Janie Porter-Barrett

By Christopher Zoukis

Her name was Janie Porter.  She was born just as the American Civil War came to a close.  Growing up in Macon, Georgia, Janie was an exemplary student, eventually graduating with honors from Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute.  Janie took her teaching degree seriously, accepting a position in rural Georgia.  Five years later, she met and married Harris Barnett, a Virginia businessman. 

Disturbed by the plight of African American children, who grew up in squalid conditions, often ending up in jail at the age of 7 or 8, Janie determined to do something about the problem, which she viewed as a moral crisis.  She began a fund-raising campaign throughout the state of Virginia.  The money was used to build what was then called “a home for wayward girls” – the Virginia Industrial School for Colored Girls.  In today’s world, it would be referred to as a juvenile detention facility.

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Children’s Prison Arts Project

Incarcerated juveniles often see the world through the adult correctional institution. Juveniles respond differently to correctional methods than do adults.

From Houston, Texas comes this positive and innovative art therapy program – Children’s Prison Arts Project. Founded in 1994 by an artist and educator, Birgit Walker, the Children’s Prison Arts Project has become a non-profit organization dedicated to helping at-risk youth and incarcerated  juveniles to express themselves through the arts. Included are visual arts, theater and creative writing.

 

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The Victim Offender Reconciliation Program

Mediation for victims of crimes, their families and the offenders is a large part of finding restitution for the crime and from having that crime reoccur.

The Victim Offender Reconciliation Program, based in Fresno, California, is a faith-based nonprofit organization that provides voluntary, non-fee mediation services to victims of juvenile crime and theirr offenders.

The Victim Offender Reconciliation Program began in 1982 in Fresno County and is based on the Biblical Vision of Shalom (Whole-Making Peace). The program sees this as existing when there are right-relations between fellow human beings, and between people and God.

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Free Minds – Book Club & Writing Workshop

Incarcerated youth often have open minds that can become closed down by lack of literary stimulation while in prison.

The mission of Free Minds – Book Club & Writing Workshop is to introduce young inmates to how powerful books and creative writing can be, how writing can express emotions and put into words the challenges they are going through. In addition, youth can often relate to characters and story situations that they read about. Reading and writing can help them see their is potential for educational and career goals.

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Homegirl Cafe and Catering

Imagine that you are an at-risk young woman, or have been involved in gangs and are given the opportunity to become a contributing member of society instead of being incarcerated? This is exactly what Homegirl Cafe & Catering accomplish.

In 1981 Chef Patricia Zarate left her homeland on Guadalajara, Mexico and moved to Southern California. She fell in love with all things food and became a chef. During this time she became very close with a Jesuit pastor by the name of Greg Boyles. Pastor Boyles and Chef Pati worked together with gangs in the Boyle Heights area of Southern California. In addition, Chef Pati prepared home cooked meals around the local community and opened her first restaurant. Here she employed at-risk young women.

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The National Juvenile Justice Education Clearinghouse

In conjunction with the Center for Criminology and Criminal Justice and Florida State University comes the National Juvenile Justice Education Clearinghouse. This is a huge project that collects and consolidates information and data concerning juvenile justice.

The purpose of the National Juvenile Justice Education Clearinghouse is to provide a place where juvenile justice educators can research and share information related to juvenile justice. Users can research and print documents related to government research reports, policy recommendations and program planning.

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Campaign for Youth & Justice – Because the Consequences Aren’t Minor

On any given night in America, 10,000 children are held in adult jails and prisons. Approximately 7,500 of these kids have never been convicted of a crime.

These are horrendous numbers! These are children often tried for non-violent crimes that are housed in adult jails and prisons with hard-core offenders!

Research and data, when paid attention to, gives us the answers.  Children charged and sentenced as adults are more likely to reoffend, reoffend quicker and with more serious charges than their counterparts who remain in the juvenile justice system.

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Acknowledging the Pain and Anger

There are students who try to get kicked out of class. It reminds me of foster children who know exactly what they need to do to get kicked out of a foster home. They figure it’s going to happen anyway, so they might as well get it over with. Some probably don’t believe they can pass the GED Test, or are too lazy to try.  If they can get kicked out by “mean Ms. Chamberlin”, then they can blame me instead of themselves.

These guys, especially the younger ones, will get really angry and rude. They are often very intelligent, but they’ll do whatever they can to get thrown out.  So, knowing that, I visit with them, let them know I’m aware of their plan (even if they don’t realize what they’re doing), and usually I can get them to decide to stay and try.

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