“Jerome” is an 11th grader who was arrested for carrying a weapon for protection. It wasn’t his first arrest for such an offense. He and his family live in a neighborhood beset by violence and his house has been shot at several times. Just last year his cousin, with whom he had been very close, was murdered on the street where Jerome lives.
The specter of violence persisted at school, where administration has taken no action despite multiple threats to Jerome by other students. Feeling he had no other recourse, Jerome took the issue of his safety into his own hands. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon response for children grappling with trauma and unchecked violence in their communities. And just as unfortunate, it often leads to arrest and exposure to the legal system.
When we first met Jerome, he was quiet, timid, and very scared. Over time, he grew to become very communicative about his needs, even while exhibiting grief and trauma. He badly wants a different life for himself and his family. At his heart, he’s a loving boy who simply wants peace and safety.
Jerome’s LCCR team advocated for his safety at school, and fought to get him counseling for the trauma and anxiety that he suffers from.
This latest arrest also put Jerome at risk for state imprisonment. As an alternative to incarceration, his LCCR team advocated to his judge the possibility of Jerome joining a boot camp style residential program geared, specifically, toward justice system-involved youth. The program promises to help teens progress in school and, eventually, connect with a job. It also offers life-skills training.
Jerome welcomed the opportunity for a break from the neighborhood that has given him so much anxiety and readily opted in. With this decision, he says he is choosing to put himself first and pursue an environment in which he can be safe, successful, and strive toward his goals.
Watching Jerome evolve into an independent, self-confident, and goal-oriented young man has truly been a privilege for our team. We will continue to work closely with him until his case is closed.