Many jurisdictions want models on how to recruit mentors of color for youth in the justice system, so here's two: the Reclaiming Futures site in Dayton, Ohio site is a great example (I plan to feature them in more detail in the near future), and so is the Seattle Reclaiming Futures site, whose 4C Coalition I featured in December.
Blog: Positive Youth Development
Karen Carpenter, the Community Fellow for our site in Rowan County, North Carolina, let me know that her op-ed on who's responsible for ending youth violence appeared in yesterday's Salisbury Post.
A sad occasion -- the shooting death of a teen in Salisbury -- but an eloquent call for mentors for teens who need them. Good work, Karen!
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) is providing more funding for mentors of youth under the "Second Chance Juvenile Mentoring Initiative." Grantees will receive up to $625,000 for three years; awards require a 25% match (cash or in-kind); proposals are due June 15, 2009.
Check out these recipes from a juvenile probation camp in L.A. County, Camp Gonzalez. For the past five years, 50 teens have been in the cooking class; last week, some of this year's students catered a successful event for the L.A. Commission for Children and Families. It would be nice to see more of this kind of vocational education for youth in the justice system -- it's practical, and should give the teens useful skills.
However, this editorial in The Huffington Post makes it clear that not everyone's happy with L.A.'s juvenile justice system -- or should be. The columnist argues for adopting the "Missouri Model" to lower the recidvism rate by switching from warehousing kids to addressing their underlying issues. It's cheaper, and backed by research: give me another helping of that.
In part because of research that indicates that the human brain doesn't fully mature until about age 25, we now know that youth who are "connected by 25" -- have sufficient education, employment skills, and a positive social network -- are likely to be successful in life. But youth without such preparation are likely to struggle, at great cost to themselves and to society.
We know that young people in the justice system need constructive activities and positive adults to work with them, right? Treatment's important, but they also need opportunities to learn and practice new skills that will that help them be successful when they leave the justice system, get off probation, and leave treatment.
So here's three inspiring examples of jurisdictions that have taken on the challenge:
- In an editorial last week, The New York Times supported the reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA).
- The Times also pointed out the critical necessity of drug treatment for prisoners in the interests of public health and cutting crime. (In related news, the number of black offenders in U.S. state prisons for drug charges dropped 21.6% between 1999-2005, whereas the number of white drug offenders shot up 42.6%. Even so, blacks are still drastically overrepresented in state prisons. Meanwhile, the number of people in federal prison for drug offenses -- blacks, whites and Latinos -- increased over the same time period.)
Kelly Graves has a question for you.
Kelly, who is Associate Director & Research Assistant Professor at the Center for Youth, Family, and Community Partnerships at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, is a Community Fellow associated with the Reclaiming Futures site in Guilford County, NC. Her agency will be offering a youth leadership series for teens in the justice system with alcohol and drug issues and is beginning its planning now.
So: any advice for Kelly on a good (ideally evidence-based) youth leadership curriculum aimed at youth with substance abuse issues who are also in trouble with the law?
Feel free to contact Kelly directly, or leave a comment below.
I'll share anything I learn.
We have a winner! Earlier this week, I announced that we'd give away a copy of "Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America, by journalist Paul Tough.
To choose a winner, I took all of those who entered the contest and I numbered their entries. Then I entered the first and last numbers in the Random Number Generator, and pushed the button. The generator picked a number at random, and we had our winner: Shawn Billings, Probation & Field Services Supervisor for the Family/Juvenile Court in the Reclaiming Futures site in Greene County, MO. (FYI, you don't have to work at a Reclaiming Futures site to enter or win; Shawn just got lucky.)
Congratulations to Shawn! For the rest of you, we'll have more giveaways coming up. Stay tuned!
Want to do something positive with teens in the justice system? Give them a camera. Teach them how to use digital media.
Who knows? They might make a movie about the danger of making false assumptions about other people -- passing judgment on themselves, for example.
Don't believe me? Check out the trailer for a film made by nine young inmates in jail in Westchester County, NY (right next door, by the way, to the Reclaiming Futures site in Nassau County, NY). According to The New York Times, their movie, "Judgement," was recently screened before "a packed house." Two of the young men were able to attend in person; several more, still incarcerated, attended by video feed. (UPDATE: the film is available at YouTube in two parts - thanks to Youth Today's blog for the tip!)
Hint to Reclaiming Futures sites: having youth in the justice system tell their stories is a great sustainability tool, and it helps inspire community members to get involved in their lives.
Youth mentoring for teens in the justice system will get a huge boost, thanks to the stimulus plan. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) will be awarding $97.5 million (-!-) in two categories. Info from the website:
Recovery Act Local Youth Mentoring Initiative
In an effort to reduce juvenile delinquency, violence, gang participation, school failure, and drop-out rates, OJJDP is issuing this solicitation to support local organizations that develop, implement, or expand local mentoring programs leading to measurable, positive outcomes for at-risk youth.
Recovery Act National Youth Mentoring Programs
This solicitation invites applicants to propose initiatives ready for implementation that will assist in the development and maturity of community programs to provide mentoring services to populations that are underserved due to location, shortage of mentors, special physical or mental challenges of the targeted population, or other such situations identified by the community in need of mentoring services.
Applications are due April 20.
Looking for something positive to do with youth in the justice system that's inexpensive, gives them useful skills, and they can continue doing when they leave detention or a residential program? Consider yoga, as this juvenile justice program in San Mateo, CA did. (The Reclaiming Futures program in Portland, Oregon also invested in yoga for teens in the secure residential alcohol and drug program run by the County, so I can attest to its benefits -- and the teens, after initial grumbling, found they liked it.) By focusing youth on being emotionally and physically aware, yoga provides teens with better skills for managing their emotions and behavior.
Implementing Reclaiming Futures means including families and youth in building service plans for individual teens -- and in improving services overall. Need help doing it?
Consider attending the 2009 Building Family Strengths conference on June 23-25, 2009, in Portland, OR - you can even submit a proposal for a presentation, if you do so by this Friday, February 6, 2009.
Hazel Cameron -- a Reclaiming Futures Community Fellow -- knows a thing or two about recruiting mentors for youth involved in the justice system.
Her 4C Coalition has partnered with the Reclaiming Futures initiative in Seattle for years now, successfully pairing youth with caring adults.
The Coalition just made a splash in the Seattle Times, too. (You can also find a PDF of the story here.) Congratulations to Hazel and all her colleagues!
UPDATE: The 4C Coalition recently joined the National CARES Mentoring Movement, which states that it has "mounted the largest mentor recruitment effort in the history of this nation aimed at securing the lives of our young black boys and girls." CARES has mentor-recruitment circles in 53 communities across the country, including several other Reclaiming Futures sites: Anchorage, Chicago, Dayton, and Greensboro (Guilford County). Is your community part of the movement?
One of the most important things anyone who cares about juvenile justice and teen substance use can do is to talk to their representatives about why treatment matters.
That's exactly what a group of policy experts and youth advocates did yesterday, when they testified before the Oregon State Senate