I like this approach, as reported by the New York Times, for often you will find, at the hidden heart of many criminals, a desire to be the hero, the helper, the person who gets things done, and this program trains young criminals to do that.
I bet it continues to work well.
Like too many young men in his East Oakland neighborhood, 21-year-old Shaka Perdue spent the earlier part of his youth “living like I was becoming a statistic,” as he put it. At 16, he landed in juvenile hall after robbing a pedestrian in broad daylight. Two years later a friend was shot right in front of him in a drive-by. “In Oakland, you run into all the people you have problems with,” he explained.
Perdue still hangs out in the neighborhood — but he now wears a stethoscope around his neck. He is one of 90 or so graduates of EMS Corps, a pioneering five-month program spearheaded by the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency that trains young men of color to be qualified emergency medical technicians. “You are the first person to approach the patients,” Perdue said of his future as an E.M.T. “The nurses and doctors get them after they’re stabilized in the field.”
Started in 2012, the corps is a novel effort to recruit, train and mentor a new generation of emergency medical professionals: young men growing up in communities in which concentrated poverty, violence and unemployment are well-documented barriers to health and longevity. Graduates like Perdue have a singular perspective on health disparities — they’ve lived them.
“The young men who are vilified as noncontributing members of society are not the problem,” said Alex Briscoe, the agency’s energetic director, who got his start as a dropout prevention counselor at a tough Oakland high school. “They’re the solution.”
A founding premise of the corps, which has received just over $1 million from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is to create a strong pool of professionals who reflect the neighborhoods they serve. Though participants are trained to save peoples’ lives, the corps strives to transform the young men themselves, and influence others who see them, by training them to do meaningful and decently paid work.
Retrieved September 19, 2014 from http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/18/a-chance-to-go-from-hard-lives-to-healing/