Criminon Keeps Kids Out of the “System”

Visitors view displays at the Criminon center on Fort Harrison Avenue
Information Visitors view displays at the Criminon center on Fort Harrison Avenue

Criminon Florida, which has been working with inmates in Florida penal institutions for almost 25 years, answered the call to help handle the escalating juvenile crime in Pinellas County by embarking on a dramatic program from its center in downtown Clearwater. The specialized program for youth is designed to reach juveniles in the criminal justice system, educating them in the basic values that enable them to tell right from wrong and turn their own lives around.

For the past year, a Criminon volunteer trainer has delivered a weekly seminar at the Juvenile Detention Center in Clearwater. Starting with establishing life goals, the trainer conveys the 21 precepts contained in The Way to Happiness booklet, a core component of the Criminon program. Youth walk away from the experience with a new vision of improved life if they follow this common sense moral guide.

More than 900 youth have taken part in the seminar over the past year.

Criminon has further expanded its mainline program for adult offenders to reach inmates in prisons throughout Florida with its full correspondence course. Intrinsic to the course is instilling a sense of personal responsibility for others. The examples of results, as reported by graduates, are often stunning. They include one graduate of the correspondence course talking a fellow offender out of an escape, and another who prevented a suicide.

On any given day, Criminon Florida, an all-volunteer organization, is delivering correspondence courses to more than 1,600 prison inmates. Criminon graduates have a rate of not re-offending that betters 80 percent.

The numerous letters of appreciation that have been received at Criminon Florida inspire the volunteers to do still more.

As just one recent letter, from the Program Director of a local residential facility, states: “Thank you for allowing your team to train our youth on your program. The lessons that were taught, the encouragement that was provided and the sacrifices that your team has made, truly helped improve the lives of several of our youth. I believe that any program that allows your team to enter their doors will become a better facility because of it.”