Youth Connection Center hopes to help juvenile offenders

When juvenile offenders are picked up for low level offenses in Minneapolis, police often take them to the Youth Connection Center where specialists hope to give youth the support they need to turn their life around.

The programming is run through the youth services non-profit The Link, and made possible through a partnership with the city of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, and Minneapolis Public Schools. 

This past weekend, several youth cited by police for curfew violations and disorderly conduct in Dinkytown were taken to Youth Connection Center where they were then released.

"When the youth is dropped off here, that’s really the start of what we hope will be an ongoing relationship with that youth and their family to provide support and ongoing services," said the Link Executive Director Beth Holger.

The center is open at all hours of the day, seven days a week and helps kids ages 10 to 17 who are picked up for low level offenses like curfew violations and truancy, or who have been identified as sex trafficked . It is not a detention center and it is not a shelter, but it is an early intervention tool. 

"We absolutely don’t release or discharge people. That’s not even language we use because it’s a voluntary program," said Holger.

Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty says while Youth Connection Center has an important role to play, there is a large hole when it comes to rehabilitation and intervention programs for juvenile offenders. 

"My fear is that we’ve got kids who are doing the disorderly conduct or riding in the stolen car… if we don’t intervene early with them, they will end up escalating their behavior into these more serious offenses. And we don’t have those resources in the community to really intervene with those youth," she said.