DJJ Newsbriefs, Vol. 18, June 29, 2021

In this issue:

  • High School Graduations
  • Fork Lift Certifications
  • Kenny Fewer Retires
  • DJJ promotes gender diversity

High School Graduation, 2021; a time for reflection, accomplishment and hope

Graduate Speaker Steven Sweeny addresses the graduating class of Johanna Boss High School
Graduate Speaker Steven Sweeny addresses the graduating class of Johanna Boss High School at commencement ceremonies held June 11, 2021. Photo by OPEC.

This month, the Division of Juvenile Justice held graduation ceremonies at each of its four high schools, awarding 124 diplomas and 23 GEDs.

  • N A Chaderjian High School has had 45 students earn diploma’s and 12 students earn GED certificates. 
  • OH Close (Johana Boss High School) has had 31 diplomas earned and 8 GED certificates. 
  • Ventura (Mary B. Perry High School) has awarded 48 diplomas and 3 GED certificates.

Each ceremony included speeches by youth, who thoughtfully expressed the meaning of the accomplishment and the growth that is possible through education and learning. “What kinds of experiences will you create,” challenged youth Joshua Silver of Chad. “What kinds of memories will you make? When things don’t go as planned, strive and push forward no matter what life throws you.”

That theme was echoed by Mary B. Perry High School Valedictorian Alexandria Ransom, “Graduation is one more block in a wall of achievements – a door that opens pathways and strengthens us for what will come in the future – the world may look dark and the path may look lonely, but if you open your eyes you will see a whole world in front of you.”

The keynote commencement speaker for each ceremony was given by Dr. Renford Reese, a professor at CalPoly Pomona, who exhorted the graduates to ignore the naysayers and “be the person you were born to be!” Professor Reese, a political science professor and prolific author, is a founder the Prison Education Project and executive director of Project Rebound, which encourages incarcerated youth and adults to earn four year degrees at participating California State Universities.

Keynote Speaker Dr. Renford Reese of CalPoly Pomona
Keynote Speaker Dr. Renford Reese of CalPoly Pomona enjoys a light moment with the class of 2021. Photo: OPEC

Due to ongoing COVID-19 protocols, for the second straight year, families were prevented from attending the ceremonies, so the Office of Employee and Public Communication sent a video team to record the ceremonies. They will be edited, archived and shared with families and staff for viewing for a limited period.

“Our goal is to support each youth so that they earn their high school diploma while they are with us.” said Superintendent of Education Troy Fennel.

Said DJJ Director Heather Bowlds to this year’s class, “Enjoy this moment. You deserve it.”

It’s certified: They can move it!

Congratulations are due to eight O.H. Close students who completed their counter-balance industrial lift truck certification during the month of June.  The Safety Awareness for Forklift Equipment program builds operating and safety knowledge and prepares students for jobs in the materials handling business. The students learn forklift fundamentals and are able to complete a walk around safety inspection. There is also a driving portion to this certification where students need to maneuver an empty, as well as loaded forklift through a course. These students demonstrated operational capability and mechanical understanding of a forklift’s functions. “CDCR-DJJ has provided our students with outstanding opportunities to learn an industry career and to increase qualifications for successful employment,” said OHC Vocational Instructor Andrew Hasse-Macmillan. “These students took full advantage of those opportunities and I’m proud of them as they have increased their employability skills greatly.”

Kenny Fewer retires, tailors weep

Ventura Youth Correctional Facility Acting Superintendent Kenny Fewer.
Ventura Youth Correctional Facility Acting Superintendent Kenny Fewer.

An era comes to a close on June 30, when Kenny Fewer retires after 32 years of service to DJJ. Kenny retires as the acting Superintendent of Ventura Youth Correctional Facility, but his career spans decades, beginning in 1989 at the historic Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Facility in Whittier.

It’s an historic irony since the Whittier facility, opened in 1891, was the first facility for youth in the state and Ventura, opened in 1913, was the first facility designed for girls. Kenny served at both. 

Famous for his natty attire and a suit for every imaginable occasion, he strives to keep the atmosphere light amid the serious business of youth treatment and rehabilitation.

“Kenny’s leadership, vision and passion will truly be missed,” said Director Heather Bowlds in a staff email announcing the retirement.

During his career, he served as Youth Correctional Counsellor (YCC), Senior YCC, Lieutenant, Treatment Team Supervisor, Captain, Acting Program Administrator, Assistant Superintendent and Acting Superintendent. In short, he’s done it all.

Kenny is an affable man who develops a genuine rapport with youth, parents, staff and community partners. It’s an approach that has enriched DJJ for the better. Best wishes to Kenny in retirement. Enjoy this retrospective of Supt. Fewer’s diverse wardrobe choices.

Kenny decks the hall with Asst. Superintendent Jenny Dillon, (left) and DJJ Director Heather Bowlds
Kenny decks the hall with Asst. Superintendent Jenny Dillon, (left) and DJJ Director Heather Bowlds, (right).
A certified cowboy.
A certified cowboy. Happy Trails!
Ken Fewer in pink suit.
Pretty in Pink
Kenny  Fewer in office attire.
Proof Kenny does own office attire.
Ken Fewer in patriotic attire.
Mr. America. Fighting the good fight, every day.

In case you missed it…

As published in the CDCR employee news blog, Inside CDCR on June 23

DJJ makes gender respect a priority

By Karette FussellSupervising Case Work Specialist for Ventura Youth Correctional Facility

The Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) makes gender responsivity and self-advocacy a priority. Gender responsiveness refers to outcomes that demonstrate an understanding of gender roles; encourages equal participation and fair distribution of benefits through gender inclusiveness.

Gender responsivity and self-advocacy are ways in which we encourage all youth to represent their views and express their concerns within the confines of a rehabilitative setting.  That insight and healing can only take place if a youth feels safe and secure enough to address their trauma, focus, learn and thrive. 

At the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility, the only facility that houses both male and female youth, DJJ staff cultivate trauma informed strategies to facilitate rehabilitation. Of late, an emerging focus has been meaningfully enhancing services to the LGBTQ+ population. 

Karette Fussell
Karette Fussell, Supervising Casework Specialist, VYCF

Appropriate pronouns used

For example, using appropriate pronouns when addressing our LGBTQ+ population is an important piece of gender responsiveness, a process whose efforts are appreciated by youth who identify as transgender.

“They (DJJ staff) are always respectful and on top of getting my pronouns right which are he, him and his, “said one transgender youth. “Another thing I have felt was very respectful is that they make sure with every given situation you feel comfortable and that you are treated equally.”

Another VYCF youth reinforced this view. “They ask us about what our preferences are, like who we want to search us when we are searched and they ask where we want to be housed in terms of gender.  I’m more comfortable wearing male clothing so I am able to.”

Ongoing administrative supervision, staff training and youth feedback simultaneously helps create greater awareness of the importance of consistently using gender-specific pronouns.

Youth leadership encouraged

Youth are encouraged to take a leadership role in self-advocacy and gender responsivity for themselves and their peers by accepting positions of responsibility throughout VYCF, which include Grievance Clerks, Student Council members, Youth Mentors, Youth Community Leaders and by attending gender responsive meetings. 

The philosophical underpinnings of DJJ’s Integrated Behavioral Treatment Model (IBTM) such as “responsivity” and emphasis on positive reinforcement to change negative behavior, drives treatment and supports a space of learning, training and evolution for both youth and staff.

“IBTM supports a therapeutic approach facilitating a healthy environment and robust rapport between youth and staff that is conducive to addressing salient issues impacting our population, including our LGBTQ+ youth,” said DJJ Director Heather Bowlds. 

Staff gets enhanced training

Enhanced training encompassing physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, teachers, on-going staff training and community outreach to religious volunteers, youth organizations, women’s groups and the LGBTQ+ Community is essential in achieving and maintaining gender responsivity and self-advocacy.

DJJ is rolling out a new training for staff in 2021 entitled “Working with LGBTI youth in DJJ Facilities.” This training was designed for DJJ by Just Detention International in partnership with Cal-CASA (the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault).

The training was funded partially through Cal OES. The three-hour training covers a variety of topics specifically tailored to address the needs of youth.

The training instills a supportive “culture of care” and ensures that staff are given the tools necessary to assist LGBTI youth prepare youth for a healthy transition back to the community.

“We’re excited and pleased that CPOST has approved this course curricula,” said Dr. Jonathan Yip, Associate Director of Mental Health. “This course will go a long way towards helping staff adapt to the needs of our most vulnerable youth.”

The course includes modules: Basics about LGBTI Youth; LGBTI Youth in Detention; PREA Standards and DJJ Policies around LGBTI Youth and; Working with LGBTI Youth.

Supporting gender responsivity is an effective means of ensuring amplification and inclusion of all voices in order to continually elevate and improve rehabilitation for all youth in DJJ’s care. 

Looking for something?

Here some related content: