12 Weeks a Save

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Thanks to Programs at http://www.ojjdp.gov/Programs/ProgSummary.asp?pi=18 and About Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) | STTAC http://www.juvenilejustice-tta.org/resources/dmc/about-dmc

12 Weeks a Save

In the Restorative Justice program that I worked in Philadelphia, the African American majority of people I taught were mostly male. Young and old, polite and not so, likeable and so on, black, males on probation and parole. At one time, a group of us were renovating a storefront in Philadelphia’s Gallery Mall. At that point, in that particular program, eight remaining participants were African American and male. I was asked by my supervisor, could we incorporate into our build day another group of men, men fulfilling work-release opportunities. “How many?” I asked. Having been burned by this kind of open-ended request by her before, this was important information.

“Twelve,” was her reply.

“Yes,” I said too quickly. We could actually use the help. But, I also didn’t want to appear so available for future favors.

“OK, they will arrive about 9:15. Make sure that they sign in.”

I knew that. But, “OK, Karen, got it.”

The next morning, our crew arrived at our normal 8:30 start time. Remarkably, 7 out of 8 men were there. I announced that we would be joined by a work-release crew and the guys were amicable to the change up. We were about two months into our nine-month long program.

Two months ago, we had started with 17 in our group: one African American female, three male Latinos, two White males, and eleven Black males. As was par for the course, we had dumped 9 people by 8 weeks in, and we could expect another 2 or 3 to self-select out in the next four weeks. 12 weeks. That’s where I saw success. If, for the first 12 weeks of a nine-month commitment to a program whose end goal is employment, if you could arrive on time, when and where you’re supposed to, and have a mostly good attitude and willingness to learn and to work, then, you will most likely finish the remaining six months and find employment. Figure out how to get through the first twelve weeks; ask for help; don’t self-select out.

We were all working at 9:15 when the work-release guys arrived. As they filed in through the Mall Hallway, Rear Store Exit, every guy was African American. “Please sign in,” I announced, I asked them to sit on the elevated platform we had built butted up to the storefront windows, and I set to address the twelve. As planned, our crew stopped and joined us for introductions, as each of their groups would be assigned guys to work with. Looking out at twenty faces, I smiled and asked, “Does anyone know, does Philadelphia arrest anyone that’s not Black?” Met with laughter, as I had hoped, it is a sad reality of that statement that stays with me.

But, regardless of your race, your age, your gender, Go Twelve Weeks. We’ll teach you where we can. But, show up. Get here. 12 Weeks. And you’re on your path to save yourself.

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