Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Students on probation have an incentive

Outline of Carmelitos Subsidized Housing Project
Photo Credit: Google

Millikan High School, ranks third in the Long Beach UnifiedSchool District (LBUSD) behind Cabrillo and Jordan with 60 of its students on probation.

“Roughly 60% of the school population is bussed in from the downtown area,” Deputy Probation Officer (DPO II) Ted Gomez said, “Milikan approximately has a student population of 65% Hispanic, 20% White, 10% African American, and 5% Asian.”

Since the population is incredibly diverse and the fact that 60% of the school is bussed in on anywhere between 27-29 busses every morning, it creates a problem amongst the races. Even though with the presence of law enforcement on campus fights still break out, and the use of drugs and gang activity are becoming more common. This leads to a zero tolerance policy for fighting, drug use and gang activity. This leads to a higher suspension and expulsion rate.

 Millikan, is the only high school in LBUSD that doesn’t have a probation officer on campus. Those 60 students must check in with their probation officer at the court house downtown. Failure to report their mandatory once a month meeting results in a violation of their probation. The consequences of violating ones probation will result in them most likely doing time at either Los Angeles County Juvenile Hall. Sending them to a probation camp is the last option due to the fact of the cost it takes to house these inmates.

“We have gotten kids who think there tough when there at school, but when they get here it becomes a real eye opener. They begin to realize this isn’t a place that they want to be in,” Los Angeles County Intake Detention Officer (ITO) Art Gonzalez said.

The process of seeing how long a kid stays in Juvenile Hall starts with Gonzalez. “The kid could be locked up for up to 72 hours before we can get him in front of a judge, who then will give him his sentence,” Gonzalez said “The judges try to stay away from sending kids to camp who have petty crimes. They use camp as a last resort because on average it costs $4,000 a month to house them there, but they will send the most serious offenders there.”

There is one thing that keeps these students on probation honest so they don’t end up at Juvenile Hall or a probation camp. Several of the students on probation that attend Millikan live in a subsidized housing project called, Carmelitos.

Carmelitos, is the only government run subsidized housing in the city of Long Beach and is the biggest housing project in Los Angeles County. It offers 800 plus units which are specially designed for low income families.

Carmelitos, has two law enforcement officers on site at all times, as well as heavy presence in the immediate area. It enforces a zero tolerance policy which forces the kids who are on probation to make the right choices whether they are out in the community or in school.

According to the Long Beach Police Department, the zero tolerance policy at Carmelitos has dropped the number of reported crimes drastically from 268 in 1990, to 99 reported crimes in 2000, and a mere 65 crimes reported in 2011.

 Even though these kids are on probation, by the drop of reported crime at Carmelitos it relates to the way they act when they get to school and how they interact with their peers even if they are rival gang members.

“They know if they get caught doing something illegal at Carmelitos, they will not only get expelled from Millikan, but their families will also be evicted from the housing project and they will be forced to find somewhere else to live,” Gomez said.

The strains and restrictions of being on probation are very strict and at times can be overwhelming for the child, but the benefits of being able to live in a subsidized housing project and attend a great high school such as Millikan is a reward that is worth it for some.

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