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RRN US-version

What is the RRN-program

The RRN-program is a Danish proposal for a first offender program. It is designed to be used for both crimes and as an alternative to expulsion, suspension and detention at school. It should be runned and supervised by the local community (City Hall). Today most local communities in Denmark has a SSP co-operation (School, social services and Police.) They could oversee this program.

The fundamental idea with the program is to show the child aged 10 to 15 that every rule break (the law or at the school) has a consequence. Participation in the program should not figure in the criminal record and should also be used, whenever the court today would let the child get off with a warning.

Family participation is a requirement. The child should be kept in his or her social network during punishment.

RRN stands for:

bulletRespect for authorities
bulletRehabilitation
bulletNew chance

If the family deny support and participation in the program the local authorities should put pressure on the family and remove all the children from the family. Especially if they try to move the child out of the city.

Generally in order for the adolescent to enter the program, they must have committed a crime. It could be violence, happy-slapping, theft, threats (also via mobile phone), truancy, shop-lifting etc. The child can be cleared of the truancy charge, if they parents by the intervention presents a plan for the education of their child.

The child had to attend school if it wants to be considered for the program

Why should Denmark have such a program?

Professionals, who are occupied with troubled youth, primarily the police are telling stories about them arresting the same individual below the age of criminal responsibility and have taken them home just to see that the parents let them go out and play once again. Some hours later it is the same child they are detaining.

It is obvious that those children, who are not confronted with their deeds during a form for intervention, would be at risk for repeating their actions. If they are caught up with their new role, it would be very hard and expensive to put them back on the right path.

A placement outside the home cost between 20,000 - 200,000 DKR (2,800 - 28,000 dollars) per month per child depending of the level of treatment, the child needs. It is very costly for the local authorities. By using such a local based day-program some placements should be avoided in the future.

Another issue is missing education regardless if it is caused by either the school (suspension or expulsion) or by the child itself (truancy). A child should be kept to education. If the school finds that the child endangers its classmates, they should ask for parental presence in the classroom and during schooldays, so safety for the other persons in the classroom can be ensured. It could be offered as an option to the program. Family classes as they are called in Denmark, are one of those projects with the highest success rate. 

Last detention can be used, but in a form where the child can produce quality in work. In Denmark we have built voluntary detention centers (Homework cafes), where children - who are struggling with their homework - can solve them in a cafe-similar environment. (Non-alcoholic, primarily coffee and cocoa products with a high level of caffeine, which can increase performance, are sold there). Teachers are also present and are able to guide the children through their homework. This initiative are seen as a try to break the social heritage, because we acknowledge that not all children can get necessary aid from their parents. The detention center used in connection with the RRN-program should look like the homework cafes.

Program description:

The program consist of 3 parts:

bulletAn intervention, which is a kind of trial but in a form so the child understands, what is going on. 
bulletThe serving of the sentence.
bulletThe follow-up period.

The Intervention

Purpose:

To make the child understand, that those actions, the child has done, has a consequence. A line should be drawn in the sand, which clearly marks: "So far and not an inch further."

Procedure:

The school or the police produce evidence and sends it to the new youth court. The family will be told the date of the trial. During this trial, which is held in a hearing form with children aged 14-17 as counsel for the prosecution and jurors, the evidence would be presented for the child in pedagogical form. The trial is supervised a by judge and a lawyer, who has to see that the rights of child is not violated.

Once the case has been processed, the jurors would be given instruction by the judge about what he finds that the prosecution has proven. They are free to vote otherwise, but their judgment can be set aside by the judge.

If they determine guilt, the child should be allowed to speak for mercy before the jurors together with the judge determine the sentence. The verdict should reflect a sentence given to an adult for a similar crime but one month given to an adult should result in one week for child. The discount should acknowledge that the brain of a child is not fully developed and especially the fact that the brain center where long time effects of a given action is one of the last to be developed.

However crimes, who for adults would have resulted in a fine, should be converted to 2 or 3 weeks in the program.

The sentence would be written down on in a report. This report would be given to the child after the follow-up period, which is 3 month after graduation.

A child, who is convicted would right after the conviction be given:

bulletA T-shirt with the RRN-logo and the name of the local authority (Should be worn during school hours depending of the season)
bulletA Sweatshirt with the RRN-logo and the name of the local authority (Should be worn during school hours depending of the season)
bulletA boiler suit/overall with the RRN-logo and the name of the local authority (Should be worn outside school hours when participation in the program.)
bulletHeadgear, if the religious belief of the child demands it. (Orange/yellow cap, scarf, turban etc.)
bulletA yellow security vest with RRN-logo, the word "Guard" and the name of the local authority (Should be worn by the parent during hikes and community service.)
bulletA personal journal 
bulletA control form, where a staff member can sign for accomplished classes
bulletManuals for both parent and child.
 
Overall for use during hot periods in the summer. Vest for parents. The text reads "Guard".
 
T-shirt and sweatshirt for use during school hours. Boiler suit for use before and after school. The text reads "Sentence server"

Because the child would be eating breakfast during hours in the program, the parents have to state, what they eat for breakfast and pay 100 dollars to cover these expenses. Families on welfare or with low income can be excused for this expense. If the parent is not living in a relationship, the authorities has to see to that that the siblings can be taken care of either by arranging for a relative to help the siblings or see to that a educated nanny or social worker helps the family during the hours where the parents are with the child in the program.

The serving of the sentence:

Weekdays - morning:

The child and one parent have to check in between 5:00 and 5:30 on the appoint place where the program takes place. It could be at one of the local schools. The child should be dressed in the boiler suit and the family should bring: school bag, clothes for school, water can and control form.

The school bag and homework would be checked and is everything in order, the child would get a happy smiley noted in the form. If the homework is not done (errors or poor work does count, you can only hold people accountable if they have the skills, but everyone should at least try.) the child would receive a negative smiley.

The water can must be empty and refilled on the facility. If the child need sugar or salt in the water, the family should consult their family doctor, who will prescribe an instruction on that. Next all goes for a walk / hike lasting an hour. The pace depends on the slowest. The purpose of the hike is to gather appetite for the breakfast and remove some of the stress for the upcoming school day. Children suffering from ADHD etc. can also benefit from exercise in the early hours of the day.

After the walk all joins together for breakfast. Breakfast are often skipped in a lot of families due to stress and the result is children in the school who are not concentrated because they have no energy. The breakfast for the children has been purchased based on the forms they gave after the intervention. For the adults there will be coffee, tea and bread.

When the breakfast is over, the children are sent off to their normal school and the parents to work.

During school hours:

Staff members from the program will periodically check up on the children in the program in school. A check would last seconds by the staff member looking into the classes. If he gets a OK-sign from the teacher, then he is off the next class.

The teachers on the school are instructed to send a emails, fax. etc. with a list of the homework, the child has to do.

Some children, who are either very unruly or have committed violence in school, has to bring a relative into the classroom, who has to keep an eye on the child all time. The relative has to interfere if the child disrupts the classes and does also have to noted on a scale from 1-5 how the child is doing during classes. 5 is best and if the average mark is 2 or lower the child gets a negative smiley at the end of the day.

Weekdays - afternoon:

The children are sent to the facility, where they has to stay and fix their homework in a homework cafe. If they are done with their homework, they are free to work on their journal.

Once the parents have arrived all goes for the second walk/hike of the day, so they can get the stress coming from the school day out of their system. It should make them more receptive for the afternoon program.

Depending of the weekday, the children receive 30 minutes of education (Topic of the day) or 30 minutes of community service, which would be picking up litter near the facility. If the children received education, the parents get separated education in parenting.

The last thing on the agenda are a group conversation. Some days the parents and children are separated. Some days 4-5 families are grouped together. The subject could be what they have been sentenced for, how it had influenced them and their family. It could also be about what education of the topic of the day. Each day ends with the staff member addressing each child asking what they think about the their performance of the day. If it have been somehow overall positive (What matters is identifying themselves with their problems, not whether they have been happy or sad all day.).

 

 

Examples of day plans:

Weekdays:

(During the school year)
       
From To Duration Description Parent present
05:00 05:30 00:30 Arrival, filling of bottles, check of homework *
05:30 06:30 01:00 Tramp / hike *
06:30 07:00 00:30 Breakfast *
07:00     Departure for school, school  
13:00 15:30 02:00 continuously arrival, homework cafe  
15:30 16:30 01:00 Tramp / hike *
16:30 17:00 00:30 Topic of the day (DT) or community service (ST) *
17:00 17:30 00:30 Group conversation / therapy *
17:30 18:00 00:30 Departure for home *

Examples of the topic of the day could be:

bulletConsequences for victims of crimes (Victims of crimes lectures about how their lives have been affected due to the crime they were exposed for.)
bulletWhich effect can a police record get (People from the human relationship department in firms tells about which kind of job they scan peoples police record for before offering them a job.)
bulletDrugs and alcohol (What kind of damage could come from use of drugs and alcohol. What is a normal relationship with alcohol (In Denmark there are no lower limit for alcohol consumption.))
bulletTraffic. Why is wearing helmet important? Car thefts and impacts (Victims, people in wheelchairs as result of their accident tell their story.)

Each child has to take each class just one time. Has the child taken a specific class one time, it is assigned to community service or work on his or her personal journal instead.

 

Weekdays:

(During holidays)

During the holiday periods the family are responsible to appoint a relative (not necessary the one of the parents) over 18, who had to attend and assist the staff to control the children.

The parents still have to attend group therapy and classes in the afternoon.

From To Duration Description Parent present
05:00 05:30 00:30 Arrival, filling of bottles p
05:30 06:30 01:00 Tramp / hike p
06:30 07:00 00:30 Breakfast p
07:00 14:00 07:00 The activity for the day. p
14:00 15:00 01:00 Tramp / hike f
15:00 15:30 00:30 Relaxation exercises f
15:30 16:00 00:30 Topic of the day f
16:00 16:30 00:30 Group conversation / therapy f
16:30 17:00 00:30 Departure for home f
      (p) relative, (f) parents  

The activity of the day could be landscaping of a MTB/BMX-track, removing graffiti or litter, fixing pavement in the schoolyard if it is made of SF-flagstones. (Small flagstones formed like an S.). However one day of the week should be set aside to a picnic with group therapy session and relaxation (The group therapy session must not exceed 1,5 hour or it would be at risk of developing itself into psychodrama according to Danish findings.).

Saturdays:

From To Duration Description
09:00 09:30 00:30 Arrival, filling of bottles, check of tools
09:30 11:30 02:00 Community service, removal of litter from a area or weeding in a park (ST)
11:30 12:00 00:30 Only for graduates: reading of the conclusion of the personal journal and print-out of diplomas.
      or
09:00 09:30 00:30 Arrival
09:30 11:30 02:00 Family therapy session
11:30 12:00 00:30 Only for graduates: reading of the conclusion of the personal journal and print-out of diplomas.

The parent are instructed to be present all Saturday. If the child are qualified to graduate, relatives can arrive at 11:30 and be present during the ceremony.

 

Graduation:

A child is qualify for graduation, when it has completed:

 

  1. Have received education in topics and been through at least one family therapy session.
  2. Have done the questions in the journal
  3. Have outlined what it has to work with in order to avoid getting into the same situation again.
  4. Can show at least five days with two positive smiley's.

The children, who are graduating, will on Saturdays stay after either family therapy or community service for a little ceremony. They will read what they have written under item 11 from their journal in front of the other graduates and their family. Then they will received a diploma and can leave for home once all have completed the ceremony.

 

Follow-up period:

The follow-up period will last 3 months. The family will be contacted by a staff-member periodically but it is up to the child whether they want to speak to the staff member or not.

When the follow-up period almost over, the family will be called to a meeting where the entire progress is evaluated. The child will be given the paper with the sentence, so he or she can put it in a shredder as a symbolic act, that proves that his or her record is clean.

 

The System A-Z

Absence:

By illness or approved absence the sentence would be extended with those days, where the child has been unable to attend the program. The parents are ordered to call the doctor from the emergency service. who will visit the child and confirm the illness. If the illness is faked, the child will received a double negative smiley for the day.

Special conditions can result in days off. The family have to apply for the specific dates. It could be reserved vacation, feasts in the family, funerals etc. The sentence will be extended with the time, the child have missed in the program.

If the parents are unable to bring to child to the program in the morning due to defiance, they are ordered to order a wake-up team to come to the house in order to help them getting their off-spring up. The wake-up team would ask child nicely to get up. If the child respond negatively, they will poor water on the child but avoid physical contact.

If the child try to run away or break curfew, they will be called to a meeting, where it would be determined whether they should leave the program and look into full-time placement outside the home or stay at a night prison after dinner at home. They can also choose a challenge (wilderness course or pilgrimage) in order to shorten their stay in the program.

Community service:

The community service consist primarily of removing litter from a public area (parks). Each family receives a trash can on wheel. The parents job is to scan the garbage for glass and needles.

Curfew:

The curfew hours are 21:00 - 04:00 on weekdays and 22:00 on Saturdays. The family can apply for a special curfew on a specific day if family gatherings calls for it. If the child can not keep the curfew, sanctions will be introduced. See under Sanctions.

Journal:

The child has to do the personal journal on their own. Here are some sample questions:

bullet1) Why were you put in the program
bullet2) Describe the members in your family
bullet3) Describe how each member of your family interacts with the other members of the family, including yourself
bullet4) How does your family relationship affect you
bullet5) Give a brief history of your parents background
bullet6) Where would you be in 5 years.
bullet7) Where would you be in 10 years.
bullet8) List 5 things, which you like about yourself
bullet9) List 5 things, which you don't like about yourself
bullet11) Make a short speech about what you have learned in the program and how you will work with, so you don not end up in the same situation again.
bullet12) Make a house-contract with your parents about the rules in your house during the follow-up period. Agree on consequences if the rules are broken.

The journal should follow the child during the program all time. It will be used during group conversations and family therapy. Item 11 will be read out during the graduation ceremony.

Leisure-time activity:

No such activity are allowed because the child needs rest to meet the demands in the program.

Negative smiley's

3 negative smiley's means an extra day in the program. If the child resist the program, it means that it has to serve about 50 percent extra in the program. Some foreign programs operates with harsher sanctions, but no child spend his or her entire adolescence in a program. They should always be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Sanctions:

Does the family not follow the program, it is the job of the social authorities to see to that additional steps are done. It could end up in removal of the children in the home (Not only the child in the program). However placement outside the home is expensive. Cost are very easily starting from about 2,800 per child per month.

If the problem is the child not keeping the curfew or the child running away from the program, there are two options:

Night detention:'
Level one night detention: The child leaves for home after the program is finished but have to return to the facility with bed linen before 21:00 and sleep in a cell-like environment.
Level two night detention: The child stays at the facility and the family comes into the facility and eats dinner and are escort to a cell-like environment to spend the night. The family brings bed linen.
Duration:
First major rule break Minimum 2 nights before they can apply to sleep at home
Second and later major rule breaks Minimum 4 nights before they can apply to sleep at home

Please notice that the only kind of rule breaks that can result in night detention is not keeping curfew, running away and committing new crimes. All other issues are dealt with via the smiley system.

Basically the program functions with trust. Every time the child break rules, a sanction is imposed. But then the trust has to be re-established by the staff. The child must learn that it is itself, who is controlling how fast it can leave the program.

Solving a conflict.

If the child refuse to take part in an activity, it is given an option to timeout. Timeout means that it has to remove itself from the group and go to a timeout room if the conflict takes place inside the facility. If the child refuses, the group will move away and leave the child to the parent and a staff-member. The timeout is one minute per year equal to the age of the child. If the child during this timeout manages to cool itself down and rejoin the activity it does not necessary mean a negative smiley. It depends of how the child explains his or her action during the group conversation, which every day ends with. In the field the child has to remove itself 25 meters from the group.

However, if the child can not manage self-control, a meeting will be held with the family and the child in order to find out whether the child should consult the nearest psychiatric hospital, which in Denmark offers anger-management courses. A full-health screening could also be the answer.

School holiday:

Outside the school year the children are doing projects in the community. It could be repair / renovation of play grounds, weeding of green areas in the neighborhood. 

Tramps/walks/hikes:

The slowest child sets the pace. If a child refuse to walk, a doctor is called just to see if there is a medical cause for the refusal for walking. If that is not the case, the child receives a negative smiley.

 

Duration:

The longest stay in the program is set to 52 weeks equal to a prison term of 4 years and 4 months for an adult offender. Longer stay would put the child at risk for PTSD, because adjusting to the world outside the program would become to difficult. If the child has committed a crime, which would have meant a prison term of more than about 4.5 years if the crime would have been committed by an adult, residential treatment should be offered instead.

There should be factors of motivation build into the program, so the child can choose to serve his or her sentence faster. Our prime minister has often used the phase: "one good turn deserves another", so in connection with the program, there should be build in challenges:

The challenges is something that the child can apply for. And they should be state-run. They are intense challenges by nature, which have resulted in deaths in United States, where especially the wilderness option is very much used. Such challenges has to be voluntary and there will be a "choose-out" option after 1 week. If a child chooses to leave the challenge after a week, the original sentence would be re-instated. Also the parent has to be present due to safety concern. Some children has died in the wilderness because the staff misread symptoms of illness as manipulation.

If the child takes a three week challenge where the child and a parent isolate itself for three weeks from the society in order to work intensive with his or her problems, the sentence will be cut short. Challenges are only an option if the child has been convicted to 8 weeks or more.

I have designed two types of challenges:

bullet

Wilderness therapy option: The parent and the child goes on a 3 week wilderness course. The parent are present all time the first week, during week 2 the parent are at home, but has to take a course in canoeing before joining the camp at the end of week 2. The child would hike 50 kilometers (about 31 miles) per week during the first 2 weeks. Week 3 is canoeing for both parent and child for 2 days and finally solo for both parents and child separated, so the family truly can understand the experiences of the child in the future and provide the necessary comprehension to evaluate outcome from the challenge.

bullet

Pilgrimage option: In Denmark we have an old pilgrim track called "Hærvejen". The challenge is to hike the entire 250 kilometers (about 155 miles) at the child's own pace followed by a parent with a bicycle and bicycle trailer. During this hike the child would sleep in a tent at one of the countless number of tent places along the track. There will be a staff member, who will give a paper with problems which the child can solve by observing buildings and monument he or she passes. Therapist sessions will also be offered.

 

 

 

References:

Foreign programs:

The program is based on the STAR-program from the United States. However, due to cultural differences it have become necessary to alter it so it can be used in Denmark. A child should be kept in the local community at all costs unless the family is so dysfunctional that the life of the child would be endangered if it are kept there. 

The physical part is also altered. Overweight children are an problem. In some of the American programs the children are put through hard  physical exercises. Some children has lost their lives on that account. So in this program they walk. There is another explanation for choosing walk rather than running. A lot of children are very much left to live on their own because their parents have demanding careers and leisure-time activities. The 2 times one hour walk per day should give them plenty of room for conversation, so a parent-child relationship can be re-established.

About STAR programmet:
1 day program for children between 10 and 17. <Link>
Normal program <Link>

Another program. <Link>

Debate about one of the death in the STAR-program <Link>

Comments:

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