsequently the adult justice system. I have read many probation and sentencing reports. A common answer to why a young person committed a crime is that they felt like they didn't belong. They wanted to be part of something bigger.

Young adults must be involved in something. They must have something to be passionate about. It doesn't have to be sports- it can be art, writing, science, computers; anything that gives them a reason to do well in school and something to keep them busy after school. The Department of Education has reported that a juvenile is most likely to commit a crime between the hours of 2PM and 8PM, with crimes peaking at 3PM. Chrytique kept me out of trouble. I was responsible for something more than just myself. If I didn't do well in school, I knew someone else would have the privilege of being responsible for Chrytique. He taught me responsibility, how to focus on and reach a goal.  Most importantly, he showed me that I would fail sometimes and, excuse the analogy, how to get back on the horse again.

As a former prosecutor and now practicing defense attorney, I have had the opportunity to analyze crime from both perspectives. A District Attorney enforces the law, protects the citizenry and holds people accountable for their actions. A defense attorney protects the rights of their clients, advocates for their client in court and holds the state to their burden of proving cases beyond a reasonable doubt. When it comes to juvenile crime, it is imperative that the District Attorney, Judges, defense attorneys, and court counselors work together in a collaborative way to achieve an outcome that gives a child the opportunity to succeed. Don't set them up for failure by putting them in a court ordered program that doesn't address their needs.  I recently worked with a court counselor on a juvenile case; he proposed decreasing the minor's probation length by 30 days for every A he received in school. Great idea. Give kids a goal that they can accomplish and show them that they can succeed.

So, there you have it- A horse lover's opinion on juvenile crime prevention. Maybe a bit simplistic. Maybe a bit general. Didn't use a lot of statistics. Just reflected on a very special four legged friend.

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posted by Carilyn Ibsen at


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