While Realignment has largely dominated recent headlines related to county custodial duties, reforms to the juvenile system continue to improve the lives and outlooks of the State’s youngest offenders. New programs in Los Angeles County, which until recently had been ridiculed by youth advocates for harsh tactics, are proving fruitful after just five weeks of trials.

The program, called Freedom School, brings together the juvenile offenders at either Cahllenger Memorial Youth Center or Camp Afflerbaugh into the five-week summer literacy. Unlike previous approaches to juvenile education, members of different gangs and ethnicities are allowed to participate in the same classroom under less restrictive rules. Although the approach worried some of the probation officers because its would provide opportunities for violence, the frequency of fights has fallen, participation has increased, and the offenders appear to be responding to the program.

Freedom School teaches the offenders not only to read, but uses novels that feature topics such as Civil Rights, overcoming poverty, and even how to beat drug abuse. Writing assignments encourage the former gang-bangers to write introspective essays and even poems.

After the five weeks, the only evidence of the program’s effectiveness remains the anecdotal evidence offered by probation officers. However, as literacy scores return, the program may prove to be invaluable.

Read the full article at the Los Angeles Times.