Gang Court program changing lives

YAKIMA COUNTY, WASH. -- High commitment, high accountability and high expectations. Standards that young gang members must meet in order to succeed. Yakima County's Gang Court program is not meant to fix everyone at the same time. Nicholas Bazan is the Probation Counselor of Gang Court. He said the program works with one kid at a time.

"Not only do they take responsibility for their actions and what they've done or what they're doing, but they're also more aware of how it's affecting the community," said Nicholas.

Currently, there are 15 kids enrolled. In the year and a half since it started, five have completed the program. They're in school and staying out of trouble. Court administrators saw that as a reason to grow.

"I think we'd like to expand it because we're seeing significant success in those kids that are going through it," said Yakima County Court Administrator, Harold Delia.

The county hoped the success of Gang Court will keep kids in school so they don't end up in a place like the Yakima County Juvenile Justice Center.

The program also saved taxpayers money. Yakima County's Court Administrator said keeping these kids out of trouble meant you're not spending to keep them in custody.

"It's about $38,000 a year so we've kept five of them in the community that could've been committed, so you're talking close to $200,000," said Harold.

The program isn't just benefiting the kids.

"The long hours, the heartache you feel when they stumble," said Nicholas. "Once you see them graduate, it really makes it worth it."

Willpower and a little courage changing lives, one kid at a time.