In this issue:
- DJJ staff receive multiple honors at 2021 CDCR Medal of Valor ceremonies
- DJJ Youth Firefighters Battle to Save Tahoe Basin in Caldor Fire
- Board of Juvenile Hearings Reports Nearly 40 Youth have Received Honorable Discharges
- Maria Harper Returns to Ventura as Superintendent
- Linda Bridges Retires as Superintendent at NCYCC
- A chaplain’s farewell to NCYCC staff and youth
DJJ staff honored at 2021 CDCR Medal of Valor ceremonies
Thirty three current and former Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) employees were among the 148 people honored for bravery and service at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) 2021 Medal of Valor Ceremony on September 24.
“These employees’ dedication to public service, their willingness to put themselves in harm’s way to save others and the work they do to improve our institutions and our communities exemplify the best in CDCR,” CDCR Secretary Kathleen Allison said.
Out of the 148 employees honored, 15 are members of the Alta Vista Treatment Team at Ventura Youth Correctional Facility and another 15 are members of the Owens Treatment Team at N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility. They received Distinguished Service Medals, awarded for an employee’s or a group of employees’ exemplary work conduct with the Department for a period of months or years, or involvement in a specific assignment of unusual benefit to the Department.
“These teams were honored for implementing the first-ever High Core Trial program, which provides pro-social treatment and interventions to the most behaviorally-challenged and gang-entrenched youth in DJJ,” noted DJJ Director Heather Bowlds.
Karette Fussell, Supervising Casework Specialist at Ventura Youth Correctional Facility, was one of two people named the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Professional of the Year.
Fussell serves as the disciplinary decision-making system coordinator as well as the drug testing coordinator, Public Records Act coordinator, litigation coordinator and public information officer. In addition, she is instrumental in the planning, creating, and facilitating of youth activities – all of which are incentive-based and capture the true essence of working with the youth population. The result is higher achievement, using innovative pursuits that decrease negative behaviors.
Associate Director of Mental Health and Treatment Programs Dr. Jonathan Yip was also awarded DJJ Professional of the Year. Among Dr. Yips’ extraordinary achievements, he led monitoring and reporting updates throughout the pandemic; implemented new policies, practices and training required under the Transgender Respect, Agency and Dignity Act; and developed a staff survey to help provide insight to the executive management team on how best to help staff as DJJ transitions through Realignment.
Now retired Pine Grove Youth Conservation Camp Superintendent Jim Liptrap was honored with a Bronze Star for heroism for treating an unconscious person during an off duty incident.
Because of COVID-19, this year’s Medal of Valor ceremony was pre-recorded. Employees from nearly all disciplines and professions from CDCR statewide received awards at the virtual ceremony that featured videos, narratives and photographs.
DJJ Youth Firefighters Battle to Save Tahoe Basin in Caldor Fire
Two hand crews of Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) youth firefighters from Pine Grove Youth Conservation Camp (PGGYCC) firefighters and three DJJ staff were deployed to the Caldor Fire in El Dorado County in September. The more than two dozen firefighters arrived after being previously assigned to the Dixie Fire in Butte County and the Tamarack Fire in Alpine County earlier this summer. The crews have recently been reassigned to Shasta County.
The firefighters are youths aged 18 and older who meet physical and behavioral criteria. They are trained by CALFIRE staff at the historic camp in Amador County, and participate in fire abatement and community improvement projects in the off season, while also participating in treatment and education programs.
Pine Grove is the oldest continuously operated fire camp in the country, in state service since 1945. Despite DJJ’s planned closure in 2023, the fire camp will remain open to train eligible justice-involved youth in wildland firefighting skills.
BJH Reports Nearly 40 Youth have Received Honorable Discharges
The Board of Juvenile Hearings (BJH) reports that 16 former Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) youth have applied for and received honorable discharges in the first half of 2021. Over the past three years, 39 Honorable Discharges have been granted by the BJH. Thirteen were granted in 2020 and ten in 2019. BJH Executive Director Rachel Stern says another dozen applications are in process and will be taken action upon this year.
Former DJJ youth can apply for an Honorable Discharge if it has been at least 18 months since they were discharged, they have completed their probation or parole term, they have shown an ability to desist from criminal behavior, and they have started a successful transition to adulthood. After sending an application and short personal statement to the Board of Juvenile Hearings, they may appear in front of the Board to speak about their growth since leaving DJJ. For profiles of former DJJ youth who have turned their lives around, see this article on Hilarry White, a 2020 Honorable Discharge recipient, who now mentors justice-involved youth; and Oscar Gonzales, who is pursuing higher education goals.
Linda Bridges Retires as Superintendent at NCYCC
After two dozen years of service to DJJ, Linda Bridges announced her retirement in September. Linda was the Superintendent at the Northern California Youth Correctional Center where she lead two youth facilities, N.A.Chaderjian and O.H. Close. Prior to this assignment, Linda was the Assistant Superintendent of N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility (Chad).
She began her career with DJJ in 1997 and held the positions of youth correctional counselor, senior youth correctional counselor, sergeant, parole agent I and III and program administrator. She was appointed Superintendent in 2017.
Director Heather Bowlds said “Linda’s leadership, vision and commitment to the youth and DJJ staff will truly be missed.” We all wish her good luck in her next endeavor–as a grandmother!
Maria Harper Returns to Ventura as Superintendent
Maria Harper brings decades of experience in juvenile justice as she has been named Superintendent (A) at the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility—a second stint as leader of the place she began her career in 1991 as a Youth Correctional Officer. She promoted through the ranks from Sergeant to Senior Youth Correctional Counselor, to Lieutenant, to Treatment Team Supervisor. In 2007 she was the Camp Administrator at the S. Carraway Ventura Public Service and Fire Center, a DJJ Fire Camp. In 2012, she returned to VYCF and promoted to Program Administrator. In 2014 she was promoted to Assistant Superintendent. Ms. Harper was appointed Superintendent of VYCF from 2016 until her retirement in 2018. Ms. Harper returned from retirement to serve as Superintendent (A) in August of 2021. Maria succeeds Kenny Fewer, who retired.
NCYCC Catholic Chaplain says goodbye with gift to all
Catholic Chaplain Deacon Fidel Castro is leaving DJJ for Mule Creek State Prison, but his farewell gift to youth and staff was memorable and delicious. At the deacon’s expense and with the help of community volunteers, staff and youth were treated to a taco lunch on Monday, Sept. 20. Setting up in a tent at the Stockton Training Center parking lot for COVID-19 safety, staff could arrive and receive a to-go lunch and beverage, and a chance to say goodbye to Deacon Carrillo, who will be moving to Mule Creek next week after six years of service at DJJ. After staff was served, volunteers delivered tacos to youth. Deacon Carrillo will be remembered for serving the spiritual needs of the youth, while keeping their feet planted on the ground. Among his most meaningful experiences was organizing the Get on the Bus event that allowed families of limited means to visit in person over a weekend, staying overnight and enjoying a family brunch before returning. He hopes that tradition will continue. We wish him the best of luck in his new endeavor.
CDCR Wellness App provides service on the go
The CDCR Wellness app provides 24/7 confidential instant access to correctional wellness tools and resources, for all CDCR, CCHCS and DJJ employees, immediate family members and retirees. The Wellness app is voluntary and can be downloaded on a personal or state issued cell phone. The Wellness app does not collect any personal information or the user’s in-app activity, which allows users complete anonymity while using the app.
The CDCR Wellness app contains a comprehensive correctional wellness toolkit comprised of information on Emotional Health, Family Support, Grief and Loss, Parenting Tips, Dr. Gilmartin video clips, Stress Management, Trauma and more. Additional modules contain Fitness and Nutrition information, Instructional Yoga videos and information on numerous health and mindfulness topics. The app also provides users direct access to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), Peer Support Program (PSP), and Law Enforcement & Community Services, California Chaplain Corps (LECS/CCC).
The Wellness app is compatible with the following devices:
• iPod Touch
• Android Phone
• Android Tablet
• State-Issued Cell Phone
To download and install the CDCR Wellness app, search “CDCR Wellness” in the Apple App Store