Juvenile offender programs prove efficacy in recidivism
By Aldrich M. Tan
April 15, 2006
Keneshia Bush said her first time in prison was at age 13. Bush's
mother was a drug addict who abandoned Bush when she was six-years-old.
Bush said she got addicted to marijuana and ended up in juvenile
Then, Bush was recommended to the Youth Treatment & Education
Center, a leadership program that provided schooling and therapy
to juvenile offenders. Bush, now 19, said she is a student at
the City College of San Francisco.
"YTEC provided a safe place that felt comfortable for me
to change my life," Bush said at Monday's Select Committee
on Ending Gun and Gang Violence.
Bush is one of many juvenile offenders who benefited from the
city's ex-offender programs, said Bill Sieferman, Chief Probation
Officer for the Juvenile Probation Office. Programs such as the
Youth Treatment & Education Center specialize in empowering
juvenile offenders and provide opportunities to turn away from
lives of crime.
"We have the opportunity to change how the juvenile justice
system works and the system that puts the kids in the position
in the first place," said Margot Gibney, administrative director
for the Youth Treatment & Education Center.
The Youth Treatment & Education Center is a collaborative
project between the city government, the police department and
the school district, Gibney said.
The program currently has 55 students and a high success rate,
clinical director Ernest Brown said. Post-program recidivism after
6 months is 7 percent and 12.1 percent after 12 months.
Supervisor Tom Ammiano said Bush's anecdote started off the meeting
on a positive note.
"The word 'safe' jumped out to me throughout your testimony,"
Ammiano said. "Nothing can really happen unless a person
Keir Davidson, 25, said the Youth Treatment & Education Center
provides the needed safe space for juvenile offenders. Davidson
facilitated writing workshops for the Youth Treatment & Education
Center through the "The Beat Within," a writing and
conversation program in juvenile halls throughout the Bay Area
and in Virginia and Arizona.
"Seeing success stories like Keneshia's keeps me doing what
I'm doing," Davidson said.
Davidson said he is also an ex-offender who benefited from city
programs. Raised by divorced parents, Davidson found himself in
and out of court many times. Then, Davidson participated in the
Log Cabin Ranch, a 12-month residency program for young male juveniles.
"I was able to be away from an environment that tried to
suck me back in," Davidson said. "It gave me time to
reflect and put my life back together."
Samuel Carr, 30, is another ex-offender who changed his life
through various ex-offender programs such as the Log Cabin Ranch
and the Omega Boys Club. Carr said he was part of Log Cabin Ranch
program for eight months from 1988 to 1989.
"The counselors at the program were able to see the goodness
inside me," Carr said.
Carr is completing a masters degree in education at the City
College of San Francisco. Carr wants to develop afterschool programs
to deter young kids in the community from lives of crime.
"It's not just a job," Carr said. "It's about
The Log Cabin Ranch is growing in popularity, Sieferman said.
The program currently has 28 people but many more waiting for
slots to open up in the program.
"We have doubled our populations because of the elevated
confidence level that the courts have in our programs," Sieferman
Funding recently allocated by the Board of Supervisors will help
the agency expand its services, Sieferman said.
"It's obvious that we have the resources in San Francisco
to empower our youth," Supervisor Sophie Maxwell said. "We
need to keep these resources going."
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi said improving the education system
is also important to keep youth out of crime.
"It's great to hear what is happening on this side,"
Mirkarmi said, "but we also need to hear more from the front
end, such as the dislocating of school populations in troubled
The school district added two special-education teachers and
a site administrator from the special education department, Brown
"We have incredible opportunity to bring stakeholders together
in larger way," Gibney said. "We've had our struggles
bringing resources to our school but the district has really come
forward with resources."
Comer Marshall, board of trustees' member of the First Union
Baptist Church, applauds the efforts but said community involvement
"The communities affected need to also become aware and
get involved with these programs because we initially need to
look at how to prevent these kids from getting into the system
in the first place," Marshall said.