By Ike Dodson, CDCR PIO
Office of Public and Employee Communications
After 30 years of service at CDCR, Senior Youth Correctional Counselor Wendell Howell could hardly contain his glee when seven former youthful offenders took the spotlight at the fourth annual Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Leadership Forum earlier this year in April.
The stories of their triumphs after incarceration resonated with Howell, who has built a reputation for thinking outside the bars.
“It validates our efforts to see success stories, especially working in treatment,” Howell had said after thanking the speakers. “Seeing the panel of youth represent success of the former California Youth Authority and our DJJ institutions was really good to see.
“The impact of treatment is such a success for the department.”
Eight months later, Howell’s commitment to DJJ’s Integrated Behavior Treatment Model ― designed to reduce institutional violence and future criminal behavior by teaching anti-criminal attitudes and providing personal skills for youth ― personifies DJJ’s role of a supervising youth correctional counselor for the 21st century.
December’s O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility Employee of the Month used recycled materials to create a new “Opportunity, Hope, Change” symbol for the institution, and led youth in fundraising efforts to support recent disaster victims. He also raised money to purchase athletic equipment at O.H. Close.
“Wendell has fully grasped the rehabilitative model and is heavily involved in youth activities and programs,” O.H. Close Treatment Team Supervisor Ray Knight said. “He believes that keeping these youth focused on tasks and engaged in busy work assists them in regards to their treatment.
“Sitting idle in a dayroom does not do the youth, staff or eventually the community any good.”
Knight said Howell inspires youth to take an active role in projects, from gardening and sign-building to tricycle racing and “human-foosball” games.
“We have many tours here and people find it hard to believe when they observe gang members racing each other and playing games,” Knight said. “Activities such as these may seem trivial to the outside eye; however, they are more than just games.”
“These activities break down youth barriers and beliefs about their peer gang subcultures,” Knight added. “Once that initial barrier is broken there are more advances to come.”
Howell’s efforts, validated by the success of former youth and heralded by DJJ staff, is itself an inspiration for opportunity, hope and change.