After 13 years of leading the field of mentoring in technical assistance & training and in direct services for the most highly at–risk youth, The Mentoring Center (TMC) is embarking on a policy initiative. TMC’s policy advocacy is informed by effective practice. The majority of clients served by TMC are youth involved in the juvenile justice system, TMC’s Policy Advocacy and Public Education Department will therefore focus primarily on influencing juvenile justice as well as general child welfare issues
In California, the state juvenile corrections system has been under fire for its abuse of wards, misuse of an enormous budget and for its horrendous recidivism rate of 90 percent. The governor and state legislature have proposed changes but most lack the deep reaching systemic overhaul required to truly improve the California Youth Authority (CYA). What is missing from most policy discussions are groups on the ground, involved in communities, with youth offenders who can also effectively have a voice in public policy. TMC is poised to fill that void.
TMC is currently involved in a coalition of policy wonks and community based organizations who seek to reform CYA. The group includes the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, Delancy Street, Ella Baker Center, The W. Haywood Burns Institute, The Mentoring Center, and Pacific News Service. TMC has also recently launched a Juvenile Justice Initiative funded by the Rockefeller Foundation to research juvenile justice policies, recommend changes to policy makers and the public as well as to publish a Best Practices Guide for organizations serving youth offenders.
TMC proposes to formally launch its Policy Advocacy and Public Education Department with a project to conduct research, survey state agencies and community based organizations and propose and promote changes to California’s juvenile justice system. This project will not only look at the state’s CYA but also at county systems, many which suffer from the same shortcomings that plague the state system. In the Bay Area’s Alameda County, youth on probation re-offend or have their probation revoked at a rate of 70 percent.
TMC has a long history of working with system partners. TMC has worked closely with CYA and the Alameda County Probation Department for many years. TMC’s policy work will be advocacy without agitation. TMC will work with stakeholders and system partners in order to bring about systems change. While we recognize the place for agitation, we have also recognized the effectiveness of working with system partners to make change.
Not only must the state and county juvenile justice system improve but communities and the organizations in them must have an increased capacity to receive youth offenders when they re-enter society after incarceration. In addition to policy advocacy and public education, TMC proposes to work with community based organizations to improve their ability to effectively serve the youth offender population.