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Juvenile Justice

Page history last edited by Terry Lai 11 years, 10 months ago


Juvenile Justice:Take a Reality Check and Get Off the Probation Track


by Eileen ONeill


Audience Introduction

                        Detainees in the juvenile justice system face serious consequences for their criminal behavior.  Whether their crime is a serious offense or a minor one, most wards of the court face probation after their sentence has been completed.  Probation sounds like a way for society to monitor the actions of the teen.  Too often it turns out to be a precarious road that often includes a return to prison.

                        The high rate of juvenile recividism is often due to a minor disobeying the terms of his probation period.

                        Deshawn Davis, a former detainee and student of mine is now working at Trader Joes here in San Francisco.  To my surprise and happiness, I ran in to him last week and we spoke at length about his life and how he is maintaining after spending two years for a serious offense at Juvenile Hall.  I told him that I am so happy with his progress and I wish him the best.  As our conversation about life in the hall and the precariousness of probation came to a close I asked him, “Deshawn, what do you think would be the best experience for someone who is on probation or who is having issues at home and needs guidance?”  He quickly responded, “Ms. ONeill, a 24/7 mentor.”  He laughed and continued, “If that isn’t possible, then access to as many people and services and information that you can find to support these youth while they are involved with the court system or think they might be heading that way.”  Deshawn and I said goodbye but not before he asked me if he could come to the Thurgood Marshall library and speak to the students about his experience.  At this point, I had only been thinking through my ideas about this project.  This conversation confirmed that this is the direction I wanted to pursue in my thematic unit.

                        This will be my second year as the high school librarian at Thurgood Marshall Academic High School in the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco.  This is a high crime area on the outskirts of the city.  Many of my students have spent time in the juvenile facility.  Others have relatives that are incarcerated.  Many of my students admit to experiencing the death of a family member or of someone close to them due to contact with gangs.

                        Because I taught English and Character Education at the hall, I am a familiar face to many of our students.  Word of mouth has let students know that the library is a safe space to chill and/or talk and relax.  At times, teachers have phoned asking if they could send a student who had just been released from jail to the library because they just weren’t ready to fit back into the class routine.  The teachers told me the students liked coming to the library and seeing a familiar face and someone who had experienced the routine of jail and that they did not feel was judging them.  Teachers have phoned the library asking me if someone in their class who had just returned from time in jail could come to the library because they weren’t quite ready to adjust to the school routine.  The students could have a time-out, so to speak.  As a teacher librarian supporting students, I was honored to have them in the library space and wanted to help in any way possible.  Most times the students just wanted someone to listen to them.  Although this did appear to help them, I didn’t think it was enough.  I knew there was a next step.  I continued to think, “How can I help?”  What services can our library provide that will help these kids so that they are not caught up in the system and end up on the probation track?

                        The purpose of this thematic unit is to begin the process of uncovering the community services, programs, speakers, books, dvds, cds, and websites that will help the healing process for these children and assist in finding the right guidance that is needed for each individual student.

                        In September 2008, with a green light from my principal and vice principal and collaborating with our school Wellness Center, I am planning a series of “lunch and learn” workshops for students who are interested in receiving knowledge, understanding, and support.  These workshops will include speakers volunteering from our school staff and our community.  Aside from materials available in our school, the library will access the most current and up to date resources by collaborating with the public library using interlibrary loan.  San Jose State University’s, Friends of the Library has also agreed to support this project with materials.  If these workshops prove successful, a grant proposal will be submitted in January 2009 for additional funding and support.





By attending “Reality Check:  Lunch and Learn” workshops and participating in activities and group discussions students will:


develop a sense of maturity and self respect. 

deepen their commitment to be totally honest with themselves.

enhance their sense of acceptance of themselves and others.

promote awareness of different lifestyles and viewpoints and demonstrate a deepening acceptance and tolerance.

show evidence of a renewed passion and zest for living.

be compassionate towards all.

become advocates for justice.








Supplementary Materials


WEDNESDAYS – 11:00 – 12:00

Take Control of Life In the Real World


·     Cool & Hip Presenters


·     Dynamic Discussions About You & Your Life

·     Movies That Motivate

·     Clear-Cut Books & On-Line Sources



We’ll Provide Lunch – Check Us Out!












Take Control of Life In the Real World!

WEDNESDAYS – 11:00 – 12:00

We’ll Provide Lunch – Check Us Out!




Take Control of Life In the Real World!

·      Cool & Hip Presenters


·      Dynamic Discussions

·      Movies That Motivate

·    Clear-Cut Books & On-Line Sources




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