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May 25, 2010 > Young offenders receive message of non-violence

Young offenders receive message of non-violence

By Shavon Walker

The Youth Violence Prevention and Intervention committee convened their second call-in on May 12. This was designed to intervene on behalf of high-risk probationers aged 18-24 years. If a youth is invited to attend, his, or her, presence is required. The meeting group consists of the offender, their support system (family members and friends) and law enforcement members (FBI, police department, district attorneys).

Youth are shown how their decisions have affected themselves, their family and their community and how continued poor decision-making can further harm their lives. The young person is given positive options, such as job and school assistance. The three participating youth were encouraged to bring a family member or a friend. The group works with adult and juvenile probation, as well as parole.

Union City Police Chief Greg Stewart, Stan Rodriguez from the Gang Task Force, John Creighton from the District Attorney's Office, US Attorney Wade Rhyne, and Angela Reed from the Probation Department, informed the participants that they had already been identified as gang members.

"I'm here to tell you I'm working closely with the Chief and the Gang Task Force to make sure the violence stops," Creighton told the participants. "I have a dossier with your names, your personal histories and your associates. If the police find any evidence of a crime, I will persuade the judge to send you to prison."

As the rest of law enforcement nodded in agreement, Creighton's words were given weight by the lime green folders that circulated among personnel in the audience and at the table.

Zach Stanford, a trauma nurse from Eden Hospital, described two gunshot-wound victims.

"The first was beaten in his backyard by young men who had jumped over his fence. His bowels were hanging out because he had been stabbed. His friends didn't come to his aid; they fled. We kept him alive for 2-2 1/2 hours but he kept bleeding and died," he said, after describing a chest-cracking procedure, a last resort to find the bullet, and one which fails 90 percent of the time. "I have to find Mom and tell her everything that happened. Then comes the mother's wail - an excruciating sound of pain and sorrow that comes from someone who loves you. It affects everyone in the department," he added, looking around at the participants. "There are many people here who want to help you avoid this pain."

The participants seemed slightly bored and somewhat defiant while law enforcement spoke but showed more interest during Stanford's talk. When Kevin Grant spoke, everyone listened. One of Grant's opening comments was, "Today is May 12, 2010. What if you came home and it was May 12, 2036?" The participants fell silent, with their eyes riveted to Grant; this was to happen many times during his speech.

Grant's most powerful tactic was a visual display. He reminded the offenders that probation is the first department notified if they commit a crime. He then asked the police officers, including Chief Stewart, to stand by Reed.

"These people will talk to this man here," he said, pointing at Rhyne, "and he will look at your file, too." The police and Reed then stood behind Rhyne. "Once they capture you, they can take your case to this man," he said, moving Rhyne and the others behind Creighton. "Consider this... when you enter court and see all these people against you, it's too late. The paperwork will say, 'United States vs. you'. It may not be you, but you might be guilty by association. Whatever sentence they hand down, you're going to do it."

"Hopefully, if you haven't stopped, you will now. I love you guys and hope it works out, said Grant, taking advantage of the participant's stunned silence. With that, Grant, law enforcement and the others left the room.

Youth Employment Coordinator Fabiola Camarillo introduced the various speakers from different organizations and services. Arthur Shanks spoke briefly about Cypress Mandela and its programs. Eddie Inamder from E-Waste spoke about the entrepreneurial opportunities available through his program. Intervention counselors Kristie Potter Adrian Valadez and Vy Ly offered their services to all of the participants with Potter explaining that those who have moved on successfully have done so because they have support.

Youth violence intervention and prevention staff members also offered their services to the participants. Many of the youth took advantage of this after the call-in ended, talking to the intervention staff.

Results will be discussed at the next youth violence intervention and prevention meeting. Staff is planning future meetings.

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