Let’s face it. The former California Division of Juvenile Justice just wasn’t working.
It was ineffective — a 2017 report by the agency showed 74% of the young people were re-arrested. And it was costly — $770,000 per inmate per year according to a 2020 study by The Imprint.
So, efforts began statewide to close juvenile halls and divert at-risk young people back into their communities where they could maintain relationships with their families. But, clearly, to make this transition effective, it is important to have “wrap around” resources to support the youth.
A good example is the Arts and Healing Justice Network (The Network). Bonnie Boswell Reports started a three-part series, highlighting this initiative using art to help system impacted youth. One of those young people is 23-year-old Kevin Rodas.
Kevin is now a success story by any measure. He has a job he loves, a new family, and his own apartment. But, Kevin came up “the rough side of the mountain.”
As a young man, his role model was his older brother who was in and out of jail. Kevin says his mother worked 16-hour days to make ends meet and taught him good morals, but his life just started going the other way. Why? “Because of the things I was feeling inside and the things I lived through,” he recalls.
Kevin started “hanging with the wrong crowd” and eventually found himself in and out of jail. Then, one time after he got out of jail, a neighborhood friend told him about The Network.
Kevin says, initially, he was lukewarm about the program, but eventually he decided to try it. To be clear, Kevin had always been an artist, but he used to deface buildings.
He says he thought the only way to use his art was as an expression of his anger. After meeting other young artists at The Network, he began to see art in a different way.
Kevin says, “When you’re painting or drawing something and you make a mistake, you get a little angry. But then there’s ways to cover that up or blend it up. That’s kind of the same thing with my life. Low stuff would happen to me and I used to get mad.
“But, when I started this art program and saw people opening their arms towards me, I saw how life and art had similarities. I saw that a lot happens in life but you got to use it as a motivation instead of an excuse.”
Next week, you’ll hear from the youth manager and art director at The Network who helped Kevin change his life. See the stories at kcet.org/bonnie.