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Interview with Robin Grattidge, a substitute teacher in the Juvenile Justice System in Los Angeles, CA area by Alivia Hunter

It takes a very special person to teach students in the Juvenile Justice System. Many of the kids involved with the juvenile justice system have education-related disabilities such as ADD. Other students have been branded as educationally worthless. far too many of these youth have the ability to succeed but are so far outside the educational mainstream that standard approaches no longer work. New and possibly radical approaches must be applied to their education and development.

According to the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, roughly 500,000 youth nationwide are incarcerated in juvenile justice systems every year. Numerous studies have shown that one of the most effective ways to help incarcerated youths is by advancing their educational skills. Reconnecting these kids to school has been shown to reduce repeat offenses. But the quality and the availability of basic educational services in juvenile justice settings is spotty at best.

Robin is a substitute teacher in the Juvenile Justice System in Los Angeles, California area. On any given day, he can witness one of his students producing quality work and on anther he'll be breaking up a fight between two students.

"The job I have subbing in the hall has given me a lot of insight into the workings of the Juvenile Justice System in Los Angeles. Many of my students are high profile and high risk offenders," Robin said.

Since most of these youth will return to their communities, it's important to reintroduce education and prepare them to successfully function in society with the necessary self-esteem and social skills.

Robin went on to say "you never know when these kids are going to go off. You have to have a lot of love for them. I am in the process of writing a book about my experiences in the hall. They include a vast assortment of poems, lyrics, haiku, essays and letters from the kids in the Hall."

- Robin Grattidge - Haiku Reality

The National Juvenile Justice Network recently identified upcoming efforts to prevent current offenders from becoming repeat offenders and potentially life long jail citizens. One of the efforts includes investing in services rather than state confinement and strengthening aftercare services to help young people return to their communities.

Prevention and juvenile teaching programs are very important in decreasing juvenile crime. The bottom line is that the community as well as family needs to be involved in order for a successful juvenile justice system to be deployed. The more a child is educated and provided alternatives to crime, the less likely s/he is to commit criminal acts.

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