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Dorchester Juvenile Program
Submitted by Taylor Stoehr (profile)

About Us

Juvenile Program for Girls

The Dorchester Juvenile Program for Girls has a staff of four - one teacher, two probation officers, and one judge.

Classes are held in the afternoons, after school hours, once a week for an hour and a half, and they run for ten weeks.

The students read stories, short essays, and poems, both in the classroom and at home, but an effort is made to keep the reading from feeling like homework. Students respond to the readings with their own writings, sometimes in dialogue with the authors, sometimes creating their own poems, which they share with each other. Much of the writing is done in class.

The focus of the course has been the preparation of a kind of "personal journal" prepared by each girl, filled with self-defining writing, drawing, photos, and other material that is chosen to represent the author's true self.

One class meeting involved a joint excursion with the boys program to visit the University of Massachusetts Boston campus and meet with the head of Admissions and the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs (recently appointed Interim Chancellor for the university).

Juvenile Program for Boys

During its most recent semester, the Dorchester Juvenile Program for Boys had a staff of two, juvenile probation officer Robert Nagle and the Rev. Matt Gibson, who served as instructor. The program met in the Ella J. Baker House, a few blocks from the Dorchester Courthouse on Washington Street, where Rev. Gibson has been a youth worker. Beginning with the Fall of 2004 the staff will also include probation officer Peter Jennings and Judge Leslie E. Harris. In the future, the boys program will meet at the courthouse, where the girl's program also meets.

The boy's class met weekly, for an hour and a half after school hours, over a period of ten weeks. Most of the reading material consisted of poems, which were chosen for their relevance to the students. Students also worked on projects involving their own lives and "stories." One class involved a joint excursion with the girls program to visit the University of Massachusetts Boston campus and meet with the head of Admissions and the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs.

Our History

Juvenile Program for Girls

The program was initiated in the Spring of 2004 by Juvenile Court Judge Marjory A. German, with the help of Dorchester juvenile probation officers Idella Carter and Barbara Anne (Barbie) Loftus, and instructor Anne-Marie Kent, from the University of Massachusetts Boston. In this, its trial semester, the class began with eight teenaged girls and graduated three, others having dropped out for a number of reasons, mainly non-attendance. This staff will continue to hold courses each semester for girls on probation in the Dorchester Court, where Judge German hears from 30 to 40 cases of individual boys and girls every day that she sits on the bench.

Juvenile Program for Boys

Although there had been an earlier pilot program for boys in Dorchester, for three semester in 1999-2000, the current program began in the Spring of 2004, initiated by Juvenile Court Judge Marjory A. German, with the help of Dorchester juvenile probation officer Robert Nagle, and instructor Rev. Matt Gibson from the Ella J. Baker House. The Spring class began with ten boys and ended by graduating seven in ceremonies conducted at the courthouse.

Our Participants

Juvenile Program for Girls

Probation Officers:

Idella Carter
Barbara Anne ("Barbie") Loftus

Instructors:

Anita Barnes, Attorney
Anne-Marie Kent, Office of Communications and Community Relations, University of Massachusetts Boston

Judge:

Hon. Marjory A. German, Justice of the Juvenile Court of Suffolk County

Juvenile Program for Boys

Probation Officers:

Peter Jennings
Robert Nagle

Instructor:

Rev. Matt Gibson, Ella J. Baker House, Dorchester

Judge:

Hon. Leslie E. Harris, Justice of the Juvenile Court of Suffolk County

Participants in the earlier pilot program (1999-2000):

Probation Officers:

Ann Marie Dubay
Kevin McClerklin

Instructor:

Taylor Stoehr, Professor of English, University of Massachusetts Boston

Testimonials

Juvenile Program for Girls

Probation Officer Barbara Anne (Barbie) Loftus:

"In my opinion, the girls group focused on the girls becoming readers and authors themselves. Their "books" were composed of poems, essays, and photos they created. In addition, they picked poems related to their subject, reviewed them, and included them in their book. In the sense of a true book, they created a cover, had their picture as an author, and dedicated their books to the most important person in their lives. When they wrote, they took ownership of their writing and felt the power it has as well as the effect it has on others. Thus changing their lives through literature."

Judge Marjory A. German:

"We at Juvenile Court try to make a difference every day, with the 30 to 40 cases that come before me, but we don't make a difference every day - or even every week. If once a month, it's a big success. But last Tuesday at our graduation, I can name ten children that - maybe - we did make a difference to."

Student Poem:

When you look in my eyes

When you look in my eyes
what do you see?
A little tiny baby
trying to walk. Can't you see
she's trying to get up
but keeps falling down?
This is the way my life really is,
now doesn't that make you sad?
When you look into my eyes
what do you see?
A toddler in heels.
Can you walk with these?
They hold me back
and weigh me down,
now doesn't that just make you frown?

When you look into my eyes
what do you see?
A teenage girl going through puberty.
Her body's changing and growing up,
now she has boobies and butt.
She twitches it with every step.
She's only thinking of herself,
now doesn't this girl need a belt?

When you look into my eyes
what do you see?

An angry black woman
busting out of me.
She's not been disciplined,
she's not been tamed,
now isn't that just a shame?
Now she's crying because she's so lonely.
She says she's in love
but her love is phony.
Her man cheats and steals,
time and time again she makes his bail.
Now she is tired of being used,
this sad lady is so confused.
She's sitting in the corner
with the 38 to her head.
The second he called
she was dead.
She's sick of his lies and cheating ways
but that was the price she had to pay.

Now, when you look into my eyes
What do you see?
A strong black woman,
That's what you see.

Our Contact Information

Dorchester District Court
Juvenile Probation Department
510 Washington Street
Dorchester, MA 02124

(617) 288-9500
Idella Carter (ext. 404)
Peter Jennings (ext. 404)
Barbie Loftus (ext. 406)
Robert Nagle (ext. 403)



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