The Legacy of Helping Teens for 31 Years
Jamie Ortiz is leaving a legacy of service in Ventura County Probation Agency, where caring adults are helping break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime.
Because of the relationships that Jamie has built, Reclaiming Futures Ventura County, CA, teens are connecting to mentors and educators.
Countless teens, like “JM”, are renewing their relationships with family and making positive contributions to their communities.
“JM” has continued the legacy of service by presenting to middle school students at Red Ribbon Week and helping other young people reclaim their futures.
We thank Jamie, who retires at the end of March, after 31 years of service. Jamie's contributions to Reclaiming Futures Ventura County, CA and these partnerships will last for generations.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Trauma in Justice-Involved Youth
Justice-involved youth have complex histories that not only contributed to their delinquency but present challenges for rehabilitation. They often experience poverty, violence, familial instability, exposure to drug use and gangs, and serial relocations. These compound factors exacerbate a lack of self-confidence, learning difficulties, physical disabilities, and mental health issues.
In the field of public health, these experiences are identified as traumatic: including a loss of safety, powerlessness, fear, hopelessness, and a constant state of alertness. In the video above, Christa Collins notes that exposure to trauma severely diminishes decision-making skills and the ability to cope with stress.
Delegating Authority to Improve Juvenile Justice in California
In Judaism, congregants progress through the Torah by studying a weekly portion or Parsha, carrying a theme that facilitates reflection and broader conversation. The Torah portion titled Yitro, is rich with themes relevant to juvenile justice. Here, Moses and the Israelites stand before Mount Sinai, having escaped Egypt. Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, joins him at Sinai and advises him to delegate authority through a system of judges. Later, God reveals the Ten Commandments to Moses and the Israelite people.
In commemoration of Yitro, San Francisco’s Congregation Sherith Israel (CSI) organized a Shabbat juvenile justice discussion on Saturday, February 2, titled Rethinking Juvenile Justice: Get Tough or Get Smart. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ross and USF Associate Professor Kimberly Richman moderated the discussion. Participants included:
- Daniel Macallair, Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice
- Bruce Fisher, Huckleberry Youth Programs
- Gavin O’Neill, Huckleberry Community Assessment and Referral Center
- Felix Lucero, former youth offender now community activist
CSI’s Rabbi Raphael opened the panel by noting Yitro’s special significance for juvenile justice. The juvenile justice system was established under a legal doctrine that delegated parental responsibilities to the state when they could not be satisfied by community caregivers. Over the years, the state has developed its own custodial facilities to serve high-risk youth offenders.
Kids Demand A Plan Beyond Gun Control
Weeks after a gunman killed 20 elementary-school students and six educators in Newtown, CT, yet another school shooting occurred at Taft Union High School in Taft, California. On January 10, a high school student brought a firearm to class and injured another student and a teacher. The shooting, which took place just hours after a staff safety training, has left many moms, like me, wondering what can be done to keep our kids safe in school.
After spending years trying to prevent school tragedies with Peace Over Violence, it seems that I should have something profound to say. To my surprise, I was at a loss for words, and that is when I turned to the youth.
Coping After Shootings: Resources for Youth Workers, Families
The tragic and devastating shootings this week in Oregon, California and Connecticut have stunned their communities and the nation. In the wake of this devastation it’s important for the families, communities and children affected to be able to find a way to cope in the aftermath of the event. The Safe Start Center has a variety of resources that can help communities manage and find a way to handle this kind of exposure to violence and trauma.
Healing the Invisible Wounds: Children’s Exposure to Violence – A Guide for Families [pdf]
Survivors of these types of events may have been physically and/or emotionally hurt by witnessing the violent event. Children are resilient, but if the child has been affected it may be difficult to identify when something is wrong especially if there are no clear physical signs of harm. The above guide can help in understanding how to help children cope with the “invisible wounds” affecting them emotionally and psychologically.
California's County-By-County Youth Crime Trends Defy Conventional Theory
Earlier this week, CJCJ launched its California juvenile justice interactive map, displaying a plethora of data regarding local youth arrest and confinement practices by county. This is particularly pertinent given that California’s statewide trends are so extraordinary: Youth crime in California is at its lowest level since statewide statistics were first compiled in 1954.
The county-by-county data paint a more nuanced picture of juvenile justice in California. Among its 58 counties, the application of juvenile justice policy is radically varied, and with mixed results.
For example, San Francisco County has the highest youth arrest rate in the state, due primarily to the fact that San Francisco is the only county comprised wholly of a city. Most arrests involve youth of color from the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Despite high rates of violent crime, the county utilizes confinement infrequently, displaying very low levels of state youth correctional commitments and lower than average use of its local custodial facilities; 49% of beds in the county’s two juvenile justice facilities (juvenile hall + camp) were occupied in 2010. Driving this commitment to rehabilitate even the hardest-to-serve youth in the community is a wealth of nonprofit service providers and dedicated local government leadership.
California Legislation Targets School Discipline
California Governor Jerry Brown has signed two bills that seek to reform school discipline in California schools.
The first, Assembly Bill 1729, introduces intervening means of behavior correction prior to suspension or expulsion. Such behavior correction could include tiered interventions that occur during the school day, a parent-teacher conference, a restorative justice program, or an after-school program focusing on positive activities and behaviors.
The second, Assembly Bill 2537, clarifies that over-the-counter medication and toy guns in schools do not immediately trigger zero-tolerance penalties. School administrators may still make such a determination, but it is no longer automatic. This permits some degree of case-by-case analysis into an individual student’s behavior and intent.
Longer Sentences for Youth Do Not Improve Public Safety
Pathways to Desistance, a study of serious youth offenders, finds that long institutional commitments do not reduce recidivism and in fact can have the opposite effect. The study follows over 1,300 youth convicted of serious felonies (inc. murder, robbery, and sex offenses) across the country over a seven-year period.
- A youth’s future likelihood to re-offend cannot be predicted based on their presenting offense.
- Placing youth in long-term confinement has no effect on their rate of re-arrest.
- Substance abuse issues can significantly increase the risk of recidivism; however, appropriate treatment reduces this risk.
These findings have significant policy implications for California’s juvenile justice system. For example, Proposition 21 (2000) requires that youth who commit certain serious crimes be directly transferred to adult criminal court. However, as the researchers note, this sort of blanket policy makes little sense, as the data demonstrate their offense does not determine their risk level, and sending youth to the adult system severely limits their access to rehabilitative services.
Teens Judging Teens
First-time juvenile offenders in Humboldt County, California, are sometimes referred not to a judge in a black robe, but to their peers for sentencing. Part of a growing trend to infuse accountability and restorative justice into juvenile justice, teen courts involve teenagers (some volunteers, some performing court-ordered community service) who hear the facts of a case and decide on sentences for their fellow juveniles.
The sentences in these courts can be unique and varied—and often involve the teens’ perceptions of what the juvenile offender must do to make society whole and repair the damage done for his or her crimes.
In Humboldt County, teens sentenced their peers in 341 cases between 2001 and 2012, and only 28 youth were charged with a new crime within a year after their stint in the teen court.
California Gives JLWOP Kids Second Chance
On Sunday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the Fair Sentencing for Youth Act to give some kids sentenced to life without parole an opportunity to earn a second chance. California currently has 309 inmates who could be affected by this.
Under the new law, people who were convicted of murder or other serious crimes as juveniles can petition a judge for reconsideration of their sentences. They can only do that after they’ve served 15 years. An inmate must show remorse and be enrolled in rehabilitative programs.
If an inmate meets the criteria, a judge could decide to shorten his or her sentence to 25 years to life with a chance for parole. The inmate would then go through the same vetting process that all offenders undergo when they’re up for parole.