Los Angeles Times

Making a Difference

Camp David Gonzales learning a path out of prison

Metro, Los Angeles Times, May 13, 1995
When repeat juvenile offenders are released from a high-security facility, such as Camp David Gonzalez in Malibu, they usually are sent home, back to the same streets where they learned to get in trouble in the first place. For these teenagers, staying straight is a daily struggle.

However, one way to keep youngsters away from drugs, gangs, and violence, is an education. Jeffrey Butts, a senior research associate for the National Center for Juvenile Justice in Pittsburgh, cites a study conducted over a decade ago that found that the recidivism rate for a group of released prisoners who completed their high school equivalency degree in a special program was 16%, compared with 44% for a control group.

Michael Kaye, a deputy probation officer, believed in 1968 that education was paramount for young prisoners. He approached Northridge University with the idea of a program to pair college-student tutors with some of the city’s worst juvenile offenders. UCLA also signed on and, in the early 1970s, Pepperdine University got involved. Northridge has since dropped out for financial reasons. More than 70 college students each semester earn credit for tutoring the youth offenders.

How Pepperdine’s Tutorial Program Works

1. Applicants who pass a background check and have no criminal record meet at Camp David Gonzalez. Program coordinators go through the rules including a reminder that tutors focus on teaching the students, not helping them solve non-academic difficulties.

2. They are paired with juvenile offenders and work together for a semester. Program coordinators try to mix the group up to expose the boys to other cultures and races.

3. Tutors and students decide together where the youths need the most work. Some are ready to graduate high school. Others can barely read. Tutoring sessions run weekly from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m.

“I want to learn. I want to get an education. The teachers out there (in the public schools), they didn’t really care. Once the bell rings you’re on your own. They care more here. I’m going to graduate (from high school), try to get into junior college, try to get a job on the side, make my family happy. I want to make my mom happy. It will be difficult.”
-Artemio, 17, of Los Angeles

“I think it’s a fantastic program. I have seen these juvenile offenders advance two or three grades within six or seven months. I run into youngsters who can’t effectively read and write. No one has ever taught them. When they arrive at the camp and take the program they just skyrocket.

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