June 27, 2006

A New Approach to "Service as Punishment"

You may have heard my depressing story about sharing a subway car with a group of fifth graders visiting from North Carolina. They responded “Oh, no sir, we never get in trouble” when I asked them what kind of service they do in school.

The experience triggered quite a discussion at Youth Service America, and my colleague Rob Bisi proceeded to organize a lively Working Group around the subject of service as punishment. We brought in judges, youth development leaders, and the Department of Justice. That Working Group began a very strong relationship, funding and otherwise, between the Department of Justice and Youth Service America.

This article by one of our national partners, The Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF), introduces a major shift on how Department of Justice will encourage its programs to apply principles of service-learning to mandated community service for youth offenders to reduce recidivism. "Community service-learning" will use service-learning to deepen the benefits of mandated service to the youth offenders and the community, and form partnerships to encourage youth civic engagement.

As you will see in the “Origins” header midway through the article, Youth Service America is credited with sparking this initiative through that 2002 Working Group on service as punishment. This initiative has the potential to positively impact the service experiences of millions of Americans. What a great long-term impact for us to celebrate as Youth Service America heads into its 20th birthday this fall!

--Steve Culbertson, President and CEO
Youth Service America

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