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SOS Tackles Juvenile Probation, Gang Intervention Strategies
By Francis Taylor (Contributing Writer)
Published October 25, 2007

The regular, third Sunday of every month meeting of Save Our Sons (SOS) at Crenshaw United Methodist Church featured presentations this month by Tony Massengale, senior Los Angeles County Human Relations consultant—Racialized Gang Violence Prevention coordinator, and Stanley Ricketts, director of the Los Angeles County Probation Department’s Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Services Department.

SOS is a non-profit organization established by Dr. Delores Allyne to improve relations, services, and outcomes of African Americans involved in the criminal justice system. Since their inception, the group’s membership has grown with male and female individuals whose family members find them incarcerated, frequently unfairly, with little hope for an early release from jail or prison.

After the opening remarks and welcome by Rev. Cedric Bridgeforth, members of the audience were asked to introduce themselves. Many of the guests chose to share the plight of their family member or members who are currently incarcerated. Their frank admissions provided an unpleasant view of their perception of how unjust our justice system has been towards their family member who, in many cases, they believe were convicted and sentenced improperly.

One woman indicated that her two sons and brother are incarcerated for life while a father in the audience announced that his son had been recently released from prison. Allyne shared with the crowd that her son had been incarcerated for some time for a murder he did not commit and that she had spent a considerable amount of money with lawyers and private investigators that had done absolutely nothing to assist her son. He has exhausted all of his appeals and his hope for justice has been severely diminished.

Being in a room filled with Black people whose son, brother, father, or grandfather is incarcerated, under questionable circumstances, gives one an unpleasant feeling realizing that they are victims who have few choices or other options to secure their family member’s freedom.

The mere existence of SOS, with the support mechanisms they provide, makes for a ray of hope for its members who participate on a regular basis.

Massengale, a Los Angeles native who has dedicated himself to community-oriented youth, young-adult and gang prevention and intervention activities, discussed his new assignment which involves the development of Pasadena-Altadena Vision 2020 that is hoped to be adopted by Los Angeles County as the new model for preventing racialized gang violence.

He also described his role in assisting the County Human Relations Commission contribute to a regional gang reduction plan the county.

Ricketts, also reared in Los Angeles, discussed the efforts that he and his staff of over 32 juvenile probation officers, assigned to the middle and high schools throughout Los Angeles County. He elaborated on the improvement and positive results he and his staff have been able to achieve in the critical areas of academic performance, attendance, punctuality, as well as the overall attitude of the young men and women currently on probation.

The message of each presenter revealed similarities in the approach to re-directing young gang-affiliated individuals and youngsters already involved in the justice system, to more productive endeavors.

Improving the performance of our young people in school and preventing the proliferation of gang-related criminal activity in our community will only be properly addressed when all of the stakeholders contribute to and participate in the planning, communication, and execution of the elements that work.

Young people, gang members, parents, school administrators, local gang-intervention and prevention organizations, as well as law enforcement representatives must all play a significant role in the eventual eradication of the crime, gang-related violence, truancy, and academic failure of our youth.

The next SOS meeting will be held on Sunday, at 2:30 pm, November 18, at the Crenshaw United Methodist Church.

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