Juvenile offenders at O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility role play their Skill of the Week.

Juvenile offenders at O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility role play their Skill of the Week.

‘Skill of the Week’ promotes positive behavior for youth offenders

By Joe Orlando, CDCR Public Information Officer
Office of Public and Employee Communications

Five days a week, 52 weeks each year, juvenile offenders throughout CDCR’s Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) are honing their social skills.

Skill of the Week is a Cognitive Behavior Treatment program that takes place in a living unit in a large group setting, led by either a Youth Correctional Counselor (YCC) or mental health expert.

“All four facilities learn the same skills at the same time,” said O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility (OHCYCF) Parole Agent II Michael Houston. “That’s very important because a lot of times the guys transfer from one facility to another, so to have continuity and fluidity is great to keep everybody on the same page all the time.”

Cognitive Behavior Treatment and the Integrated Behavior Treatment Model are the core risk/assessment tools customized for the DJJ population to reduce institutional violence and future criminal behavior by teaching anti-criminal attitudes and providing personal skills for the youth to better manage their environment. DJJ staff from every professional discipline work as a team to assess the unique needs of each youth and then develop an individualized treatment program to address them.

DJJ Director Anthony Lucero said the Skill of the Week is a good example of a program that could be incorporated into various facilities.

“Learning skills like accountability, honesty and patience is a valuable exercise for any person, regardless of age or criminal status,” he said. “I’m proud that DJJ has implemented such a useful tool at every juvenile facility.”

Recently, inside OHCYCF’s El Dorado Hall, youth in the Sexual Behavior Treatment Program discussed that week’s skill, concentrating on a task.

YCC Wilford Francisco led the discussion, making sure the group stayed on topic and steering them away from negativity and wasting time with non-relevant banter.

Francisco chose juvenile offenders Gregory and Roger to roleplay what they would do if they wanted to learn to play an instrument.

Youth Correctional Counselor Wilford Francisco leads the Skill of the Week discussion.

Youth Correctional Counselor Wilford Francisco leads the Skill of the Week discussion.

The discussion was lively, and the group weighed in on how to get an instrument, who will pay for it, how to learn to play it, and who will teach them how to play.

“With the roleplaying, a lot of times it’s common-sense stuff, but it is helpful because it makes you step back and analyze something in a different perspective,” Roger explained.

The Skill of the Week is introduced on Monday. Tuesday is for modeling the skill, Wednesday and Thursday the group roleplays, and Friday is for discussion and reinforcing the skill.

“I like the roleplaying because it’s real-life stuff that we’re discussing,” said youth offender Gregory. “For instance, we’ve discussed not fighting, and a lot of us got a lot out of that discussion. We talked about alternatives to fighting, and ways we can handle things without violence, so we are getting a lot accomplished and the best part is that you learn to walk away before the situation escalates.”

Other skills discussed throughout the year include listening, saying please and thank you, asking for help, using self-control, avoiding trouble with others, being a good sport and apologizing.

Parole Agent Houston said the skills learned could go a long way toward juvenile offenders succeeding in their communities upon release.

“When they go to their juvenile parole hearings, they can use the skills learned through Skill of the Week and articulate them to others as to how they would handle certain scenarios, and why they are better equipped to succeed than when they first arrived,” he noted.