New Program Aims to Mentor Troubled Youth

Officials in Cohoes are unveiling a new initiative aimed at giving troubled teens a little help, rather than time in jail.  It's designed for certain non-violent youthful offenders, who may be at risk for even bigger trouble.  

It's called U-CAN, and was developed by Criminal Court Judge Andra Ackerman, who says the ideal candidate is between the age of 16 and 20, and has several issues in his or her life.  "No parental figures," Ackerman said, "either the father is not present or if the father's present, the mother isn't."

It's being funded through a $10 thousand grant from Albany County.  Under U-CAN,  Ackerman, or another judge, will assign not only a probation officer, but a trained and vetted mentor to work with the teen.  

"You can have all the structure in the world, but if you don't have someone to go to who focuses on you, you can get in trouble," Ackerman said.

The program runs for a year, and is not, in the words of mayor Shawn Morse, a "huggy-touchy-feely" thing.  

If the defendant completes the program successfully, Ackerman says the guilty verdict can be vacated, and the criminal record erased.

photo:  WGY news

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