Freedom from the justice system
It’s always a moment worth celebrating, when a young client gets off probation. It’s a fresh start. A new day. Pathways intervention specialists Jesus Martinez and Jelani Jenkins both celebrated just such a moment of freedom with clients, at court, in the past few weeks.
Probation is a common punishment for young first offenders or for youth who commit minor crimes. No doubt probation is better than time in juvenile hall, but it also creates its own set of problems, and a constant worry that you could be incarcerated at any time. As a probationer, you can be searched for no obvious reason. Law enforcement can come into your house at any time, search you, search your room, pull you over, search your car. And a youth on probation has to do more than avoid breaking the law again. There’s a curfew; sometimes you’re monitored with a GPS ankle bracelet. Sometimes as a stipulation of probation, you’re ordered to obey your parents or guardians, which can be fine advice, but can also be an ambiguous instruction. Violating anyone’s interpretation of it can land you back in juvenile hall.
“It’s hard to see kids that stressed,” says Jesus, “in addition to all the stress they get from the street.” So when a youth gets off probation, the goal more than ever is to keep him or her permanently free from the justice system. Our intervention specialists will work with a client for up to another twelve months more, making a plan, making sure they are working on that plan, going to class, doing their work, staying free so they can thrive.