September | October 2012

Update: OJJDP Green Reentry Program for Tribal Youth

Photo of youth  from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw  Indians working in a community garden.
A youth from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians works in the community garden near the Youth Transitional Living Unit in Pearl River, MS.
Funded through a 4-year grant under OJJDP's Tribal Juvenile Detention and Reentry Green Demonstration Program, three tribes are using agricultural and environmentally sustainable technologies as a platform to teach vocational skills, promote healthy lifestyles, and deepen pride in tribal traditions and culture. Services also include tutoring and online educational opportunities as well as substance abuse and individual and family counseling.

The OJJDP-funded Education Development Center (EDC), Inc., facilitated the planning and implementation of the program. EDC staff, who live and work in Indian country, are intimately familiar with tribal communities, customs, and culture.

With the OJJDP green reentry grant, teens from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians created a community garden adjacent to the Youth Transitional Living Unit in Pearl River, MS. Mississippi State University, long known for its expertise in agriculture; the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service; and the tribe's Wildlife and Parks, Natural Resources, Choctaw Ways, and Cultural Departments assisted with the project.

Photo of solar  power system under construction.
Youth gain valuable work experience in green technologies as they help build a new solar power system for the Hualapai Juvenile Detention and Rehabilitation Center in Peach Springs, AZ.
In close consultation with tribal elders, youth prepare the soil and plant, nurture, and harvest collard greens, tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, and corn. They then use traditional recipes to prepare meals. Youth also sell the produce, with proceeds going to the green reentry program. Plans are in the works to create gardens in other Choctaw communities and to incorporate recycling and alternative forms of energy into the reentry program. Environmental education is a key component of the gardening project.

In addition, youth have assisted in the construction of an electrical fence to protect the garden from deer; participated in First Aid and CPR training to help their communities in the event of health crises, house fires, and natural disasters; and toured the Mississippi College of Law and the State Capitol to learn how better to have an impact on the state's legal and legislative systems.

left quoteThe project has allowed us to make significant positive changes in our entire juvenile offender process here at Choctaw, but it is an even greater force for positive change in the lives of the youth that it touches.right quote

—Kevin Briscoe, Youth Court Judge
Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians

Youth in the Hualapai Indian Tribe of Peach Springs, AZ, with guidance from the University of Arizona Agricultural Extension Office and community elders, have created garden beds and constructed greenhouses at the Hualapai Juvenile Detention and Rehabilitation Center and at the local Boys & Girls Club. They plant, attend to, and harvest the produce, which they deliver to elders in the community. The produce also serves as a staple in the detention center's kitchen, where youth learn how to prepare and cook healthy meals incorporating traditional fruits and vegetables.

In addition, youth assisted in the construction of a new solar power system at the detention center, funded through a U.S. Department of Energy grant. These and other activities made possible through partnerships with the Hualapai Tribe's Department of Education and Training, Housing Department, and Apprenticeship Program have provided youth with valuable contacts, work experience, and employment opportunities.

left quotePartnerships between the Juvenile Detention and Rehabilitation Center and other tribal departments are extremely important because youth build a rapport with individuals and are able to continue working with these people after release.right quote

—Candida Hunter
Councilwoman, Hualapai Tribe

The benefits of the reentry program extend beyond detention. Youth who have been released from detention can work in the gardens and greenhouses, attend individual and family counseling sessions, participate in talking circles, and join in on Youth Council activities, including outdoor adventure expeditions.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe of Rosebud, SD, has incorporated green technologies into a comprehensive reentry program for adjudicated youth. The program includes gardening, beekeeping, raising chickens, recycling, environmental education, and participation in community service projects. The program also incorporates traditional healing, culturally based counseling, culturally relevant offsite excursions, and education in Lakota history.

Photo of apiary  on Rosebud Sioux Reservation.
Youth from the Wanbli Wiconi Tipi Youth Wellness and Renewal Center on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation (Rosebud, SD) assisted in the construction of an apiary. In addition to producing honey, bees are essential to the pollination of trees, crops, herbs, and vegetables.

In addition, youth from the tribe's detention center (Wanbli Wiconi Tipi Youth Wellness and Renewal Center) engaged in community service activities, including gathering wood and wood chips for the elderly to fuel their wood-burning stoves, launching a cleanup campaign to remove litter from one of the larger communities on the reservation, repairing 80 broken and discarded bicycles, and offering the bicycles for use by children in the community.

"One of the youth who helped repair bikes had been involved in a gang, had truancy problems, and had a history of intakes into detention," said Miskoo Petite, Sr., facility administrator, Rosebud Sioux Tribe Corrections Services. "You should have seen the expression on his face on the day the bikes were delivered to kids in the community. It made him happy to see young people in his community feel good."

Since then, the young man has been accepted into the Riverside Indian School in Anadarko, OK. He is excelling at academics and sports, has been selected as a dorm mediator, and continues to work toward his high school diploma.

"This is the kind of progress—one person at a time—that makes all of our work in juvenile justice and delinquency prevention so worthwhile," said Melodee Hanes, OJJDP's Acting Administrator. "The Tribal Juvenile Detention and Reentry Green Demonstration Program was developed in close consultation with tribes. Ensuring that reentry programs are sensitive to tribal traditions and culture is an important ingredient in success."

RTI and American Indian Development Associates are conducting an evaluation of the Tribal Juvenile Detention and Reentry Green Demonstration Program, with a final report scheduled for release in the coming months.

OJJDP Online Resource Center Supports Tribal Detention and Reentry Programs

Tribal Juvenile Detention and Reentry Resource Center Web site screenshot
The Tribal Juvenile Detention and Reentry Resource and Technical Assistance Center Web site.
OJJDP offers training and technical assistance to all grantees and federally recognized tribes to facilitate program planning, enhancement, implementation, and evaluation around juvenile tribal detention centers and juvenile justice services. The Office has created an online Tribal Juvenile Detention and Reentry Resource and Technical Assistance Center, which contains information about training and technical assistance, events, and funding opportunities. The Web site also features a searchable database of resources and materials, including published works, peer-reviewed research, curriculums, and other resources that provide the latest information on topics relevant to juvenile detention and reentry and green job training.