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Posts Tagged ‘trauma’

Photo: Honolulu Civil Beat.
The inside of the Hale Lanipolua Assessment Center, which is run by Hale Kipa and serves as an alternative to the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility. 

Hawaii has a different approach to helping kids who get in trouble. There’s an understanding that girls in particular often get started in crime after serious childhood abuse — and that locking them up doesn’t solve anything. (See my 2012 post about a Boston theatrical production by former inmates that spelled out just how females can get trapped in an endless cycle of crime and punishment.)

Claire Healy writes at the Washington Post, “When Mark Patterson took over as administrator of the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility in 2014, he inherited 500 acres of farm ranch — and the care of 26 boys and seven girls between 13 and 19 years old.

“By 2016, his facility, in Kailua, Oahu, was only holding between five and six girls at a time. And in June, the last girl left the facility. For the first time, there are no girls incarcerated in the state of Hawaii.

“Patterson said this moment is ’20 years in the making,’ and the result of a systemwide effort to divert girls from the judicial system and into trauma-based care programs. The number of incarcerated boys has also lowered significantly in the past decade, he added.

“Patterson said HYCF is a last resort — the kids there ‘have run away from programs 10 to 11 times’ and are the most vulnerable of the high-risk youth. But various state officials have agreed that ‘we no longer want to keep sending our kids to prison,’ Patterson said.

‘What I’m trying to do is end the punitive model that we have so long used for our kids, and we replace it with a therapeutic model.’

“He added, ‘Do we really have to put a child in prison because she ran away? What kind of other environment is more conducive for her to heal and be successful in the community?’

“Hawaii isn’t the only state to reach zero girls in long-term placement facilities. According to Lindsay Rosenthal, director of the Vera Institute’s Initiative to End Girls’ Incarceration, Vermont has zero long-term placement facilities for girls, and for nine months in 2020, Maine had zero incarcerated girls statewide. Since February 2021, New York City hasn’t had more than two girls in the state’s juvenile placement facility at any given time.

“This is part of a larger trend in juvenile justice reform: Since 2000, more than 1,000 juvenile facilities have closed, including two-thirds of the largest facilities. And between 2000 and 2018, youth incarceration rates dropped by more than half, according to the Square One Project, a justice reform initiative.

“But just as women are the fastest-growing prison population, the proportion of girls in juvenile detention has increased even as overall numbers have gone down. … As advocates point out, the majority of incarcerated girls are in prison for low-level offenses, often influenced by a history of abuse — as noted in various research — or systemic challenges, such as poverty.

“Rosenthal [emphasized] that a state reaching zero doesn’t necessarily reflect progress — Vermont has sent some girls to facilities in New Hampshire, and placed at least one girl into an adult prison, for example — without the presence of community-based alternative programming. HYCF is an example of a facility that has seen such an investment pay off, she said.

“Gender-focused programming is essential, Rosethal added, because of ‘the criminalization of sexual abuse.’ This legacy, she said, reaches back to colonization and slavery in the United States and has resulted in the disproportionately high incarceration rates of Black and Indigenous women and girls. …

“Patterson said the movement to replace punitive systems with trauma-informed care in Hawaii’s juvenile justice system reaches back to 2004, when Judge Karen Radius, a now-retired First Circuit Family Court judge, founded Girls Court. One of the first in the nation, the program aimed to address the specific crimes and trauma history of girls. …

“Many influential programs in the state followed the formation of Girls Court. In 2009, Project Kealahou launched as a six-year, federally funded program aimed at improving services for Hawaii’s at-risk female youth. And in 2013, Hawaii created the Juvenile Justice Reform Task Force to analyze the juvenile justice system in Hawaii and provide policy recommendations aimed at reducing the HYCF population.

“Then, in 2018, Patterson partnered with the Initiative to End Girls’ Incarceration and drafted a ’10-year strategy to get to zero.’ The overarching goal was to focus on the underlying trauma the youth were suffering from, instead of the crimes they were charged with, Patterson said.

“Before working with youths, Patterson was the warden of Hawaii’s only women’s prison, the Women’s Community Correctional Center (WCCC), across the street. He said his time there showed him how many of the women there could trace their trauma back to their home life as a child.

“That same year, he set out transitioning HYCF into the Kawailoa Youth and Family Wellness Center, remodeling the program around trauma-informed care — a framework for care providers to understand and consider the impact an individual’s trauma history has on their life and health. Today’s campus has a homeless shelter, an assessment center, a vocational program serving youths ages 15 to 24, a farm managed by a nonprofit and a high school for high-risk youths.

“Guiding this transformation was Patterson’s goal of creating a pu’uhonua — a place created within a traditional Hawaiian village for conflict resolution and forgiveness — for Hawaii’s most vulnerable youths.

“As Patterson described it, a pu’uhonua acknowledges and identifies a wrong that has been committed in the village. But unlike a punitive system, ‘we’re going to teach you how to live with the village and manage the wrong,’ he said. ‘So that you’re no longer an outcast, but you’re still welcome back.’ ”

More at the Post, here.

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Photo: Erin Siegal McIntyre/the World
Three-year-old Kevin, whose family fled cartel violence in Michoacán, Mexico, plays at the light table with magnetic blocks at the Nest Tijuana, an informal preschool set up by a California educator.

Speaking of migrant kids who can’t register for school at the border, here’s a related story about an informal preschool that kind hearts have set up in Tijuana. The story comes from a show I like called the World at Public Radio International (PRI).

Sasha Khokha reports, “Classical music plays, silk curtains blow in the wind, and comfy couches offer a place to curl up with a book. There are wooden toys, colorful magnetic blocks and crayons organized by color in glass jars. Children use light projectors to make patterns and shapes on the walls.

“It may sound like a high-end early childhood education center in California, but this is Tijuana.

“Most students and their parents come from other parts of Mexico where there have been recent surges in drug cartel violence. They are waiting for their numbers to be called to enter the United States at the San Ysidro port of entry and hope to lodge claims for asylum. For many, the wait can last several weeks or longer, during which children have little to do.

“Alise Shafer Ivey, a longtime early childhood director from Santa Monica, California, opened this informal preschool, the Nest, in September. It’s attached to a migrant shelter in this Mexican border city. Nothing else like it exists. …

“Patricia’s 2-year-old daughter is one of the new students at the Nest. On the journey to Tijuana, Patricia said her two girls kept asking where their dad was. But how could Patricia tell them? They couldn’t even go to the funeral. It was too dangerous to show up to bury her husband, she said. …

“‘These kids have seen things no child should see,’ Ivey said. ‘They’ve been stripped of their homelands, they’ve left their families behind. They’ve been stuffed in trunks of cars and crossed over borders. … To think we’re going to deliver them to a kindergarten in the US and think it’s going to go well? Not necessarily.’ …

“The idea for the Nest began with a trip Ivey took to Lesbos, Greece, after retiring from decades of directing the Evergreen Community School in Santa Monica. She met a relief worker who invited her to visit a refugee camp, which then housed mostly Syrian refugees.

“Children were ‘digging in the dirt, playing with nails in their pockets,’ Ivey said. ‘They had old cigarette lighters that they had found. There was nothing for children.’

“Ivey offered to set up a space for refugee kids to play. She returned to California and raised $10,000 through a nonprofit she helped found, the Pedagogical Institute of Los Angeles. She went on to set up Nests on another Greek island called Samos, then two more in the Congo. …

“The Tijuana Nest got its start after Ivey visited the shelter across the street, where Patricia and her girls sought refuge. Ivey said she instantly connected with Leticia Herrera Hernández, who runs the shelter. They’re both believers in prioritizing the needs of children, especially when parents are going through trauma, Ivey said. …

” ‘The kids would just spend their days playing on their parents’ phones, having tantrums, and we’d be trying to get them to play to entertain themselves,’ Herrera said in Spanish. …

“At parent orientation night at the Nest, Ivey did what she would do back at her former school in Santa Monica: She laid out a spread with wine and cheese. She talked to the parents about brain science and neural pathways, and explained why memorizing ABCs is not enough.

“ ‘The more we talk to children about their ideas and ask them “I wonder how that would work?” Not quizzing them, but just wondering with them, the more all of those parts of the brain are activated,’ Ivey told the parents, many of whom had never been able to send their kids to preschool in their hometowns. …

“Julieta and Kevin fled cartel violence in Michoacán. When they arrived in Tijuana in August, he had a really hard time accepting the shelter as home. He would hit other kids, yell at them. The Nest has helped him to adjust.

“ ‘Now he doesn’t fight. He plays with the other kids,’ Julieta said in Spanish (The World isn’t using her real name to protect her identity since she is fleeing violence). ‘I used to have to grab him so he would turn and listen to me. Now he turns and looks at me. He reaches for my hand.’ …

“Waiting, watching and letting kids problem-solve has been eye-opening for some parents.

“ ‘I’ve learned to be a better dad,’ said Alfredo, another asylum-seeker who has been volunteering at the Nest (The World isn’t using his real name to protect him from being located by a cartel he said had targeted his family). ‘I used to tell them, “No, do it this way. Because I said so.” And I learned that I was wrong. Having them do things on their own gives them more confidence in their decisions.’ ”

More at the World, here.

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Photo: Cliff Grassmick
Lucy Wallace, the co-founder of Dance to Be Free, incorporates jazz, lyrical, and hip-hop into the dance classes she offers in women’s prisons.

My friend Asakiyume has been a tutor in a women’s prison for several years, where she has learned that many inmates got in trouble after suffering repeated abuse or gross failure by the educational system. Most students, she says, are grateful for any attention from outside and are determined to do better on release. I think she would like this story about a dancer serving incarcerated women in the South.

Maria Di Mento writes at the Chronicle of Philanthropy, “Lucy Wallace is a dancer who has spent a lot of time in prison. That’s because Wallace, the co-founder of Dance to Be Free, travels the country teaching dance classes to incarcerated women to help them cope with depression, despair, PTSD, and complex trauma. …

“Despite her assumption that most prisons would turn her away, not one has.

‘I’ve never had a warden say, “No, we don’t want your program,” ’ Wallace says. ‘They’re grateful to get programming, especially in rural areas that are so remote no one goes there to volunteer.’

“A former dance major who has a master’s degree in psychology, Wallace incorporates a mix of movement styles into her dance classes, including jazz, lyrical, and hip-hop, and a variety of musical genres. …

“The program involves writing exercises and group discussions that let the women talk about their lives, how they coped with their first few weeks in prison, their biggest challenges, and what they’re getting out of the classes. She provides the prisons with DVDs of the classes and has certified about 400 prisoners who can lead the courses.

“Dance to Be Free is in 13 prisons in eight states and operates on a budget of about $100,000 a year. Few prisons will pay for the programming, something Wallace would like to change. For now, the charity receives all of its funding from individual donors, raising roughly $175,000 since 2015. …

“Wallace is holding off expanding the program for the time being and is instead focusing solely on the South, especially Mississippi and Florida, where she says women’s prisons are in deep need of programs.” More here.

From the Dance to Be Free website: “Our mission is to radically improve the lives of incarcerated women through the healing power of dance. We use ‘Cathartic Choreography’ to both train the inmates and teach them a new skill. We have seen this technique help our students deal with physical and mental illness, including PTSD and complex trauma.

“During our teacher trainings inmates gain confidence as they experience leadership and responsibility, often for the first time in their lives. That sense of accomplishment flourishes as our students learn to not only express themselves through dance, but to free others to do the same.

“Throughout this transformative experience, we teach the nuts and bolts of choreography, timing and flow, and just as importantly we facilitate journaling and sharing exercises that nurture introspection and self-awareness that inmates often need.”

I found the nonprofit organization’s video very moving.

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