DJJ News Briefs: Volume 11, August 28, 2020


The Pine Grove fire camp crew at the Power Fire in Madera County in July, 2020.
The Pine Grove fire camp crew at the Power Fire in Madera County in July, 2020.

Pine Grove Firefighters, “Absolute Heroes”

ABC10, Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto digital reporter Samantha Solomon interviewed Pine Grove Youth Conservation Camp (PGYCC) Superintendent Jim Liptrap as four hand crews from the camp were deployed on the Butte Lightening Complex fire. PGYCC crews have been busy this summer fire season up and down the state on incidents in Riverside, Madera and Butte counties. Here’s a link to the story, which is a must read.


Screenshot of news headline, "They're Absolute Heroes"
News 10 profiled Pine Grove Superintendent Jim Liptrap.

Scholarship = Intellectual Currency

Citizen’s Advisory Committee Sends VYCF Youth to College, Awards $30,000

By Karette Fussell

Thirty thousand dollars in scholarship money to support student aspirations in higher education was awarded on July 2 by the Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC) to Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) youth at the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility (VYCF) in Camarillo. The ceremony was conducted through a Skype ceremony due to COVID-19.

The CAC is a group of volunteers from the local community who assist VYCF with the responsibility of rehabilitating youthful offenders. The CAC also provides academic tutoring on a weekly basis. Their efforts have not been daunted as tutoring via Skype has been instituted to respond to the pandemic.

Academic achievement is an integral part of the mission and philosophy driving DJJ, which is predicated upon the belief in a youth’s ability to grow and change. Providing educational opportunities for transformation is an important part of helping youth prepare for a better future.

CAC Scholarships ensure financial support for students pursuing higher education. Once a student is enrolled in college or vocational study, funds will be directly applied towards tuition, books, and other educational expenses. Fourteen scholarships were awarded by the CAC and one youth is already enrolled in college pending discharge into the community.

Re-entry Coordinator Erika Mutchler, in collaboration with Institutional Parole Agents, Casework Specialists and Tony Chavez, Community Resource Manager are essential to creating intellectual currency for our youth by ensuring community connectivity. Their teamwork in conjunction with VYCF’s teachers, professors from local universities, the Prison Education Program (PEP) and CAC are dedicated to ensuring intellectual currency is exchanged at the highest level and parlayed into a solid foundation for future academic excellence.

Youth Myesha received a total of $7,000 of CAC scholarship funds and stated, “Receiving another scholarship is a blessing. Citizen Advisory Committee has taken time out to evaluate us and comprehend our needs. I plan on using the scholarship money I’ve accumulated over the years toward law school and possibly to attend dance school to pave my way as a dancer while in college.”

“This means that I have a better opportunity to go to school for an education” said, Youth Dominiq, recipient of a $1,000 CAC scholarship.” I am going to go to school for nursing or invest in a real-estate license.”

“It means a lot that I have received such a gift to benefit me in my future and that I actually have the means necessary to further my education to reach my goals of success, said Youth Sophia who received a total $4,800 in scholarship funds from CAC.  “I’m looking forward to having my dream career and these scholarships have made that possible. I plan on using my scholarship to expand my knowledge in coding by attending a vocational coding boot camp. I also plan on going to college to study psychology so I can have my own private practice one day.”

DJJ Youth Myesha with Scholarship Award
DJJ Youth with Scholarship.
DJJ Youth Dominiq with Scholarship award
DJJ Youth with Scholarship award.
DJJ Youth Sophia with Scholarship award
Myesha (upper left), Dominiq, (upper right or center) and Sophia (lower left) with their CAC scholarship awards.

Myesha (upper left), Dominiq, (upper right or center) and Sophia (lower left) with their CAC scholarship awards.

VOICES OF YOUTH: The Meeting of the Minds

The Changing Lives Book Club at VYCF Offers Hope, Rehabilitation, Healing

By DJJ Youth, Jordan M., with PIO Karette Fussell

Imagine a welcoming space that opens doors to bold new worlds, a sanctuary of intellectual exchange creating an interlude of understanding and connectivity that surpasses preconceived social constructs, misperceptions and judgement; a treatment mecca where the meeting of the minds is as commonplace as turning the page of a book.

Changing Lives Book Club provides such a space, it exists in the midst of Ventura Youth Correctional Facility and offers youth participants an idyllic opportunity to read books and discuss their impressions, thoughts and feelings while embarking upon a journey of learning among peers. Dr. Leong, a Psychologist at Ventura Youth Correctional Facility, facilitates Changing Lives Book Club on a weekly basis with at least 6 youth participants and now a Book Club #2 is also being facilitated by Dr. Leong due to popular demand. Youth Jordan M. provides an exclusive look into the experience of being a participant in Changing Lives Book Club, writing:

“When someone would mention a book club, the first thought that came to my mind was a group of men sitting in a circle, reading a boring book and using it as an excuse to gossip. So to find out there was one here, I didn’t know what to expect. Come to find out that there was one here that was started by youth. So once I got an offer to join, I figured why not get involved with something and stay productive. And once I joined, I knew why it’s been going strong for about 4 years. I can honestly say that Changing Lives Book Club does something different than other Book Clubs.  For one, it helps us find our voice. I would’ve never thought that I would have been writing a piece for this Book Club, but look at me now.

A lot of us don’t know how to express ourselves positively. It helps form our own opinions and accept others. So coming forces us to interact with people we don’t usually interact with. We also learn and identify treatment concepts like co-dependency which I also came to find out a lot of us struggle with here. Learning about treatment concepts allowed us to develop our emotional regulation and in ways to develop our own evaluative mind. And last, it offers us an escape; an escape from an environment we are not particularly comfortable in. It offers us a calm and relaxing place to go and surround ourselves with people you can relate to. Although there is more that Changing Lives Book Club does, I really don’t know how to put it down in writing. To Changing Lives Book Club, keep going for 4 more years and continue to change lives a book at a time.”

Dr. Leong, like many of the staff at VYCF, is multi-talented and multitasking is merely a part of her daily job duties. The Integrated Behavior Treatment Model (IBTM) drives treatment and rehabilitation at VYCF and emphasizes positive reinforcement over punishment which encourages innovation in finding and creating opportunities to support prosocial behavior. The philosophical underpinnings of IBTM support starting where the youth is and the meeting of the minds between staff and youth creates opportunities for youth to navigate rehabilitation, generate hope and accelerate healing as youth Jordan M. so eloquently describes in his experience of the Changing Lives Book Club.

Hot Dog Eating Contest Offers Safe Summer Fun, Relief Amid COVID-19

By Karette Fussell

Summer fun and a dream of youth Victor L. was satiated all at once during a Hot Dog Eating Contest held by Superintendent Fewer at Ventura Youth Correctional Facility on 7/1/20. Victor shared that he always wanted to participate in a hot dog eating contest and swiftly ate his way to first place, devouring 12 hot dogs in 3 minutes!

Victor L. with his prize.
Victor L. with his prize.

Fourteen youth participated and were seated 6 feet apart on colorful picnic tables uniquely decorated by our youth population. As a precaution, nursing staff also stood by during the gastronomic challenge.

The physically-distanced competition rages.
The physically-distanced competition rages.

Spirit Week at VYCF, NCYCC

Animal print, crazy socks, and more!

From August 10 through August 14, DJJ staff were encouraged to participate in Spirit Week at NCYCC by donning rather unusual workwear. Staff showed their spirit by wearing animal print on Monday, CDCR/DJJ apparel on Tuesday, Hawaiian-themed items on Wednesday, crazy socks and color-coded shirts by seniority on Thursday, and sports attire and/or jeans on Friday.

Spirit Week calendar
Above: Spirit Week calendar.
Animal print  Right: DJJ/CDCR items.
Above. Animal print Right: DJJ/CDCR items.
DJJ/CDCR items.
DJJ/CDCR items.

Left: Animal print on Monday. Right: DJJ/CDCR items.

In case you missed it…

Executive Fellow Profiles Honorable Discharge Recipients

Recently the Board of Juvenile Hearings granted several Honorable Discharges. DJJ Headquarters Executive Fellow Jenean Docter interviewed several former DJJ youth who received honorable discharges and wrote two profiles chronicling the rehabilitative journeys of Hilarry White and Oscar Gonzales that were published in Inside CDCR.  Jenean leaves us after 10 months with DJJ, and we wish her the very best. The Executive Fellows Program, sponsored by Sacramento State University, places postgraduates in the executive suites of state agencies for a year, where they get an opportunity to observe and participate in policy level decision-making, while taking part in weekly seminars with their peers on variety of issues across the spectrum of state government.