Detention Ministry At Juvenile Hall
Based on what is heard in the news, many people believe that only really bad kids are placed in juvenile hall. People also believe that the role of a detention ministry is to preach to these kids and to get them to repent for their wrong doings; both perceptions couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Many of the kids in juvenile hall are misguided youths who have made some bad choices. A good number of them have come from broken or dysfunctional homes and have not had the opportunity to benefit from the wisdom and guidance of a caring and compassionate adult. Having been arrested and now incarcerated in juvenile hall, they are depressed and taken back by the cold reality of their situation. Separated from their family and friends, many feel forgotten. They are eager to talk to someone-someone who is compassionate and not judgmental. They now know that they need to make some serious changes in their lifestyles, but they lack the maturity to figure out what those changes should be.
Volunteers meet with the kids in the “Day Rooms” of their respective housing units. Of the 15-20 juveniles that may be gathered there, 3 to 5 kids may request to meet with the available volunteers. Topics of discussion are varied, but they are usually focused on the current needs of the kids being met with. The kids are surprisingly polite and courteous, and most of the volunteers find it hard to believe that the individuals that they are meeting with are criminals in the eyes of the law.
Requirements for Becoming a Volunteer
- Must be at least 21 years old
- Make a visit to the juvenile hall facility to experience the workings of the ministry and to attend an orientation:
- Offered 1st Sunday of every month (a one time only visit). Will need to show Driver’s License ID to be admitted past security.
- Includes 8:00 AM mass with the juveniles (In the Chapel)
- Followed (at 9:30 AM) by an actual visit with one or more of the juveniles in their assigned Units. Visitors will be accompanied by a seasoned volunteer and will be able to observe how the ministry works.
- Following the visits there will be an orientation
- The 1st visit and orientation usually lasts until 11:30 AM.
- Complete all Application Forms. There are 4 forms: 3 for the Probation Department and 1 for the Office of Restorative Justice (LA Archdiocese). Forms are returned to the Chaplains office.
- Approval through LA County Probation Dept usually takes 8-10 weeks. Approval through the Archdiocese takes a shorter time. Once approved applicants will need to make an appointment to get a picture ID badge and get fingerprinted (info will be sent to you by the Chaplain)
- Obtain Initial Training – mandatory within the first year of ministry. Training (one day only) is offered by the Restorative Justice Office of the LA Archdiocese (offered twice a year). Volunteers may begin their ministry prior to their training. However, the training provides the volunteer with valuable skills for more productive dialogs with the juveniles. The training also includes personal testimonials by young adults who have passed through the juvenile hall system. These testimonials are especially moving because a volunteer seldom knows at the time of his/her visit the impact of that visit on the future of the youth.
Most volunteers join the ministry to participate in the visits with the kids. These typically last approximately 1 hour. Volunteers may choose to come either on Wednesday evenings, Sunday mornings, or if their schedules permit, on both occasions. On Sundays, volunteers may also participate as Lay Presiders, cantors, or as Eucharistic ministers.
- Additionally, many of the youths come from Catholic backgrounds. But due to various conditions in their home environment, many of them have had little exposure to the Sacraments. On Wednesdays between 6:30 and 8 PM, volunteers may participate in a specialized process design to prepare the youths for the sacraments of Baptism, First Communion, and Confirmation.
At St Mel: Robert Gerrity, (818) 888-1066
At Juvenile Hall: Fr. Michael Kennedy, SJ. Catholic Chaplain or Arturo Lopez, Co-Chaplain
Office of Restorative Justice, Archdiocese of Los Angeles
Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall
16350 Filbert Street,
Sylmar, CA 91342