New Davenport juvenile program is giving teens a second chance

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DAVENPORT, Iowa - A new program in Davenport is giving teens a second chance at life. It's helping to lower the number of juveniles who re-offend.

It's still hard for Anna Lyons to believe,"15-year-old Anna was definitely in a dark state. I would not have expected to be where I am today."

Now 22, Lyons is always on the go, working and raising her two kids, Melody and Roman.

"I just want to show them you know how much I love them, because that`s what my parents wanted to show me, they wanted to keep me safe, and at 15 you don`t think that, you think hey I want to go party and do whatever." said Lyons.

Just seven years ago, she was heading to Iowa's juvenile home, a place where the state's worst juvenile offenders are sent.

"That`s when I started to rebel a lot, my big thing was running away pretty much, mom and dad didn`t want me to stay out past five or whatever so I would sneak out when they would go to bed," said Lyons.

Now Lyons is taking the hard lessons she's learned to make sure Scott County teens get the same second chance that turned her life around.

"Studies show that first time offenders usually don`t recidivate, but as soon as you bring them into the office of juvenile court, the davenport police department that risk goes up 10 times," said Dave Tristan.

Tristan supervises the one year old diversion program. Instead of sending first time offenders to juvenile court, police divert them to this program that emphasizes education.

"If a juvenile`s behavior deems it could be a criminal charge the police actually will look up their name see if they have any records, if they don`t then they are offered this program. They do not receive a criminal charge and they`re referred to this diversion program," said Tristan.

The program offers classes that focus on corrective thinking, making better decisions, values and attitudes. In its first year, 84 juveniles were referred to the program, out of the group only five re-offended. The year before that, almost one in three Scott County juveniles were back in court.

Lyons stays in contact with her former juvenile correctional officer. It was Sherri Flack who told Lyons that her life story could make a difference in the lives of other teens.

"I`m very proud of her, she`s totally changed around," said Flack.

"Just the fact that I`ve been there done that and that maybe I can change one kids lifestyle and not go down that wrong path would be like everything," said Lyons.

The goal is to have the program going in all of Scott County, right now it's funded through volunteers.

Lyons plans to enroll in school in the fall to become a dental assistant.