Blog: Rehabilitation

Restoring Rehabilitation to the American Juvenile Justice System

Quantel Lotts was fourteen years old and not yet five feet tall when he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Like most children who are involved in a serious crime at a young age, Quantel's childhood [PDF] was bleak. Quantel spent the early years of his life in a blighted St. Louis neighborhood with his mother, who used and sold crack cocaine. When he was removed from her home and placed in foster care at age eight, child welfare workers observed that he "smelled of urine and had badly decayed molars as well as numerous scars on his arms, legs and forehead." Quantel lived in three different foster homes before he was eventually reunited with his father and younger brother. When Quantel was about ten, his father, Charlie Lotts, moved the boys to rural St. Francois County, Missouri and into the home of Tammy Summers and her two sons. Charlie and Tammy later married.
By all accounts, Quantel developed a close relationship with his new step-siblings, including Michael, who was three years older. On November 13, 1999, however, Quantel and Michael got into an argument. Michael hit Quantel with a blow dart, Quantel responded with a toy bow and arrow and a fight ensued. Michael was stabbed and later died. Quantel was charged with first-degree murder, tried and convicted as an adult. His sentence was mandatory: under Missouri law anyone convicted of first-degree murder must be sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole. Over the objections of his stepmother and Michael's biological mother, Tammy, fourteen-year-old Quantel was sentenced to die in prison.

Coming of Age in Prison

As a college educated man, Reginald Dwyane Betts reflects on his 8 ½ years of incarceration in county jail during a C-SPAN interview with Cure Violence’s Eduardo Bocanegra, a Violence Interrputer. In this interview, Betts speaks about growing up in prison and his book, "A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison."
Betts, an honor student and class treasurer at Suitland High School, was incarcerated at the age of 16 for armed carjacking. He was the only juvenile in the county jail.
Though prison is a disturbing reality for a 16 year old, Betts described his time behind bars as a learning experience where he gained a deeper understanding of the world around him. “As much as prison was a terrible place, it was the most diverse place I had ever been,” he explained. Being in prison gave Betts a chance to speak with African-American elders and he was able to understand a history of failures and successes in his own culture. He considers himself fortune for having a desire for knowledge and learning which allowed him to grow as a person, even in the confinement of prison.

EMT Training Program Builds a Pipeline from Jail to Job

About two years ago, the director of an Alameda County’s juvenile justice residential program known as Camp Sweeney asked the County’s Emergency Medical Services Agency to come to career day at the camp. The agency pulled out some stops to impress the kids: they flew in a helicopter. Firefighters and paramedics volunteered to talk to the 70 or so youth serving time.
Afterwards, the kids were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up.
“Historically, they said police or probation officers, because those were the adults they had positive experience with,” said Alex Briscoe, director of the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency.
But this time, 15 young men said they wanted to be Emergency Medical Technicians.
The result has been an unusual collaboration that is changing the lives of many troubled youth.
Responding to that initial interest, a few EMS staff volunteered to provide a free first responder training at the camp. When that program was successful, they offered free EMT training classes Monday and Wednesday evenings at the Health Care Services Agency building. The classes were open to anyone in the community, and many graduates of the program at Camp Sweeney got involved.

Florida Using Horse Therapy to Rehabilitate Teens [video]

Texas isn't the only state using animals to rehabilitate its juvenile hall residents. For the past 12 weeks, eight young men from the St. Johns Youth Academy in Florida have spent their Friday mornings caring for and learning about horses.

The program was started by college student Jovie Reeves, who grew up riding horses. Jovie joined employees at Haven Horse Ranch in showing the boys how to care for and ride the horses.

Texas Juvenile Center Uses Foster Dogs to Teach Compassion, Responsibility, Respect

Feel good story of the day: A juvenile hall facility in Texas is using foster dogs to teach its teens compassion, respect and responsibility.

The Victoria Adopt-A-Pet Center and the Victoria Regional Juvenile Justice Center joined together to launch the Dream Seekers Animal Rescue and Training Program, which seeks to teach incarcerated teens about care, safety and training of pets. The hope is that through this program, the kids will develop patience, tolerance, responsibility, accoundability, dependability and compassion. The program is an extension of a previously established community service program where the teen inmates volunteer at the Adopt-A-Pet center once a week. 
Two of the participants, Devin Olguin and DeAndra Moffett, were featured in this recent AP story about the program and its impact. They are currently taking care of a daschund/terrier mix named Alice.  From the article: