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The F.O.R.C.E. Is With Them

At least five young offenders who had just completed their confinement were back in Spokane County’s juvenile detention facility Friday - but for the best of reasons.

They returned, voluntarily, to finish what they’d started. They returned to graduate from the county’s unique boot camp program, Delta F.O.R.C.E.

The acronym stands for Focus on Respect, Community, Education.

“I worked hard. It meant something to me,” one 13-year-old girl said with a pleased grin. She had been released the day before but returned to participate in commencement exercises with some 40 other youngsters who completed the two-week session.

The program is one year old, and this was its fourth graduating class, so it’s too early to estimate how many lives it may steer away from misconduct.

But if Detention Administrator Rand Young’s observations mean anything, the improvement the participants’ conduct shows while they’re confined means they’re benefiting from the structure and sense of participation and accomplishment.

These are not trifling offenders. They’re where they are for committing felonies. Yet about 95 percent of them choose Delta F.O.R.C.E. over sitting in their cells.

The long hours begin with exercises and military drilling at 6 a.m. The day includes classes that teach usable skills. Some time is devoted to service projects such as, in the latest class’s experience, making crib quilts for the Ronald McDonald House, collecting food for the food bank, bagging giveaway items that Mothers Against Drunk Driving will distribute to children at the Spokane Interstate Fair, or even writing about their experiences for The Spokesman-Review’s Our Generation Page on Sept. 8.

In essence, the resources Delta F.O.R.C.E. stresses are those that research confirms are necessary for all youngsters, from school dropouts to student body leaders: structured activities, solid adult role models, clear expectations with accountability for poor choices, opportunities to serve the community, acquisition of skills.

All the 16- and 17-year-olds among Friday’s graduates, for instance, will leave detention with the food handlers certificates they would need to work in fast-food restaurants. Not a Harvard MBA exactly but it lessens the chances of having a door slammed in your face.

County officials have strained for several years to make limited detention space handle rapid growth in confinement demands.

The ideal strategy would be to slow, or even reverse, that growth. Keep your fingers crossed and your eye on Delta F.O.R.C.E.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Doug Floyd/For the editorial board