DJJ Newsbriefs, Vol. 15, February 12, 2021

DJJ youth use their words and healing follows

America stood amazed and delighted on January 20, when a young poet from Los Angeles spoke words of wisdom and hope at the inauguration of President Joe Biden. The event brought attention to the art of poetry and spoken word and made a star of 22 year old poet Amanda Gorman.

Did you know DDJ youth are also published poets? Youth at NAC and OHC published an anthology of poetry last year. Entitled it’s a beautiful STRUGGLE, it was authored by DJJ youth through a program with 916 Ink, a renowned Sacramento based writing workshop for young people. Prior to the pandemic, the youth participated in a book unveiling and reading, an event that mirrored the style of book events all over, including delicious refreshments, and individual readings of several pieces of work for an appreciative audience of fellow writers and mentors.

A poster advertising it’s a beautiful STRUGGLE, signed by the authors.
A poster advertising it’s a beautiful STRUGGLE, signed by the authors.
Youth Reynaldo W. joyfully reads his poetry
Youth Reynaldo W. joyfully reads his poetry at a book party in early 2020.
Copies of it’s a beautiful STRUGGLE.
Copies of it’s a beautiful STRUGGLE. It’s available at the library.

At Ventura Youth Correctional Facility, youth Paige G. had an entire collection of poetry published by an online book seller that specializes in minority voices in literature. Paige credits creative expression through words as a way out of a life out of hopelessness and crime. “I thought outside the box when they boxed me in – and even though I had never known how to express myself verbally, writing became my escape. After my fifth time being incarcerated, I re-assessed my whole life and realized I had a purpose. Although I couldn’t exactly figure out what it was, I knew I had to start somewhere.”

We Only Live to Die cover
We Only Live to Die is available for sale on

“Paige has parlayed her talents into a book of profound poetry, a beautifully crafted mechanism for self- healing with words of wisdom and intensity that motivates others,” said Supervising Case Work Specialist Karette Fussell.

Paige, who won a scholarship from the Ventura Citizens Advisory Committee last year, is continuing her studies at the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston, where she is attending classes remotely via videoconference. Also a talented musician and song writer, she recently placed two songs in the top five in the national Unsung Competition. Paige G.’s collection, entitled We Only Live to Die, is available for sale at

We Only Live to Die
Paige G.’s collection, entitled We Only Live to Die is available for sale at

Educational accomplishment continues amid COVID-19 precautions

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hampered education throughout California and the nation, DJJ students attending high school, college and vocational programs continue to receive their education and experience success. 

“DJJ students are encouraged and supported by all DJJ facility staff to complete their education”, said Superintendent of Public Education Troy Fennel. “As a direct result, DJJ has awarded a total of 70 diplomas and 14 GED certificates from between last July and January.”   Superintendent Fennel noted each high school experienced academic achievement:  

  • N A Chaderjian has had 27 students earn diploma’s and 6 students earn GED certificates. 
  • OH Close has had 17 diplomas earned and 5 GED certificates. 
  • Ventura YCF has awarded 26 diplomas and 3 GED certificates.

DJJ high schools are fully accredited through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. High school graduates have access to higher education opportunities, including vocational certificates like computer coding, that can lead to lucrative careers. Credit goes to students, who accomplished the work, as well as dedicated staff who made sure education went on, via hybrid learning modes such as distance learning, teleconferencing software and in person instruction.

Sara Smith, Chief of the Office of the Ombudsman
Sara Smith, Chief of the Office of the Ombudsman, describes her family’s battle with
COVID-19 in a video.

Vaccinate, vaccinate, our team is really great!

More than 400 staff at DJJ have received one or two doses of the vaccine approved to prevent COVID-19. In Ventura, vaccination clinics were held onsite. At the Stockton complex, staff were able to access vaccine at the nearby California Health Care Facility. Staff in contact with youth are considered a high priority for vaccination. Staff not working in facilities will be prioritized for vaccine at a later date.

For more information on vaccination, several helpful Websites and videos have been produced. One especially moving video recounts the harrowing experience of COVID-19 suffered by a well known member of the CDCR family, Ombudsman Sara Smith.

Realignment Website and Portal unveiled

Recognizing the impacts the planned closure of DJJ will have on staff, families, and community partners, the DJJ Realignment Portal portal has been launched and aims to be a hub of useful information.

As you know, the Governor’s 2020-21 Budget gradually transfers the responsibility for managing all committed youth housed at the DJJ from the state to local county jurisdictions. DJJ will no longer accept new commitments after June 30, 2021, with some exceptions defined in SB 823. The latest Budget proposes further amending SB 823 to set a defined closure date of June 30, 2023 for all DJJ facilities. This builds on the Administration’s commitment to providing more treatment and rehabilitative services for youth closer to home. 

Please refer to this page, available to staff who are logged into the CDCR network, for important updates, resources, and links.

Screenshot of the DJJ Realignment Portal page
Screenshot of the DJJ Realignment Portal page designed for employees.

Got stress? There’s an app for that. Introducing the new CDCR Wellness App!

CDCR has launched the new CDCR Wellness app for all CDCR, CCHCS and DJJ employees, immediate family members and retirees. The Wellness app provides 24/7 confidential and anonymous instant access to correctional wellness tools and resources and can be downloaded on to a personal or state issued cell phone. Get more information here. Or, copy and paste into your browser: http://intranet/ADM/DSS/hr/oew/Pages/CDCR_Wellness_App.aspx

two phones running CDCR Wellness App
The CDCR Wellness app is downloadable at the Google and Apple App stores for all state issued and personal smart phones.

Sending messages of love for Valentine’s Day

O.H. Close youth made Valentine’s Day cards to send to family and loved ones. Every hall had an opportunity—some a few times—to make the Valentines. The youth really enjoyed making cards, under the supervision of Recreation Therapist Angela Tarbat, who does a sensational job engaging youth with projects and keeping them busy. Ms. Tarbat’s efforts are always appreciated!

Youth Brian M. displays his Valentine's Day creation.
Youth Brian M. displays his Valentine’s Day creation. Photo credit: Ray Knight.
Youth displays his Valentine's Day creation featuring Winnie the Pooh.
Pooh send hugs for Valentine’s Day.