Through the Juvenile Restitution Program at the Mountain Trails Youth Ranch (MTYR), located in Monte Vista, CO, youth that have committed crimes participate in supervised work projects where they can earn money owed for their court-ordered restitution. MTYR partners with various agencies in the San Luis Valley in South Central Colorado to provide the work projects. Activities have included numerous trial projects and campground contracts with the Rio Grande National Forest, the Bureau of Land Management, Great Sand Dunes National Monument, the Division of Wildlife, Colorado Off Highway Vehicles and various projects for individuals in the valley.
Participants in the program learn the work skills and ethics necessary to hold a job while at the same time are given the opportunity to make amends for previous wrongdoing. The Restitution Program teaches youth that they are accountable for their behavior and assists them in becoming productive members of the community. The youth receive a weekly wage, with 85% of the money paid to court and 15% to the youth. Approximately 20% of the program's budget comes from the State Division of Criminal Justice. A crew of 12 young people working 40 hours a week costs the agencies approximately $1,200, which is one-fourth less than it would cost to have an in-house crew.
In the past six years, more than 500 young people have participated in the program, contributing more than 53,000 work hours on public lands. Twelve trail projects have been complete in the Rio Grande National Forest and over 61 miles of trail maintenance and reconstruction has been completed, saving federal agencies approximately $540,000 in trail construction costs.
With each successful project completed by MTYR, their reputation grows. The success of this endeavor has demonstrated to the community and other local groups the potential for creating partnerships within the local community.