A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

May 31, 2013

Juveniles Sentenced to spcaLA for Violence "Cure"

Your spcaLA and the Juvenile Division of the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office have united to bring spcaLA’s award winning  violence prevention program to the Los Angeles juvenile system. This mandated, alternative sentencing program,  jTLC™.works by re-instilling empathy into teens with the aim of "curing" violence.

In a  two-day, court-mandated course, teens are paired with shelter dogs and offered intensive sessions designed to help at-risk youth identify and break the cycle of violence.  The jTLC candidates are carefully selected by the District Attorney’s Office along with the Juvenile Court judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys. 

These children learn coping and anger management skills and gain self-esteem with the help of our shelter dogs. We instill in them compassion and empathy – which steers them into a more positive direction.

For the last two years, spcaLA has pilot-tested the jTLC program with juvenile offenders from communities like Long Beach and Sylmar.   80% of the offenders have avoided trouble and have not, to date,  re-offended.  jTLC is unique to spcaLA and Los Angeles County.  Other communities, like New York City, have inquired about the program and how they can introduce it into their own juvenile systems.

“As an animal lover, retired Police Sergeant and currently Los Angeles County District Attorney Juvenile Offender Intervention Program (J.O.I.N.) hearing officer, I knew from experience and studies that the direct correlation between animal cruelty and domestic violence, child abuse, bullying and school fights is factual,” said Lianne Osendorf.  “The cycle of abuse will continue unless there is intervention to break the cycle. The collaboration of the LA DA and spcaLA to bring awareness and intervention to these minors is a major step in doing just that. Thanks to Melanie Wagner, Director of Humane Education, and her staff and some very caring District Attorneys the program has been a phenomenal success.  With few exceptions the minors that participate come away from the experience with new found respect for animals and people. The weekend class focuses on teaching minors how damaging abuse can be not only to animals and people but also to the person inflicting the abuse.”

jTLC attendees range from teenage girls who were convicted of bullying to an animal abuse offender who, at 8 years old, was bullied by his brother to injure a rabbit.  Now at 14 years old, he was sentenced to jTLC for hitting a dog in the head with a brick. 

Just as violent offenders learn how to desensitize their natural feelings of empathy by abusing animals, we can turn the tables and put it right back in!

People always ask me why do I spend my time insisting that we be kind to animals when there is so much violence against people in the world. My response is that articulated in the 1870s by George T. Angell - "I am working at the root of the problem."

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