As a troubled teen, radicalized by the racial strife we faced in New Orleans during the turbulent years between 1960 and 1970, I know firsthand how easy it is to fall victim to the perils of the streets. I am sure that I was headed for a life of crime had it not been for the luck of the draw. Somehow, I escaped before I ended up in "the life". By migrating to California, getting my GED and by attending city colleges in Los Angeles and Santa Monica I was able to elevate my circumstances.
Perhaps by fate, or simply due to the need for a paycheck, I became involved in the supervision and rehabilitation of youth offenders. Initially I was a security guard for a juvenile detention center and later a counselor for delinquent youths who were one-step from lives as incarcerated offenders, including the specter of recidivism. In light of this experience, an ABC news report about the issuance of grants from the Department of Justice, in its Juvenile Crime office, exposing another example of the politicization of the Justice Department undertaken by the Bush administration resonated with me.
Factors such as participation in abstinence programs versus sex education programs, including condom usage, were litmus tests for the grant applicants. Over six years J. K. Flores, the administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, refused to consider any grant application that dealt with gay/lesbian teens -- presumably trashing their applications. These biases have no place in the government's consideration of eligibility assistance.
When I was a juvenile counselor in the early seventies for the Catholic Welfare Bureau, there were gay juveniles in need of help, and I am certain that with the passage of time and more openness about sexuality, the numbers have increased. However, religious bias is not Mr. Flores' only criteria for approving grantees.
It is also obvious that political considerations were employed. Grants were approved for groups represented by George Bush Sr., Cal Ripken Jr. (a GOP candidate hopeful), and Bill Bennett's wife. All were recipients of sizeable grants by the department, chosen over the recommendations of his staff for more deserving applicants. The report states, "Current and former Justice Department employees allege that Flores ignored the staff rankings in favor of programs that had political, social or religious connections to the Bush White House."
Scott Peterson, a former employee, is to testify to a congressional committee on these and other issues in the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. He claims that many current department employees have faxed and emailed documents to him, hoping to expose the malfeasance. The news article is a must read for anyone with a desire to help our kids cope with the societal and peer issues they are facing in today's troubling times.