PanZOu Project, Inc. has been implementing the Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP’s) Gang Reduction Program (GRP) since 2004. A key strategy of this comprehensive model is intervention. Active gang members, gang members returning to the community from confinement, and youth closely associated with active gang members often have committed one or more serious offenses and are at high risk of further delinquency. These youth typically range in age from the early teens to the early twenties and are often on probation or parole. Some are not involved with the justice system, and most are resistant to traditional services. The GRP incorporates aggressive outreach and recruitment efforts to ensure that these high-risk individuals and their families receive needed services.
As part of the GRP plan, gang-involved youth and youth at high risk for gang involvement are identified and referred to a multidisciplinary Intervention Team composed of a small group of professionals, representing probation, law enforcement, social services, schools, and other service providers. As part of that team, PanZOu Project, Inc.’s street outreach workers play a key role in contacting and recruiting youth and retaining them in this program.
As mentioned above, the Intervention Team includes a small group of front-line workers from a variety of agencies. As needs are identified, the team may also include employment agency staff, community development/mobilization staff, specialized social service providers, parole officers, and others. The core staff, however, includes those who are expected to have almost daily contact with targeted youth. PanZOu Project, Inc. currently operates two Intervention Teams with meet every other week. One is in North Miami Beach and the other is in North Miami/Little Haiti. Members of these teams include the police departments’ gang detectives and school resource officers, juvenile probation officers, school trust counselors, PanZOu Project, Inc.’s four street outreach workers and Job Developer. Other service providers attend as their schedules allow.
All Intervention Team members have significant experience and training in working with high-risk and gang-involved populations. This is particularly important for outreach workers and case managers because they work directly with gang-involved youth and their families. As a team, the core staff identifies and provides services and/or links to services, opportunities, and supervision for high-risk and gang-involved youth and their families. Referrals are made to the PanZOu Project, Inc. from any member of the community. Primary referrals come from probation and community control, schools, the North Miami Beach Police Department and North Miami Police Department, churches, and parents. A large majority of referrals come from youth themselves who encourage their peers to join.
Once a referral is made, PanZOu’s street outreach workers identify and connect to these youth to determine their risk and openness to services. If the referred youth is a juvenile, consent is obtained from the parents. An intake is done with the family or young adult (if over 18 years) to gather preliminary data on the family. This information is brought to the Intervention Team. Various team members will bring information they have on the youth. For example, the police will share criminal information about the youth or his/her siblings if any; the juvenile probation officers will share the youth’s delinquent history and conditions of probation; the school will inform the team of the youth’s grades, attendance, and behavior, etc. The Team then develops an intervention plan that includes family members and blends services and opportunities with close monitoring and accountability. Intervention activities include individualized services and case management, including outreach to family members over extended periods of time. The team ensures conditions of probation, such as community service or substance abuse treatment, are met and educational and occupational opportunities are provided. The Intervention Team determines the risk level of each client which then determines the intensity of case management. For example, if a client is high risk he or she shall receive a minimum of three contacts a week by the outreach staff. The contacts include home visits and school visits. If a client is not attending school, a component of the intervention plan shall include education or vocation goals.
A GRP client is kept active in the program until he or she achieves their intervention goals effectively moving them from level three (high risk) to level one (low risk) and then closing their case once services are no longer necessary. For some youth this is only a few months. For others, it may take over a year to move them from active gang members into productive, law abiding citizens. If at any time it is determined that a GRP client has resumed gang or criminal history, the Intervention Team may raise their level of risk (or reopen their case) and intensify their case management and services.
One of the PanZOu Project, Inc.’s primary focus is on developing the employability of our GRP clients. A full time job developer teaches a 40 hours Job Skills Development (JSD) class that clients must complete. If clients are successful in the JSD program they receive a certificate, a small stipend, and then are placed on job interviews with local businesses. Our job developer works to develop relationships with employers who have agreed to hire the graduates. Many of the clients have a criminal history which makes it very difficult to obtain employment on their own. In the summer of 2009, PanZOu opened a screen printing and embroidery shop which provides On The Job Training and employment for up to 7 transitioning gang members at a time.
In addition to the services provided, the Intervention Team also holds youth accountable for their actions. Youth who are probationers will be accountable to existing conditions of probation or specialized conditions of probation, designed to address factors correlated with their gang activity. Client youth committing new crimes will be held accountable and subjected to a system of graduated sanctions proportional to the offense. The PanZOu Project, Inc.’s staff will often provide status updates to the judge or probation officer concerning youth’s progress in the program.
A key goal of the Intervention Team is to share information that presents opportunities for intervention to other members of the team. Instead of social services handing the case “over” to police or vice versa, the team and its members work together towards the same goal. While team members may have different “levers” to pull, the intent is exactly the same—to remove the youth from gang crime and promote prosocial behavior. This may mean new types of services, different approaches, and services to family members who are influencing the youth in one way or another. It could also mean arrest and incarceration of individuals who may be encouraging the youth to commit crimes, probation checks to ensure the youth possesses no weapons during a time of crisis, encouraging the parent(s) to play a greater role in controlling the youth’s behavior, or possibly identifying a way to remove the individual from the streets temporarily to protect him or her (or anyone else) from harm.
· Intervention activities are directed to the target youth individually and not primarily to the gang as a unit, although understanding and sensitivity to gang structure and “system” are essential to influencing individual gang youth and providing effective intervention.
· Services and activities are provided to youth gang members returning to the community after confinement.
· All key organizations located in the target area are encouraged to make needed services and facilities available to gang youth, with proper consideration given to working with this population.
· Intervention Team members are allowed to contact youth gang members in prison or detention centers to plan for services to be provided to these youth upon release into the community.
· Targeted youth (and their families) are provided with a variety of services that assist them to adopt nondeviant values and to access programs and organizations that will meet their social, educational, vocational, and sometimes health, housing, and income needs.
· Street outreach is established to focus on core gang youth, with special capacity to reach youth, both nonadjudicated and adjudicated, in the local community setting.
· The primary focus of street outreach services is ensuring safety while remaining aware of and linking youth and families to educational preparation, prevocational or vocational training, job development, job referral, parent training, mentoring, family counseling, drug treatment, tattoo removal, and other services in ways that are age-appropriate.
· Outreach activities such as recreation and arts are carefully arranged so as not to become a primary focus, but rather a means to establish prosocial interpersonal relationships and provide access to essential resources or services.