Project My Choice

Official Dosomething.org Project

The Problem

Project My Choice addresses the following problems and needs: 1.) Gang warfare/delinquency, and its concomitant elevated crime and homicide rates, require more than suppression strategies. 2.) The lack of holistic programs, implemented by competent staff, designed to reduce violence in the delinquent/gang-involved youth population in Los Angeles, CA. o How we know there is a need: § “Gang Wars: The Failure of Enforcement Tactics and the Need for Effective Public Safety Strategies”, a report released by the Justice Policy Institute argues that the billions of dollars spent on traditional gang suppression activities have failed to promote public safety and are often counterproductive. According to the report, in cities like Los Angeles, where gang activity is most prevalent, more police, more prisons and more punitive measures haven’t stopped the cycle of gang violence; furthermore, heavy-handed suppression tactics can increase gang cohesion while failing to reduce violence. Source: www.JPI.org. § There were 2,630 youth-on-youth fights in the camps last year, with between 2,300 and 2,600 projected for this year, according to department statistics. In the juvenile halls, there were 2,738 fights last year, and 1,702 altercations through August of this year. One youth was paralyzed and another lost an eye during attacks at the Sylmar facility earlier this year. Source: Los Angeles Times; 11/16/2006 The youth we serve share the following characteristics: · Live in communities associated with low socio-economic status. · Live in communities plagued by violence and insecurity. · Have experienced a major traumatic event, such as the death of a loved one, or survived sexual assault, by the time they first enter our program. · Over-represented in detention (Latinos and African-American youth account for over 95% of youth in detention, although together they represent 64% of the overall population in this age group in L.A. County). Among this population, violence often results when youth do not have the emotional and psychosocial skills, self-esteem, or resources to adequately care for themselves and their families. Furthermore, most professionals are not competent in dealing with youth who are so different in their own subcultures from that which these professionals would understand. There is a lack of effective communication and relationship-building between the professional and the client. o Project Description Sin Fronteras works to break cycles of violence by helping youth develop specific skills needed to transition from incarceration to successful community living. The ten-week series of psycho-educational workshops, implemented inside the Probation facilities, consist of life and psychosocial skills training (i.e., conflict resolution, effective communication, boundaries, etc.), health education, parenting, anger management, education, and job skills/job preparation training. The youth who participate in “My Choice” are directly involved in their learning process by providing feedback and suggestions in the pre-and post-tests. In the tenth workshop, youth are administered a post-test, to assess knowledge gained and changes in attitudes about violence, what they liked most and least about the training, what they would do differently if they were running the workshops. This curriculum was developed by youth, and has guaranteed its success and efficacy. The outline of the ten-week psycho-educational workshop curriculum is attached. o Our project is implemented in two locations. Group size is per each ten-week workshop cycle. The first group consists of an average of 75 male youth, ages 13-19, serving sentences at Challenger Memorial Youth Center. Many of the youth are repeat offenders, and often Challenger is their last stop in the juvenile justice system before entering the California Youth Authority or State prison. The second group consists of an average of 50 female youth, ages 13-19, in custody at Central Juvenile Hall in Lincoln Heights, California. According to OJJDP, it is estimated that 70% of girls entering the juvenile justice system have survived a sexual assault, such as incest or rape. All the youth we work with transition back to various parts of Los Angeles County upon their release, and some are deported to their countries of origin. o Success in achieving the desired outcomes will be measured as follows: · Upon completion of the ten-week training period, 75% of the youth will be able to state how they will use the information learned and apply it to their lives by giving personally appropriate examples. · Youths who complete the workshops will have a better understanding of the various factors that lead to violent behavior; will be able to define other behavioral choices and resources that are available to them to reduce violent behavior within themselves and in their communities. · As a result of their participation in these workshops, 60% of those youth originally convicted of violent offenses will report a decrease in the use of violent and/or aggressive behavior to resolve their conflicts, as measured by self-report and reports from Probation staff.

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