Latest Assault On Underage Drinking
by Bea Peterson
It’s summer. It’s graduation time. It’s party time. It’s the time of year when underage alcohol use is at its highest. Hoosick Falls has been actively battling this community and nationwide problem for the last several years. Now they have a new weapon in their arsenal. It’s called the Court Diversion Program. Village and Town Justice Tom Restino, Hoosick Falls Police Officer Harold McClellan and HAYC3 Youth Center coordinator Aelish Nealon are taking part in a pilot program modeled after one that has been very successful throughout the state of Vermont. Funded by the NYS Court system, it is the first of its kind in New York.
Any person aged 16 to 20 arrested for the first time on alcohol related charges will be given the choice of participating in the program or facing a regular appearance in Court. Depending on the charge(s), a Court appearance can mean a $300 fine, suspension of driver’s license for 90 days and community service. Taking part in the Court Diversion Program requires a signed contract to do community service and successfully complete a four hour on-line alcohol education program. Once the individual has completed all the requirements, the record of charges will be expunged, but retained on a separate data base.
“This is not a punishment program,” said Nealon. “It’s a positive strategy. People make mistakes. We want to work with them, support them, mentor them.” Their community service will depend on their skills. Some may be able to provide mentoring and support to younger children, through sports and educational programs, while other may have skills useful in outdoor work. Every participant will perform community service that builds confidence and self-worth.
This is a one time opportunity for first offenders. Get arrested a second time on a similar charge and it’s straight to Court.
All of New York State is watching Hoosick Falls to see if the program, which went into effect June 10, is successful. The program’s first evaluation will be in three months.