DJJ News Briefs Vol. 17, May 21, 2021

In this issue:

  • COVID-19 Vaccination Update.
  • Moorpark College, VYCF collaboration creates original drama
  • Kings former player, broadcaster, mentors Chad youth
  • DJJ mourns passing of educator Bruce McGowan
  • The CDCR Wellness App

Youth COVID vaccines begin as reopening plan unfolds

newly designed Covid-19 website
Reopening plans are posted on newly designed Covid-19 website,

Division of Juvenile Justice youth began receiving voluntary COVID-19 vaccines in April. Vaccination is a major step forward in overcoming the worldwide pandemic which has taken the lives of more than 600 thousand Americans, about ten percent of them in California.

The success of extraordinary efforts including vaccinations and the subsequent drop in new cases has allowed a reopening plan to take shape, and in person visitation and programming to resume at DJJ on a facility by facility basis. Mandatory face coverings is now optional in outdoor settings where physical distancing of six feet or more can be maintained. According the CDCR COVID tracker, almost half of DJJ staff have received a vaccination at facility sponsored clinics as of May 17.

In person visitation resumed at DJJ facilities in April, after more than a one year suspension of visitation due to the global pandemic. Heartwarming reunions, complete with hugs, occurred in four three hour sessions held during regular weekend visiting hours, featuring new COVID-19 precautions.

Both youth and visitors will require a negative test before visitation is allowed. Visitors must provide proof of a negative test taken no longer than 72 hours prior to the visit.  Visitors must show a copy of the negative test results when arriving for the visit, at least an hour before scheduled, in order to go through screening processes, which includes a verbal screening process and no touch temperature check.

No Covid-19 test result is needed if the visitor can show they are fully vaccinated, with two weeks passing since the final needed vaccination.

Details for scheduling a visit via email are posted on living units. Additionally details in English and Spanish, including information on obtaining needed tests is on the DJJ internet homepage at

As an alternative to in person visits, video visits will continue using Microsoft Teams. Visit this page for more details. (En Espanol)

Community College produces original plays by youth

Moorpark College student and faculty
Moorpark College student and faculty perform original plays by VYCF students April 30 via Zoom.

Moorpark College students and faculty performed an evening of original one act plays by student authors, including two by DJJ authors Stella H and Nathaniel G, on April 30 . Stella’s  Hell’s Broken Heart looks at love and the consequence of our decisions through the lens of a mythological underworld and Nathaniel’s Tilikum explores human sexuality, peer pressure and the nature of relationships that reaches beyond the surface attraction of youthful courtship rituals.

Poster art of Tilicum
Poster art of Tilicum, written by Nathaniel G.

VYCF higher education and transition coordinator Anthony Marenco facilitated the youth participation in the project over two semesters.  One was a playwriting course and the other, a production class that culminated in the April performance of ten one act plays by Moorpark Students in a virtual environment, due to COVID. “As educators, we recognize that creative expression can foster healing and mental well-being and our students share this perspective with us all the time, said Mr. Marenco. “Creative expressions make our students feel good, and we want to continue offering them different opportunities to find success through the arts.”  

The collaboration generated local media attention with articles published in the Ventura County Star and Moorpark Acorn.

Moorpark adjunct theater professor Suzanne Fagan who led the production course,  expressed satisfaction with the effort, and was impressed by the student authors’ maturity and use of Greek moral themes in Hell’s Broken Heart, and the juxtaposition of street language with high minded prose reminiscent of Shakespeare in Tilicum. Moorpark College adjunct professor Moira MacDonald led the playwriting class that created the material she viewed as quite sophisticated.

“I loved working with this group of young storytellers,” said Ms. MacDonald.  “They really took the tools of the writing process, embraced them and ran with them.  There is so much untapped brilliance and excitement here.”

Poster art of Hell’s Broken Heart
Poster art of Hell’s Broken Heart, authored by Stella H.

Two years ago, Moorpark College was asked to teach college courses at the youth facility in Camarillo and the Theatre Arts Department jumped at this opportunity. Professor Suzanne Fagan had past experience with bringing theatre to underserved and justice-involved communities and knew that students at both would benefit from the experience.  “In our theatre production course, , students get to direct and act in one acts that were written by students from the previous semester. I want our college students to know how powerful theatre is in building relationships, empathy and in healing” said Professor Fagan.  I know that for everyone in the cast, they look forward to the hour a week they get to spend with each other via Zoom. They work on the play, talk ideas, and get to know each other.”

“I loved working with this group of young storytellers. They really took the tools of the writing process, embraced them and ran with them.  There is so much untapped brilliance and excitement here.”

Adjunct Professor Moira Macdonad, Moorpark College

The two VYCF playwrights, Stella H.and Nathaniel G., were able to attend rehearsals weekly with their casts via Zoom. Rachael Gula, director of Stella’s piece, Hell’s Broken Heart, says, “Connecting with Stella, our playwright, has been an all-around incredibly rewarding experience. It is such a privilege to have the opportunity to collaborate with such talented and creative students. We are grateful for this collaboration to bring culturally rich and diverse stories to our community.”

The students at VYCF have attended other college classes from Moorpark College and the Ventura Community College District. They have the ability to work on Proficiency Awards, Certificates and Associates Degrees. Perhaps the great dramatists of the future are honing their craft through higher education partnerships like one between Moorpark and VYCF.

Sacramento Kings great mentors Chad youth

Sacramento Kings Broadcaster, former player, Doug Christie, mentors youth at Chad.
Sacramento Kings Broadcaster, former player, Doug Christie, mentors youth at Chad on April. Photo by Diahanna Gilyard

Former Sacramento Kings pro basketball guard and current broadcast commentator Doug Christie joined a Zoom call with youth at the N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility sponsored by the Anti-Recidivism Coalition for a talk about basketball and the challenges that life brings. Christie, whose enthusiasm as a catalyst for the Kings during their championship run era in the early 2000s, was evident in his up tempo, rhyming broadcast style. Christie “kept it 100” with the youth, and surmised the biggest difference between them was access to opportunities. A few of the youth shared their journeys and plans for the future. Mr. Christie shared stories about his past with the youth and encouraged them to pursue their dreams.

“Svengali of data” Bruce McGowan passes away

Bruce McGowan
Bruce McGowan, at the February 1, 2019 ribbon cutting for the library that bears his name at VYCF.

The DJJ community was saddened learn of the death of longtime educator Bruce McGowan who passed away on April 29, 2021, just two weeks after retiring. McGowan was a life-long educator, serving the students at the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) since November 1987, when he started as a teacher at the Youth Training School. In 2010, he transferred to the Southern California Youth Correctional Reception Center.  In September 2011, he transferred to Ventura Youth Correctional Facility, becoming a critical part of the faculty of Mary B. Perry High School.  He retired April 14, 2021.

McGowan was one of the original designers of the Ward Information Network, known as WIN. His ability to collect and interpret data, and present this information visually in graphs and charts, was much appreciated. :

“He was a Svengali of data,” said longtime colleague, Case Work Specialist Karette Fussell. “With the patience of Job and ‘Stephen Hawkingesk’ intelligence, Bruce could obtain and graph the most convoluted data, providing staff with the ability to discern trends, respond appropriately to issues, anticipate problems, and develop solutions. He had a kind and gentle energy about him, punctuated with a razor sharp wit and uncanny ability to grasp abstract concepts and with lightening dexterity, operationalize them; opening up a world of understanding, communication and implementation for the rest of us.”

To recognize his commitment to education, the renovated library and multimedia center at the Mary B. Perry High School was renamed in his honor in 2019.

“Bruce was always willing and eager to take on additional assignments and new work in his desire to assist the students and his colleagues. Most importantly, Bruce touched the hearts of everyone that knew him with his willingness to help and gentle demeanor,” wrote DJJ Director Dr. Heather Bowlds. “While we will miss Bruce’s physical presence, everyone who knew him will keep a part of Bruce in their hearts. We are thankful to Bruce for all his work, professionalism and friendship. Please join me in keeping Bruce’s family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”

Bruce’s obituary was shared with the larger CDCR community and is archived here.

Bruce McGowan with dog
Bruce McGowan with man’s best friend.

CDCR Wellness App

two phones running CDCR Wellness App
The CDCR Wellness app is free to employees, immediate relatives and retirees.

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 Wellness app is compatible with the following devices:

  • iPhone
  • iPad
  • iPod Touch
  • Android Phone
  • Android Tablet
  • State-Issued Cell Phone

Downloading Instructions

To download and install the CDCR Wellness app, search “CDCR Wellness” in the Apple App Store, Google Play Store, or, on a state-issued cellphone, the CDCR app portal or the CCHCS mobile phone catalog.

Looking for something?

Here some related content: