Story by Ike Dodson, PIO
Office of Public and Employee Communications
Photos by DJJ staff
Thermometers just can’t compete with the age-old practice of sticking your toes in the water.
At the Northern California Youth Correctional Center (NCYCC) in Stockton, this practice goes beyond the site’s shimmering blue swimming pool.
Youth at NCYCC’s O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility (OHC) and neighboring N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility (NAC) earned participation in a bevy of summer break activities in July by not exhibiting violent behavior.
Staff organized recreational events each day of the month. NCYCC Superintendent Linda Bridges said youth showed trepidation in the first few days ― though that atmosphere quickly dissipated.
“Many of our youth have different backgrounds, so in the beginning they were a little stand off-ish,” Bridges said. “But then you saw their facial expressions change and they seemed to realize ‘O.K., we can do this.’
“It didn’t take too long for them to start cheering for each other’s participation.”
Youth split into teams representing housing units for many of the activities, crafting a mindset championed by Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Director Chuck Supple.
“The camaraderie between youth of different ethnic groups and backgrounds is vital to the rehabilitative process,” Supple said. “Youth who collaborate with staff, community volunteers and like-minded peers in the institution are investing in their own successful reentry into society.”
Young offenders also attend high school and college classes at NCYCC, but July’s break from classes at NAC High School and Johanna Boss High School at OHC enabled activities to occupy each day of the month, until classes resumed July 30.
Participation was arranged to accommodate the work schedule of youth. Staff also conducted daily evaluations, in an attempt to include as much of the population as possible.
Stockton’s youth facilities have hosted summer break activities for four years, but July’s events represented a comprehensive, diverse expansion to that practice.
“I wanted to keep the youth busy, and I asked what things they would like to see during the break,” Bridges explained. “The youth had some ideas about more events and staff pitched in some additional ones.
“Everyone came together to put the calendar together.”
Bridges said the communication between participating youth created positive outcomes from the events.
“We also saw a decrease in violent behavior,” she added. “They were looking forward to participating in the events, which made the youth think about how they were acting.”
Staff facilitated all of the activities, and snapped photos for collage displays at both facilities.
“I think it’s good for staff to see the youth from a different angle, beyond what they read in their file,” Bridges said. “Looking at their faces, you would have never guessed they were at a correctional facility.
“The smiles, the laughter, the excitement ―it was just fun to see them acting like kids.”