Probation Services Week Highlight: Orange County Probation Celebrates First Young Adult Court Graduate
On June 26, 2020, Abraham became the first graduate from Orange County Probation’s Young Adult Court, a two-year program that gives first-time felons a second chance.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Maria D. Hernandez wiped clean Abraham’s slate – untethering him from the stain of past mistakes.
The inaugural class consisted of 25 students randomly selected from hundreds of men between the ages of 18 and 23. Those who complete the course are eligible to have their convictions reduced or dismissed.
Only a handful of “young adult courts” exist in the country. Orange County’s is the first to collect “rigorous data to tell us if this program works,” Hernandez noted.
The program was launched in 2018, with the help of a grant and partnership of several justice programs and the Orange County Probation team.
“I felt like a total failure,” Abraham told the court. The program lays out steps participants must accomplish – such as attending all court hearings, meeting with probation officers and undergoing mental health, employment and education counseling.
“This program blessed me with the opportunity to get my life back on track. It should be available to all young adults, and should go nationwide.”
Abraham said he joined Young Adult Court with some reluctance.
“I was being hardheaded,” he recalled. “I didn’t want to do the homework. But then I realized I just had to suck it up.”
Abraham’s support team included his probation officer alongside his representation, family members, and other members of the justice system community.
“We became family,” Abraham said. “Guidance is key, and they were there for me every step of the way.”
Those family members, as well as his father and siblings, witnessed the celebration of his accomplishment. Unable to attend in person due to the social distancing constraints of coronavirus, some of Abraham’s cohorts watched his graduation via Zoom.
“Everyone has a purpose, everyone deserves another shot at life,” Abraham said. “I feel like a newborn baby.”
You can read the full article at The Orange County Register.