Utne Blogs > Mind and Body

Juvenile Delinquents Hit the Dirt

by Will Wlizlo


Tags: mountain biking, juvenile delinquents, Dirt Rag, mind and body, Will Wlizlo,

mountain-bikeHow should a civil society manage its juvenile delinquents, those that “grew up on the streets and have only known a life of crime, slums, and jail”? Imprisonment and other costly government-funded programs are the most commonly used options. But Shimon Shocken, an IT professor from Ra’anana, Israel, sees a different path to delinquent recovery—a dusty, rocky, uphill trail best traversed on the saddle of a mountain bike.

Dirt Rag’s David Boerner profiled Shocken’s program, which pulls 10 youths out of their detention facility every week to participate in some physically demanding mountain biking, Israel’s new national pastime. Widespread Israeli interest in mountain biking helped Shocken raise the initial capital for the program, according to Boerner, as well as the $15,000-per-year operating costs. Most of the donations come from family foundations, individuals, and private businesses. The generous support is almost counterintuitive.

“One might think juvenile delinquents like these should be punished, rather than allowed to go on [a] mountain bike ride each Tuesday,” writes Boerner. But Shocken contends that his program has a much lower-than-average rate of recidivism than other programs for juvenile delinquents. As Shocken told Dirtrag:

In the last four years 50 kids have gone through the program and been released. Only five of them went back to jail, which is extremely good. Normally, 50 percent will end up back in jail within a year.

Source: Dirt Rag (print only)

Image by Teosaurio, licensed under Creative Commons.