INDIANAPOLIS — The Marion County Prosecutor's Office is working to connect with kids in the community. Their latest effort comes in the form of a youth basketball clinic.
Prosecutor Ryan Mears said it's one way to help steer young people away from crime, offering them a support network that's working to keep them on the right path. Mears said it shows the kids that people in the community care about them.
"They can now say their first encounter with the prosecutor's office was not a negative experience, it was a fun experience playing basketball," Mears said.
This approach to community outreach hasn't gone unnoticed.
Adrianna Harris is one of the parents who signed her kids up for the clinic. She explained that it's not only impacting kids, but has also helped her change her perspective on the prosecutor's office.
"Even for myself though, just seeing how the prosecutor's office is taking the time out of their busy schedule to interact with the children and my child, it's amazing," Harris said.
When this opportunity presented itself, Harris knew there could be other benefits. The father of her children is currently incarcerated. Before Tuesday's event, the only thing her kids knew about law enforcement and the court system is that it has sent their dad away for three years and counting. Harris hopes the clinic will allow her daughter to have a more positive opinion of those in power.
"I just wanted her to get a chance to meet the prosecutor. Definitely allow her to change her perspective as well."
Since becoming Marion County's Prosecutor, Ryan Mears has made it a top priority to build trust between his office and the community. Numerous reports and scholarly works have shown the importance of progressive prosecutors. They can help reverse the decades of harsh, punitive policies and practices that disproportionately impacted communities of colors.
"I think a lot of the young people we're dealing with, they're dealing with a lot of issues much sooner and much quicker than maybe even kids from five, ten years ago. That relates to trauma associated with violence and it also relates to some of the systematic issues that are going on in our community that were exacerbated by COVID," Mears said. "There's a lot of kids who are struggling right now and they need to have positive interactions with adults. They need to go into a constructive environment where they get that opportunity to hopefully develop some skills, develop a little bit of self confidence and self-esteem. But we have to create those environments for those kids to take advantage of those opportunities. And this is just a small example of us trying to do that. And also help build that relationship with young people. It's on us in government and as a community to make sure we're making those efforts."
The efforts being made are something many parents, like Harris, hope to see more of from our elected leaders.
"The youth is our future, getting involved, having those programs available, allowing the youth to get to know them as well. It's so important. It takes a village," Harris said.
The second basketball clinic is happening Thursday for teens 13 to 15-years-old/7th and 8th graders. It's from 9 a.m. to noon at the Him by Her Collegiate School for the Arts. The event is free and open to the public. Registration is required.