CONVERTING INMATES INTO CITIZENS
The October 19 issue of the LA Times ran a front-page feature about L.A. County Superior Court Judge Michael Tynan, “the 73-year-old Army veteran with a gruff, no-nonsense voice (who) has taken on populations that others have given up on — the county’s drug addicts, homeless, mentally ill and, in recent years, women parolees. The Los Angeles County Superior Court judge oversees a number of programs known as collaborative or problem-solving courts, designed to address the underlying issues — addictions, mental health, poverty — that lead to repeated arrests and prison terms.”
The story documents the successes, and occasional failures, of a visionary program to rehabilitate the tough cases. As the interim Vice President at PROTOTYPES, I was responsible for providing oversight to this program. The behind-the-scenes management story is almost as dramatic as the clinical cases cited by the Times.
Our treatment plans had to be coordinated with public defenders, the parole and probation authorities and the Los Angeles County social services administrators. Each brought a point of view and a set of reporting requirements. At the end of the day, our social workers, who were providing the treatment, had to set the clinical standards. Reconciling all this took a lot of patient negotiation as we searched to reconcile our differing perspectives and establish a way to work together effectively as a team. Like most efforts that are worth doing, it was hard work and there were some tense moments.
In the rare instance that you see a social work success reported in major media — on page one above the fold, no less — you should applaud journalistic initiative. But, of course, don’t expect to see the full story.
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