Congratulations to Judicial Fellow Bettina Borders, recently recognized by The Standard-Times in Massachusetts as South Coast Woman of the Year for her contributions to the community as a judge and activist.
Judge Borders has been helping young people her whole life, and for the last few years, implementing the Reclaiming Futures model to help teens in trouble.
By working with the City of New Bedford, Bristol County Sheriff's Office, and Bristol County District Attorney Office, Judge Borders and her team are working with the community, treatment providers and social service agencies to provide better intervention, substance abuse treatment and mental health services to young people in need.
We are proud of Judge Borders and salute her committment to her community!
Reclaiming Futures Judge Bettina Borders has a terrific op-ed in the South Coast Today on the positive impact theater performances have had on troubled teens in Massachusetts. Thanks to the generosity of the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, teens in the juvenile system are attending plays and sharing the experience with their families.
For most of these youth and their families, this is an extraordinary experience. First, they are having a wonderful experience together, one that most of us take for granted. The probation officers who accompany these youth have watched while the demeanor of these kids transforms as the evening unfolds. They are indistinguishable from the rest of the audience; polite, engaged, attentive, well behaved, well dressed, inquisitive, mesmerized by the magical extravaganzas they are watching. They are out of their "comfort zone" and yet "belong" in this new environment. It is wonderful to hear about as the probation officers report back to the court.
But the transformation does not end there. The youth are asked to write about their experiences or discuss them in groups. Each youth is excited, energized and articulate when dissecting the play or gushing over the virtuosity of dancers or musicians. Many "thank yous" by letter and by mouth are sent by the youths. Another lesson learned. These are experiences we want for all of the youth in our community and Ms. Knowles and the Board of the Z must be commended for making them accessible to those teens least likely to find their way to the beautiful Z.
Actions that once sent students to the principal’s office to be handled by teachers and faculty are now getting Massachusetts students pulled from school entirely and sent to juvenile court in handcuffs, according to a recent report by Citizens for Juvenile Justice. Research shows that police officers are increasingly stepping in to handle behavior such as foul language, hallway misconduct and disrupting public assemblies, which has led to a significant spike in student arrests.
Data from Springfield, Boston and Worcester, three of Massachusetts’s largest school districts, shows children as young as 11 were subject to arrest and were faced with criminal records for minor offenses during the 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years. Although students should be held accountable for their actions, using police and court resources instead of existing school disciplinary practices could pose severe consequences for their future. One alarming statistic noted by the report states that, “students who are arrested at school are three times more likely to drop out than those who are not.”
Criminalizing children for these minor offenses not only limits their educational and career opportunities, but it is also costly for schools and taxpayers. Springfield schools have armed officers permanently stationed at selected schools for the entire duration of the school day, contributing to a hefty payroll percentage that could be spent on staff leadership and disciplinary training.
Last night, CBS News ran a segment on a recovery school in Boston that takes teen addicts and turns them into graduates with a bright future.
For students, the recovery school is a place to learn while also receiving recovery support from staff who have struggled with these issues themselves.
The Reclaiming Futures model is used in 29 communities (in 17 states) across the country. As National Executive Director Susan Richardson often says, "if you've seen one court, you've seen one court," meaning that while every Reclaiming Futures court implements the same six step model, there are often differences in the program based on what works in each community. In Snohomish County, Washington, troubled teens work with local artists to learn glass blowing and creative writing. In Oklahoma's Cherokee Nation, youth learn about their heritage and partake in cultural events. And in Bristol County, Massachusetts, the focus is on building teens' self-esteem and self-worth. One model with many different approaches -- and all with great results.
The South Coast Today recently wrote about the success of Reclaiming Futures in Bristol County. From the article: