Of course a lot of it had to do to start with trust. I could say things happen for a reason. I was headed down the wrong path. I was doing a lot of crazy wild stuff. If I didn't get on probation or if I didn't go to jail, I wouldn't be in the library working. Because before I wasn't on probation, I didn't have no job. And I used to apply myself. With me having a felony, it was hard.
I've been in gangs, I've been in and out of the system. I'd be still selling drugs, still holding a gun on me probably still just trapped in that lifestyle where I felt like this is the way to go.
It's like a big shock that people actually care about us, they care about me. It's almost like they welcome me with open arms.
To meet me where I'm at and her to put out her hand and say, "Hey Sonia, i'm here to help you." She wants me to better my life, she's not here to be like, "Okay, well, I'm gonna throw you in prison or I'm gonna throw you in jail. Here are alternatives. I'm gonna put you in a program." I mean there was all these things that made me feel like she was on my side.
Yeah they basically push you to do right. You know, they don't they don't want to see you go back. And yeah of course they do their sometimes their unexpected visits you know. Bottom line is that we make that choice if we want to go back or push forward.
A lot of people say it's systemic, so we obviously know the system needs to be changed, altered, improved, or whatnot. But part of it also is just the mindset, the mentality, and that mentality is built into the culture, both into the environment that they're brought up in and that they live in.
I felt like, I just felt like i couldn't do it. Like something in my head was telling me, "You know what, Sonia, you're no good." You can't do it sometimes. It gets to the point where you hit your rock bottom, and you just start believing what other people say. And then you start to believe in yourself eventually. You know i'm still getting there.
Clients need to understand that how they think and how they operate drives their criminal history or their criminal activity. So it's so important to be able to get people to change the way they think about themselves and their community to get them out of that constant default to criminal conduct.
So if for five generations somebody is just, all they have seen and known that's a part of them, that's what they know. So they're just living the life that they think they're supposed to live.
Some people say they want to change and really don't want to change. It's all about footwork. It's not coming off the sky for nothing. You have to put in the footwork to change and make life better for you —period.
I can instruct them to go to classes. I can instruct them to go to therapy. But if they don't want to do it, if they don't have the attitude to change, then nothing nothing I do is going to force them to change. They have to make that decision.
i know they don't condone what I did but they are supporting me.
They give you a chance to get yourself a chance. Well I took jail as a wake-up call. I didn't take it as like, "Oh my life is over, I'm ruined." I took it as a wake-up call, and I'm doing a lot wrong and I need to do something right about my life.
I think historically the criminal justice system has treated clients pretty much as a one size fits all and San Francisco Adult Probation is not one size fits all. We just have a ton of programs and a ton of special case loads and activities that just really cater to inclusion.
So this is Father's Matter, right? Introduction: who am I? My name is Officer Victor Williams. The mission of Father's Matter group is to equip young fathers with a platform to vocalize their reality, inform them of various networks of resources and information and community that can improve their conditions, and empower fathers to be actively involved in their children's lives — thus celebrating fatherhood. They're going to celebrate fatherhood.
So we want to contribute to you all's toolboxes to make you all excellent fathers and I feel like in a real community of men, you're not just fathers to your children, but you are fathers to those children out there who are lost, who don't have good role models
I come from similar backgrounds as the the clients that we work with. And i think that without particular mentors or adults in my life, I could have made the wrong decision as well and been in their shoes.
I think we've done a great job of hiring a really diverse workforce. A lot of people are from San Francisco, so they bring again that kind of personal goal of improving their City.
What drives me is that I can make a change in someone's life. I don't know when that's going to happen, when they're going to see it, but every day might be the day that you know you make a difference in someone's life.
I'm in a community. I consider myself part of community. I'm an advocate for the community that my kids, sports, school, out here in the City owners of my clients all the time. You got to kind of take down those barriers and be a part of the community. Especially if you police in that community or probation that community, you should be a part of that community.
The young adult court was started in 2015. We have participants who are between the ages of 18 to 25. We have a great group of people working with us as far as like the courts, the judge, the public defender's office, the DA's office, family services agency.
We've spent the last few months in the development phase of putting this young adult courts together. Young adults are unable to connect their synapses to make particular decisions that we would expect. Couple that with trauma and poverty, and you really have quite a difficult population that's different than any other collaborative court we have, and so we had to from the gate do things differently.
The transformational relationship is key. A case manager can't just say, "I only do case management." A PO can't just say, "I only enforce behaviors." A lawyer can't just say, "I only do the law." You know, we want people to be cross-trained, cross-understanding, and also all play this role. Because you don't know when a young person is going to find that you're a person they want to talk to, and a young person is going to get different things from different people.
Besides the science, besides the age group, we're talking about kids pretty much. They have very difficult backgrounds. There were people in their lives that they should have trusted and should have took care of them, but did not. And now here they are having a hard time trusting us and trusting the fact that we care and that we're trying to help them.
Why are you selling crack? Why are you robbing stores? Why are you breaking into cars? Largely what you see is things driven by addiction and things driven by mental health which kind of leads you to the public health lens of criminal justice which San Francisco is doing a really good job of embracing.
Our clients are very much the same clients that are using City services across the board — so emergency rooms, mental health services, substance abuse treatment. So if we can address some of the challenges that our clients face in the community with their own mental health and substance abuse, we are affecting public health.
Once I got out of jail, my probation officer introduced me to the CASC.
It's a place where you can go and better yourself.
Some of what we're trying to really create here is an atmosphere of inspiration where somebody might of their own accord come in and just have lunch and then hear about the class and say well it's not why I came in here but this actually sounds interesting and i'll give it a try.
From there I got involved with the different classes that they provided.
What's cool about is you have incentives too, so you you go to anger management class you make so many points, and then you get a gift card. There's always like I guess that light at the end of the tunnel or something you know, and I think that's pretty cool because it makes you feel good about yourself.
A lot of the clients have experience that they come here just to relax. So they come in and get away from all the madness and they know it's a safe place to be. I think that's very unique that um that I haven't seen in other departments.
I started as a probation officer almost 28 years ago and there was no funding for adult services. So every service that an individual engaged in was paid for out of their pocket or other county dollars. Now there are dedicated funding streams to adult services so many of our clients can go into some of these great opportunities and services paid for through state and federal dollars.
I've been in the in the bad neighborhoods all my life so I got over the stuff I was doing. I want better, you know. I want a better living for my kids, you know. I want to bring them up in a better environment so they could be raised differently, see something that that i didn't get to see growing up.
I believe I could be somebody. I believe I could overcome this adversity as long as I comply with probation and as long as I stay in this program and I'm healthy. I feel like I'll be able to do a lot of things with my life.
I could be working for the City, and I'm just coming off probation. you know. Simple. That just great. But if if you're willing to keep pushing forward, that's that's what this is for. It's not no joke around, nothing the joke can play and be half stepping. It's either you're gonna be in you out because it's worth it
A lot of places, they just they really don't care about the clients. But this place in San Francisco, they're leading the way on showing that, if you actually listen and take care of the clients, you know, and lead them in the right direction and show them that they don't need to go back to their old behaviors — that things can change.
Everybody loves San Francisco, you know. I just feel like you don't get judged here like you would if you were somewhere else.
As a society especially in the United States, people want to hold somebody to their criminal status in perpetuity and it blows my mind. I don't get it. How does that make us safer to have somebody else feel so shameful and horrible that they go out and do something negative again?
In protecting the community and serving justice and changing lives, we don't want people to feel as if their needs don't matter. Everybody's needs matter.
They are our community members. They live among us in San Francisco, and by taking care of these individuals, we're really serving ourselves. We're making this safe for community, we're helping people become more productive. It just makes for a safer and healthier city if we're helping the individuals that need the most help.
They are truly the most vulnerable in this City, and by the resources that we invest in them we are making a difference.
i would like to thank the San Francisco County Probation Department for helping me get my life together. This is an opportunity of a lifetime, and I'm definitely gonna run with it.
A lot of people didn't get this opportunity so I definitely think whoever was behind the IPO program because I'm able to be a better person today.
Everything's been good, I'm still going to work, still coming to class. And I need to fly straight, I'm flying straight, I'm going to fly straight. I thank you for believing in me, and I won't let you down.
Thank you for being able to help me change my life, to have programs here that open up my heart and my mind. Knowing that you guys really care about people like me, because you deal with all kinds of people, but especially people like me who have been ostracized or like they want to throw us away. And yet you've opened up your arms to me, and I appreciate that.