County System Helps Juvenile Offenders to Mend Their Ways

Article excerpt

Every day, North Huntingdon resident Brandon Goydich works with troubled youths as a counselor at Holy Family Institute in Pittsburgh.

Goydich, 25, now will offer his services to troubled youth in the Norwin region as the newest member of the Norwin Youth Commission.

Westmoreland County's youth commission system began about 40 years ago to provide first-time juvenile offenders the necessary supervision and opportunities to solve their problems.

In the county, 19 youth commissions offer mentoring services to juveniles younger than 18 who committed summary offenses, with the exception of motor vehicle violations.

The commissions' services keep first-time offenders who have admitted guilt from getting a juvenile-criminal record and paying a fine. Instead, the commission focuses on a restorative justice system, which requires minors to right their wrongs, said Otis DiCerbo, president of the Norwin Youth Commission.

"They could go through courts and pay a fine-- and there really isn't a lot of learning that takes place for a youth during four or five minutes in a courtroom," DiCerbo said. "We have supervisors who get down to the root cause of what they (offenders) did, and work with them on a one-on-one basis to prevent them from getting in trouble again."

Goydich said he was unaware of the Norwin Youth Commission until he spoke with a Westmoreland County juvenile- probation officer. He said the program is an opportunity to provide the service to his community, while earning the experience needed to become a juvenile- probation officer.

Goydich said he sees the county's Youth Commission programs as a second chance for children who get into trouble.

"I think it's important for children to have positive role models in their lives, especially when they're so young," Goydich said. …