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Community Forum - New Approaches to Youth Justice in Santa Barbara

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Our juvenile justice system is transitioning from punishment to a more therapeutic approach. California is closing its few remaining youth prisons and turning over responsibility to local county probation departments to work with youth. Last year, Santa Barbara’s Unified School District ended contracts with the Sheriff’s department to have officers in the schools, and raised funds to place more mental health counselors in our schools. On May 18 at noon, League of Women Voters of Santa Barbara (LWVSB) together with Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) will present a zoom webinar titled New Approaches to Youth Justice: Breaking the School to Prison Pipeline. This interactive discussion will explore changes occurring in our schools, public safety agencies and non-profit providers.

In addition to speakers from the county’s Unified School District, Probation, and Office of the Public Defender, the panel will include three of the many organizations in the community delivering services to youths.

Judie Lugo heads Santa Barbara’s Police Activities League (PAL) which hosts the Teen Center at the corner of Chapala and Victoria. PAL provides teens with holistic programs from academic support to enrichment programs including fitness classes, environmental education and social-emotional and mental wellness referral support.

JP Herrada, a previously incarcerated individual and father of three, has been mentoring at-risk youth and working with justice impacted families for 13 years. He co-founded the Alternatives to Justice Project in Santa Barbara in 2018.

Eric Rodriguez works with the Freedom to Choose Project in prisons throughout California. His involvement with the criminal justice system began at age 12. He was in and out of juvenile hall, camps and treatment programs before being sent to county jails and eventually sentenced to 15 years to life in prison plus 10 years. “By the grace of God, hard work, inner healing and taking every opportunity available,” he explained, “I was found suitable for parole and released after 12 years and 11 months.” The Freedom to Choose Project played a key role in his transformation while in prison, and led to his helping create their Pathways to Freedom Self-Directed Learning Program during the pandemic when their in-person programs could not reach people incarcerated. He now trains volunteers for that program and hopes to bring the program to Santa Barbara’s county jails and justice impacted youth.

Panelists include:

  • Holly Benton, Deputy Chief Probation Officer, Santa Barbara
  • JP Herrada, Executive Director, Co-founder, Alternatives to Violence Project, Santa Barbara (SBATV)
  • Juan Higuera, Deputy Public Defender (currently assigned to the Juvenile Unit), Santa Barbara County
  • Judie Lugo, Director, Santa Barbara Police Activities League (PAL)
  • Eric Rodriguez, Education Assistant, Freedom to Choose
  • Frann Wageneck, Assistant Superintendent, Student Services, Santa Barbara Unified School District.

The panel will be moderated by La Mer Kyle-Griffiths, Santa Barbara’s Assistant Public Defender. With a long career as a public defender amplifying the voice of the poor (juveniles and adults) in Kentucky, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, and Washington, Kyle-Griffiths was appointed last year as our County’s Assistant Public Defender. She also teaches Trial Advocacy, and has trained administrative professionals, attorneys and law students in areas of implicit bias, litigation, sentencing, juvenile practice, and forensics.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022, 12:00 PM until 1:30 PM
Videoconference information will be provided in an email once registration is complete.
Additional Info:
Pam Flynt Tambo(s):
Pamela L Flynt Tambo
Linda Honikman
Community Forum
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