In this issue…
- Youth focus on women’s issues
- Giving back through restorative justice
- Black History Month contest winners
- Robin Hatter remembered
- DJJs legacy to continue at CDCR
Ventura youth focus on gender issues
Women’s history month event a resounding success
By Karette Fussell
A luncheon in Ventura celebrated women while raising awareness of the importance of gender equity. The well-attended event was part of Ventura Youth Correctional Facility (VYCF)’s celebration of Women’s History Month. The luncheon was sponsored by Women of Substance, Men of Honor (WOSMOH), which provides programs at VYCF, and Bank of America.
VCYF was honored to have Hilary White join the event.
White is a former DJJ youth who has successfully transitioned to the community, earning an honorable discharge. White now works at WOSMOH. White’s story was inspirational to the youth, who could relate to White’s juvenile justice journey.
Several male youth made presentations on moving beyond cultural vestiges of toxic masculinity. Dr. Deborah Leong, a psychologist at VYCF, led the young men on their toxic masculinity papers.
Working with Dr. Deborah Leong, a psychologist at VYCF, several male youth made presentations on moving beyond cultural vestiges of toxic masculinity
Meanwhile, girls participated in a motivational vision board activity supervised by WOSMOH and volunteers from Bank of America .
The event raised consciousness and encouraged critical thinking, a key stepping stone to recovery and restorative justice.
Giving back is restorative justice
By Karette Fussell
Youth at the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) recently participated in a restorative justice project benefiting women and children in need.
Purchasing soap from the canteen, 12 youth at Ventura Youth Correctional Facility (VCYF) helped the Soap Charity Drive.
Additionally, youth donated four hand-crafted bouquets of paper roses, with words of encouragement and hope. The donations went to the Ventura County Lighthouse Women & Children Housing Program in Oxnard.
On Jan. 27, women and children in need accepted more than 300 soap products ranging from shampoo to dish and laundry soap. They also donated body wash, baby shampoo, bar soap and hand soap.
The Soap Charity Drive theme was “Share hope, donate soap.” Spearheading the effort were Parole Agents Tracee Agee and Danica Green along with facility Psychologist Dr. Deborah Leong.
“There is no better feeling than giving back, which we will do until the end,” said Agee.
“Restorative justice projects are one of the ways many youth at VYCF strive to give back as they embark upon a journey of accountability, redemption and healing…”
Reaching out to others in tangible and meaningful ways to elevate one’s quality of life when at their lowest ebb can be a life changing experience not only for the bestowed. Restorative justice projects are one of the ways many youth at VYCF strive to give back as they embark upon a journey of accountability, redemption and healing, reaching the proverbial pinnacle of humanity through the act of giving back. Philanthropic endeavors our youth have chosen to pursue are vast.
Restorative justice projects have included making hats and donating socks to homeless shelters and various other grass root charity and fund raising drives.
The corrosive impact of crime on society is immeasurable, with potentially perpetual generational reverberation. However, most DJJ youth are both victim and perpetrator, and many are working simultaneously on stopping the cycle of victimization through healing, developing empathy, accountability and ultimately giving back.
DJJ Youth express creativity in Black History Month contest
Three DJJ youth were acknowledged for their writing and artistic talents during the Division of Juvenile Justice‘s 2023 Black History Month observation.
Omar J. won the Black History Art Contest at Ventura Youth Correctional Facility (VYCF)’s. The task was to draw a postage stamp featuring a Back Health Care Pioneer. Omar chose Herbert W. Nickens, who worked diligently to bridge the painful and persistent diversity gap in medicine.
Youth Denisho C. was motivated by Black Health Care Pioneer Dr. Charles Richard Drew. Denisho wrote the winning essay for VYCF’s 2023 Black History Month Essay Contest. Drew, known as the “Father of Blood Banking,” pioneered blood preservation techniques for blood donations.
“This man, this Black man, made history and saved thousands of lives in the past and will save thousands if not millions of lives with the knowledge he left all of us 75 years ago,” Denisho wrote.
For VCYF’s Black History Month Poetry Contest, Kamryn’s winning composition, “Mindset,” was inspired by Dr. Benjamin Carson.
Robin Hatter is remembered as the heart and soul of Ventura
Portrait of PA III Robin Hatter in front of Ventura Youth Correctional Facility.
Beloved longtime Division of Juvenile Justice team member, Robin Hatter, a Parole Agent III, passed away on March 16, 2023. Robin’s career with the California Department of Corrections began on August 8, 1994, at Ventura Youth Correctional Facility (VYCF) where she was employed as a Parole Agent I. During her career at VYCF she was promoted to Supervising Casework Specialist in May 1998 and in July 2006, to Parole Agent III.
Robin was described as “a bright shining light” and will be remembered for her inspiration, positivity and generous spirit.
“She was so many things to so many people, said DJJ Director Heather Bowlds. “She was a friend, a mentor, a teacher a motivator, a leader, a mother; and dedicated a great deal of her life to her job at VYCF. She will greatly be missed for her accomplishments with our youth and all of the staff.”
The sudden loss hit the VYCF staff particularly hard and on April 5, a special remembrance service was held for Robin at the Protestant chapel at Ventura. Memories were shared by staff from all parts of the institution who her knew her over her 28 year career.
Ms. Hatter was remembered as the very heart and soul of the place.
She was described as having an “east coast swagger” and “southern belle charm”; a “warrior, mother, mentor, friend and bestie.”
Being both a clinician and peace officer armed with a Masters in Social Work, Robin always espoused higher education and encouraged those under her tutelage towards upward mobility at each turn. She spearheaded VYCF’s Social Work Internship Program, enabling interns to meet requirements to achieve their Masters in Social Work.
Robin was supportive of various programs offered by our community stakeholders and volunteers. She also headed up the Kiwanis Key Club at VYCF, which helped youth “develop the heart to serve and become a force for good.”
She was described as having an uncanny ability to make you feel special. She would always remember birthdays; celebrate marriages, births, new puppy family members, academic achievements, and holidays with cards, texts, gifts, or flowers. She was also there to support staff through loss.
As VYCF’s Parole Agent III, Robin interfaced with every youth at Ventura when they went before the Board of Juvenile Hearings. “The compassion and dedication she extended to each youth was unparalleled,” said Supervising Case Work Specialist Karette Fussell. “She cared deeply about their welfare, but was a realist and straight forward with them. She was their greatest cheerleader, but held them accountable with stern decisiveness when necessary. Robin’s meticulous balance of discipline and compassion was legendary. Many youth who left years ago continued to call her to give updates on how they were doing.”
A formal memorial service honoring her memory is planned on June 3 at the Camarillo Community Church, 1322 Las Posas Road, Camarillo, California at 11 a.m.
DJJ legacy to live on at CDCR
The realignment of DJJ will be completed by June 30, 2023. Although, some staff are retiring, many of the our peace officers who helped with the success of DJJ, like these at Ventura Youth Correctional Facility are looking forward to bringing their skills and continuing their careers with CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions, Probation or Division of Adult Parole Operations. CDCR will benefit from the wealth of experience and skills of its talented officers, as DJJ undergoes this major transition.