By Nancy Mayerson
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Oxnard and Port Hueneme aims to reduce repeat crimes among juvenile offenders in Ventura County by merging two pilot projects into a new program. The nonprofit received $609,232 from the Department of Justice to create RAMP, a Reentry Aftercare Mentoring Program, which will provide mentoring to incarcerated teens in the group’s Juvenile Justice Facility program so they are prepared to reenter the community and avoid committing further crimes.
The projects’ objectives are to reduce recidivism rates by 25 percent or less during participation and 12 months afterward; recruit, train and supervise three staff members and 40 volunteers; and educate juvenile offenders with specific materials.
The local Boys & Girls Club was one of only nine organizations across the nation to receive the Department of Justice Second Chance Act Juvenile Mentoring grant.
“This grant is going to save many, many lives in our community,” said Erin Antrim, Boys & Girls Club director of program services. “Without programs like these, the majority of kids will be back in jail within a couple of years of release, the beginning of a very vicious cycle. We are grateful to the Department of Justice for recognizing the amazing potential within each of our community’s children so they can rise above their past to create a bright future.”
One of the club’s pilot projects, Targeted Reentry Program, proved especially successful with only 15 percent of 97 teens in the program incarcerated again. With a focus on preventing repeat crimes and ensuring the safety of the community, RAMP will incorporate work from both pilot projects, partnering with the Ventura County Probation Agency, Palmer Drug and Alcohol Program and City Impact. The program will include a deputy probation officer, staff case mentors and volunteer mentors to offer one-on-one mentoring, group workshops and group educational opportunities. RAMP will take place in three phases: the facility phase eight to 13 weeks prior to release, the transition phase 16 to 20 weeks following release and the community follow-up phase for a year after release.
“For many juvenile offenders, the transition from being in a detention center to the community is a difficult one. Having caring adults in the lives of these offenders can make a big difference and enhance the chance for success,” said Mark Varela, Chief Probation Officer for Ventura County.
The club is looking for 20 community members willing to become volunteer mentors. They will receive 20 hours of training and will be matched up with a youth in the Juvenile Justice Facility. Volunteers must be age 21 and older, submit to a criminal background check and commit to at least two hours a week for one year. Volunteers will work with the teens inside the facility and in the community. For more information, contact Antrim at (805) 483-1118 x305.
“These kids are up against incredible odds when they try to get their lives back on track,” Antrim said. “Working together, we can give them a second chance at life.”
Signed into law on April 9, 2008, the Second Chance Act was designed to improve outcomes for people returning to communities from prisons and jails. The legislation authorizes federal grants to government agencies and nonprofits to provide employment assistance, substance abuse treatment, housing, family programming, mentoring, victim support and other services that can help reduce repeat crimes.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Oxnard and Port Hueneme serves 8,700+ young people, ages 6-18, annually through educational, recreational, health and fitness programs. Clubs provide a safe place to learn and grow, ongoing relationships with caring adult professionals, life-enhancing programs, character development experiences, and hope and opportunity to the youth they serve. Learn more at www.positiveplace4kids.org.