In a great display of democracy in action, the Youth Justice Coalition has been soliciting the ideas, opinions, experiences, and concerns of the community as LA County works on determining a new chief for its juvenile probation department. The community, particularly its youth, have no say- so in this process--even though it is young people, particularly black and brown, most affected by what the juvenile probation department does. In fact, the selection process has been moving in secret. However, the county's chief executive officer, William Fujioka, who was directed by the LA County Supervisors to oversee the selection process, by now has received hundreds of calls and emails from Youth Justice Coalition and their supporters. I know Kim McGill, director of YJC, and have met many of their youth. They are truly innovative, consistent and persistent, on making the voices of the voiceless get heard. The YJC survey has just been completed. It is available at: https://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5438/images/12-22-09YJCActionUpdate.pdf The main issues the survey participants showed concerns over included 1) addressing racial inequality in the system--the fact nearly everyone in the system is black and brown 2) improve conditions in the juvenile halls and youth camps 3) reduce the number of youth in lockup 4) transfer funds to community-run alternatives to lockup 5) reduce the use of incarceration for probation violations 6) Support California Senate Bill 399 to give youth serving Life Without the Possibility of Parole a second chance. 100 percent of those taking the survey agreed that LA communities should meet the candidates for chief of the juvenile probation department before a final decision is made. They also looked strongly at possible candidates within the department, at the best criteria for chief, and other issues. Most interestedly they asked the survey participants to pick the person they most wanted as chief. I'm honored to say that 48 percent of the participants picked yours truly. A while back Kim McGill asked me if I'd be interested. Of course, I'm too controversial and not involved in the system to be selected. But if an opportunity could exist like this I would do it. Sometimes having an outside, community-based voice with vision and experience is exactly what's needed. Below is what the survey revealed about why I may even be a good candidate. I thank YJC for considering me as well as all the participants who supported me. The youth organizing team from the Youth Justice Coalition talked about our ideal Chief, and we decided that if it was our decision, we'd pick Luis Rodriguez, a leading Chicano novelist and poet, acclaimed gang intervention worker, and founder of Tía Chucha’s Centro Cultural in the SF Valley. Mr. Rodriguez said that if asked, he would serve! Do you agree that Luis Rodriguez would make a great Probation Chief? Or do you have someone else that you'd like to nominate? Let us know your thoughts. 48% of the people who responded to the survey said that they would definitely support having Luis Rodriguez as our next Probation Chief. Here are some of their comments: “Even though the county CEO and Board of Supervisors will not allow community based folks to hold high positions in government. Luis would be great.” “I believe that youth throughout the County of Los Angeles would see a much brighter future if Luis Rodriguez was our next Chief Probation Officer. By putting him into office, we would be planting the seed that could ultimately impact the lives of millions of youth in the future.” Respondents said that Luis would -- • have wonderful ideas • make a great Probation Chief • make a big change for people of color • relate to the youth and families of Los Angeles • be the best choice for L.A. • bring a genuine heart to the job • be a great leader for our community • I agree he has been an ideal role model for myself he has came from the streets and understands the struggle. he understand what I mean to be working class as well as why many youth becomes incarcerated. I believe he will be the best person to rely on. People mentioned the skills he would bring to the job including being – • a great Gang Interventionist • He has demonstrated a genuine interest in working for the youth. • Mr. Rodriguez is an interesting choice. I believe his philosophy aligns with a more collaborative approach with a focus on innovative arts interventions. • an ideal role model for myself and other youth. He has come from the streets and understands the struggle. He understand what it means to be working class, as well as why many youth become incarcerated. I believe he will be the best person to rely on. A few people raised reservations about Luis Rodriguez’ experience – • He's a great writer, and a valued community leader, but reforming juvenile justice is not a community issue, as such. In fact, there are very clear, evidenced based approaches that work, in Santa Clara County, in Missouri, etc. that need to be applied here. My suggestions: cut or decrease incarceration for probation violations, use best-practice therapy models, promote and support job training and education during incarceration, provide wrap-around support for post-incarceration kids, work with the DA to cease overcharging minors, encourage all judges to visit incarceration facilities monthly, promote more access for child advocates as long as the facilities are in such bad conditions, etc. • As much as I respect his work, I don't think he has the experience or background needed to manage a huge county system. • Although Rodriguez may bring needed insights to the department, we need someone who has experience working within the system. c/s
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