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Galt police, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation team up to help at-risk kids

JAIL program offers look at the consequences of poor decision-making

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Posted: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:16 am, Wed Sep 26, 2012.

The Galt Police Department and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation have developed a youth program called JAIL, an acronym for Juvenile Awareness, Interactive Learning. It was started about six month ago and is being held at the CDCR Correctional Training Facility off Twin Cities Road in Galt.

The goal of JAIL is to provide information to young adults and their families regarding poor life choices. These bad choices might involve bad friends, gangs, drugs, alcohol, truancy and many other at-risk behaviors that can lead young adults to consequences like imprisonment.

A scared-straight portion of the program involves visiting an actual jail cell and hearing from inmates firsthand.

Galt Police Lt. Brian Vizzusi, who helps to oversee JAIL, recently answered questions about the program.

Q: Where did the name of the program come from?

A: We wanted a catchy name. There’s a lot of scared-straight programs, but we wanted it to be an educational program, not just having prisoners come in and scare them.

It’s a catchy name and it’s working. We’ve had some good success stories with people turning it around. They’re improving their grades.

Q: What is JAIL all about?

A: We’re trying to be proactive and target kids who might join a gang or try drugs. I think it’s effective, and we’re committed to continuing it as long as there’s a community need.

Q: Why did the police department choose to focus on gangs? How big of a problem is that in Galt?

A: It’s probably at the same level as any other town in California. I think a lot of cities are reactive and more driven in suppression efforts by making arrests, running citations.

Although we do that, we think we have to get to the root of the problem before they become big issues. Since we’ve been doing the intervention, we’ve seen the gang arrests go down.

Q: You mentioned the program’s intervention strategy includes identifying at-risk youths and educating them about where they may end up if they do not get into the habit of making good decisions. How are you doing this?

A: We’re in the schools with the school resource officer.

We’re talking to the kids about gangs and drugs and making good choices.

We also have the Explorer program, with students coming here every week in uniform and learning about the profession.

Q: Why the partnership with CDCR?

A: We’re taking some at-risk kids and their parents over there every month or few months ... and actually showing them the inside of the jail cell.

There’s some tears and some thoughts like, “I probably don’t want to be here and I’m going to start making better life choices.”

Q: Who can the public contact to find out how to get involved in the program?

A: Crime Prevention Coordinator T.J. Guidotti is the point person (for the JAIL program). His direct extension is 209-366-7021.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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