FRESNO COUNTY PROBATION JUVENILE JUSTICE CAMPUS By. Kimmie Kawamoto
MISSION STATEMENT & AIMS “As a member of the criminal justice system, the Fresno County Probation Department’s mission is to provide protection for the community, support victim advocacy, and deliver essential services to the courts. This mission is accomplished through collaboration and partnerships which encompass a continuum of sanctions including prevention/intervention programming, investigation, supervision, and incarceration.” -Received from the Fresno County Probation website
POPULATIONS AT-RISK Although there is also an Adult Division of Probation, the Juvenile Justice Campus (JJC) deals specifically with adolescents. Though I have witnessed adolescents as young as 12, there are those who are 18. However, if the adolescent is 18 (a legal adult) and on Probation, it is only due to them committing the crime while they were a minor.
COMMUNITY CONTEXT The JJC serves juvenile adolescents from broad areas of Fresno County, from Clovis all the way to Orange Cove. The adolescents attend a plethora of schools as well, whether a public high school, continuation, Independent Study, or not attending at all. All minors are provided equal service and Probation tries to work with the clients when issues of transportation, contact, or any other excuse or lack of resources arises.
ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE Fresno County Probation has a Chief Executive Officer named Linda Penner who oversees all the hiring and functioning of the JJC. Although, Linda Penner is not stationed at JJC. Mike Elliot, the Director, is there observing and reporting back to the Chief. Following Mike Elliot are a number of Supervisors who head each division, mine being Gordon Dahlberg. All parties work in collaboration to keep the JJC afloat.
MAJOR PROGRAMS AND SERVICES There are several different programs and services provided that work in collaboration with Probation to prevent juvenile delinquency. A few examples are the Alice Worsley School and Focus Forward. The school provides the adolescents in Juvenile Hall with an education while being in custody and Focus Forward provides voluntary mentoring to those same individuals.
CJC: COMMUNITY JUSTICE CONFERENCE While there are several different programs and services available to the juvenile adolescents, my division of Informal Probation deals with cases from CJC: Community Justice Conference, part of Victim Offender Reconciliation Program. (VORP) 20 years in existence, VORP in unison with CJC, serves an average of 500 cases annually with the help of dedicated staff and volunteers. -Received from a CJC brochure
CJC CONT’D CJC is a Faith and Community Based Program. CJC facilitates a mediation process which considers the needs of the victim, offender, and the community. CJC gives the parties involved an opportunity to determine how to best address the offense and how to prevent reoccurrence. Once a settlement is agreed upon, the case is presented before the Court and then CJC continues to assess the case to assure the agreement remains intact. -Received from a CJC brochure
INFORMAL PROBATION As I discussed previously, there are several divisions of the Probation Department. However, I assist with the Informal Probation caseload (which often receives cases from CJC). For those minors placed on Informal, they have far less restrictive conditions than those on Formal. They also have the opportunity of their charges being dismissed if they successfully complete all the instructions. -Received from an email by my Supervisor
INFORMAL PROBATION CONT’D Some of the conditions the minors may face on Informal consist of community service, victim restitution, supervision of a Probation Officer (either regularly or spontaneously), strict curfew, participation in counseling and education programs, and necessary treatment for the minor and/or their parent(s) for the misuse or addiction to controlled substances. They also must pay for any services utilized during the Probation period. -Received from an email by my Supervisor
CONSEQUENCES Even though Informal is not as restrictive as Formal, there are still consequences for failing to complete the conditions assigned. Informal may be extended an additional 90 days to allow time for completion, or the minor may be placed on Formal (where charges cannot be dismissed) for several years and/or be placed in confinement, depending on the offense and other factors. If a petition is filed with the Court at any time during a 9 month period, the minor’s case is reopened for prosecution. -Received from an email by my Supervisor
SOCIAL JUSTICE To conclude what I explained above, the Fresno County Probation Department works toward prevention. By intervening early on in their adolescent lives, that will hopefully cease the minors from re-offending. As much as the minors may feel as though it is Probation’s responsibility to “solve the problem,” Probation always emphasizes that it is all about the minor, even though collaboration/mediation is a central aspect of the agency.
SOCIAL WORK VALUES & HUMAN RIGHTS Probation also focuses on empowerment. Probation provides the tools necessary to assist the minors in having a more fulfilling life; to have the minors realize that they can choose their own fate. Just because they come from a difficult background does not mean they cannot control their future. That is also where human rights come into play. Probation does not discriminate towards any individual. They all are provided the same opportunities: education, employment, and freedom.