Feature Story: Judge June Maresca interviewed by Fran Fisher October 25, 2012.
The Honorable. June A. Maresca
Justice: Ontario Court of Justice
Central West Region-Peel Regional Municipality-Criminal Court
100-7755 Hurontario St.
Brampton, Ontario L6W 4T6
Fran: Hello, Judge Maresca. In your courtroom you worked with Craig Trowhill and his clients from the PACT LifePlan coaching Program. What did you appreciate about Craig’s relationship with those kids?
Maresca: What impacted me about Craig was the way he connected with everybody, not just with his clients. Yes, he was there, he showed up, and he listened, but he had lived a lot himself, so he had credibility.
The first time I met Craig was for a Section 19 conference. This is a meeting where I can invite anybody involved with an offender: the parents, parole officer, school board member, anyone associated with the youth’s particular interests, and, in this case, PACT – to attend a meeting to develop a plan for a young person to help ensure he didn’t reoffend. Craig was there. The kid did not show up.
Craig was completely cool about it. He said, “No problem. Whenever he is here, we will be back.” This is an important point. In some segments of our society, there is an expectation that once a kid is charged, that’s the end of it. But, that’s not how it works. They are still kids. Their brains are not able to see the consequences of their actions. They fall down again. What we need to do with these kids is follow through on the consequence imposed and then show them how to move on. It’s a teenager’s job to test boundaries. When kids make poor choices, parents don’t disown them. They say, “Here are the consequences, and here’s how we move forward.”
Craig didn’t give up on kids. The PACT Program doesn’t give up on kids.
Here is another example about Craig. This was another Section 19 conference. We came up with a plan for the young person, a good sentence that addressed his needs and would help to ensure he wouldn’t reoffend. I think Craig felt I was being too soft on the young man, so he said to him, “You better not screw this up! This is a good deal here.”
Craig would be there again and again and again. And this was consistent with the PACT Program. At home, if the kids had a home, they often experienced lots of rejection. Kids in the PACT LifePlan Program got to learn how to own their self-worth and experience another human being who cares.
Fran: What would you say is critical for success in preventing recidivism?
Maresca: Gaining trust is, of course, critical. Another critical piece is taking small steps to learn to be personally accountable. And, what’s huge is when they can come back and report that they are doing well. Once I sentenced a kid to 18 months’ probation. He was big kid with little affect, and when he spoke, he was monosyllabic. I asked him to come back in two months and tell me how well he was doing. He came back in two months and he looked different. He was more animated. He reported doing better at school, his grades were improving, and he told me that he had received an award from an organization that seldom gives out awards. He brought the award to show me. I said, “You must be so proud of yourself!” And then I told him he didn’t have to come back before the 18 months was up, unless he wanted to. He said, “Yes, please.” He came back a couple of months later to show me his report card.
Fran: What would you say are the key success factors with the PACT Program?
Maresca: One of the key success factors is that they work in conjunction with the court system. Many of the kids seem to respond well to having the presence of someone of authority on their team.
What was important about Craig, as a Life Coach, was that he was personally turning himself around and giving it forward.
The three key factors that will keep kids from re-offending:
1. They are accountable.
2. They are achieving something and doing well.
3. They are developing empathy.
What prevents recidivism is when kids can look at people as people who have hopes and dreams versus seeing people as things. This is what impresses me about the PACT Program. For example, in their cooking program, the food they prepare goes to feeding the homeless. In their fashion design program, the kids make prom dresses for kids who can’t afford one to wear to a school prom. In their urban farm program, the fruits and vegetables go to the local food bank. Their kids are learning how to pay it forward. They develop empathy when they know they are helping others.