To effectively fight crime society needs to concentrate on its children, according to Oakland City Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Jean Quan.
“We know as educators…if you don’t read at third grade level you’re likely to drop out of high school, and a high percentage of those [high school dropouts] end up in the criminal justice system,” Quan said on a visit to San Quentin Aug. 6.
Speaking from her past experience on Oakland’s School Board, Quan said state administrators use the correlation associated with third-grade literacy rates to project future prison space requirements.
She also offered hope to parolees, saying Oakland has a jobs program for ex-convicts funded by the Economic Recovery Act (the stimulus bill). To qualify for the Cypress Program at Mandela Training Center, Quan said prisoners must get their G.E.D. while incarcerated. They also must submit to drug testing.
Quan also discussed Measure Y, which she wrote in 2004. It includes a variety of crime prevention programs, including Project Choice in San Quentin that brought her in to speak to the group. Project Choice was started in 2006 and sponsored by Volunteers of America. According to Darnell Hill, a facilitator for Project Choice, said “the group is a vital support system that offers one on one case management for young men paroling to Alameda County between the ages of 18 and 35.
Project Choice offers coping skill classes that assist men in gaining the insight on “thinking errors” that influence criminal behavior. Classes are held in education building A (Tuesday from 3 to 5 p.m. and Friday from 1 to 3 p.m.). Classes are consistent until paroled.
Another Ball Game
The curriculum consists of five books that promote responsible thinking, produce personal growth, influence constructive behavior and build safer communities. It’s one thing to encourage young men to change their criminal lifestyle, but it’s a whole other ball game when you offer the tools, skills and support for one to make the “choice” to change from destructive criminal to productive citizen.”
Measure Y also aimed to keep fire stations open, hire 63 additional police officers to patrol designated neighborhoods in Oakland, and to fund various crime prevention programs.
Since 80 police officers were laid off in August, Oakland Police Department, fell below the threshold number of officers under Measure Y’s funding mandate. Quan therefore encourages Oakland voters to approve a revision of the measure on the November ballot to maintain funding for all beneficiaries of Measure Y.
Quan pointed out that laying off police officers in today’s economic environment is a major concern, most of the layoffs targeted desk jobs or low level subordinate positions. “There are actually 30 more cops assigned to the streets than before the layoff,” she said.
‘More Than 80 Cops’
“The Measure Y programs probably prevent more crimes than the 80 cops,” she said. “The combination of the crime prevention programs with (the street presence of) those [police officers] who know the beat are more effective preventing crime.”
“Right now the city’s budget is 50 percent cops. My typical cop cost me $100,000 a year, and they make $17,000 in overtime, and when I pay the other benefits, it costs me a quarter of a million dollars for one cop – car, gun, pension, pay, overtime. For a quarter-million dollars, I can do an after-school program at an elementary school. For a half-million dollars I can do an after-school program at a middle school. If I do an after-school program at a middle school, burglaries, vandalism, and petty crime is going to go down 40 percent.”
Although Quan agrees that the number of police officers in Oakland is extremely important, she believes that tax dollars are more efficiently spent on crime prevention programs targeting youngsters.
Quan indicated interest in developing a project in Oakland similar to Harlem Kid’s Zone, directed by Jeffery Canada in New York City. Harlem Kid’s Zone provides low-income families with parenting support through highly motivated social workers.—Juan Haines contributed to this story