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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 24, 2002


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Community Court Launches New Curriculum Program

The Community Court Session at Hartford, in partnership with Leadership Greater Hartford's Third Age Initiative, is launching a new educational curriculum for offenders between the ages of 16 and 21.

"The Community Court Life Skills Program" will start Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2002, at Community Court, which is located at 80 Washington St., Hartford. The program will consist of five weekly classes focusing on consumer skills, financial fitness, physical and mental health, and enhancing employability and socially appropriate behavior. Through the curriculum, instructors hope to teach the youths the practical skills they need to survive as independent, responsible citizens.

"I see too many kids in court who don't have even the most basic skills needed to survive as responsible members of society," Community Court Presiding Judge Raymond R. Norko said. "Whatever the circumstances are that have affected their lives, they haven't learned how to balance a checkbook, how to interview for a job, or about nutrition. We intend to introduce these concepts into their lives."

Youths who enter the program will be culled from the Community Court docket by the Court, or on the recommendation of the prosecutors, social services staff, or bail commissioners. Offenders who complete the program will have a formal graduation, complete with diplomas.

The Third Age Initiative has volunteered for the program, and there is no cost to the state. Retired educators, professionals, and other interested in sharing their knowledge comprise the Third Age Initiative, and volunteers from the organization will teach the classes.

Members of the Third Age Initiative -- led by program Director Doe Hentschel -- Approached the Community Court in Hartford last spring to determine whether there was a population in need and a forum in which they could help others through teaching. After several discussions, both parties saw an opportunity to help young offenders.

"Our team, under the auspices of Leadership Greater Hartford, has developed a program that identifies five core areas that will give the participants the knowledge and resources needed to have the necessary life skills to improve their quality of life," Third Age Initiative Coordinator Janice Vissoe said. "We hope that they will use this information not only for themselves but with their family and friends, so that a 'ripple effect' of this information will get out into the community."

Judge Norko added: "The Community Court is very excited to be working with the volunteers from the Third Age Initiative. They have a great deal to offer our kids and most important, they care about helping these kids. I am impressed with their commitment to helping others."

The jurisdiction of the Community Court Session in Hartford includes the City of Hartford, and the towns of Avon, Bloomfield, Canton, Farmington, and West Hartford. The Court handles public nuisance "quality of life" crimes and misdemeanors, including breach of peace, larceny, public drunkenness, prostitution, solicitation, and simple possession of marijuana. Defendants are ordered to perform community service, rather than being sent to jail.

For further information, contact Rhonda Stearley-Hebert, Manager of Communications, at 860-757-2270.

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