On KCET’s series about youth justice, Kevin Rodas, a member of the Arts and Healing Justice Network (AHJN or The Network) in Los Angeles, said this about his job in delivery services, “I just go home feeling good about myself. I try to carry myself with the utmost respect.”
Kevin, who spent time in and out of detention when he was younger, credits The Network for changing his life. “The way I live my life now is completely different. I’m grateful that these resources were placed in the right person’s hands to make things better,” he said.
Elida Ledesma, CEO of The Network, says their program uses art to help youth who are incarcerated or about to re-enter society increase their self-esteem, self-confidence and empathy. She says, “Surveys show these programs actually do help young people not just express themselves, but they are able to change behavior that makes them less likely to re-offend once they come back to community.”
Providing sufficient resources to community-based organizations like The Network is key to helping justice-impacted youth such as Kevin. Josh Green, the director of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Programs at the Urban Peace Institute, says, “We really need to double down in investing in those wraparound resources, building up capacity and shifting how we think about these young people and their needs.”
Josh says it’s important to start from a place of care instead of thinking the only way to help them is to lock them up. A punitive approach to youth who experienced early childhood trauma only makes things worse. Josh says supporting these youth will lead to greater community safety and wellness.
The Los County Board of Supervisors recently approved $75 million for “Youth Justice Reimagined.” Josh believes this should be considered an initial investment since a major realignment of dollars is needed to create the kind of success that is possible.
As for Kevin, he wants struggling youth to know that there are resources like The Network out there now. He says, “I was blessed to have somebody save my life and now I can help save someone else’s life.”
And to people who wonder if this transformation of justice-impacted youth is possible, Kevin says, “It does help us… yes it does.” Watch stories like Kevin’s on Bonnie Boswell Reports, Fridays at 2:50 on KCET and at kcet.org/bonnie.