On the morning of May 18th, we spent several hours with service users and providers at Homeboy Industry.
Homeboy Industry provides an 18 month reintegration program that consists of educating and employment services, legal services and free tattoo removal for those previously incarcerated, involved in gangs or in need of assistance.
During our time at Homeboy Industry we heard the testimony of two employees regarding their work and their previous history of gang involvement. We also heard how Homeboy Industry had helped them become valuable members of society and of their family units.
Homeboy Industry is also focused on providing assistance to the wider community through a number of services at aim to empower and enrich both the individual and the community whilst also upholding the belief that “Whatever you have done does not define who you are.”
We then went on to visit Los Angeles City Hall where we met with a range of staff the from Mayor’s Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development, to learn more about gang prevention and intervention services. GRYD was established in 2007 as part of a pioneering effort to reduce the influence of gangs in the lives of young people in LA. We learned about the neighbourhood-based approach that focuses on high-gang-crime areas and the programmes that help young people at risk.
Finally, we all went on to visit the Twin Towers correctional facility, which is part of LA county jail. The Twin Towers houses 1,400 mentally ill patients in downtown Los Angeles. This offered a sense of the pressure facing the US prison system as it attempts to cope with the manifold difficulties of working with people with mental health issues who come into contact with the justice system. We gained real insight into the complexities that emerge from creating a mental hospital inside a jail, and were able to ask prison staff a range of searching questions about the realities of life behind bars in the USA