Chief William Siffermann and Francisco Da Costa.


June 22, 2005 the San Francisco Juvenile Probation Commission met at 195 Kiska Road at the Milton Meyer Gym up on the hill - Hunters Point.

The SF Probation Commission is looking at reaching out to the community. The outreach done by the SF Juvenile Probation Commission for this meeting was very poor but the few advocates and others from the community that attended the Commission meeting - all had a meaningful dialog.

Our children are primarily the responsibility of the parents that are supposed to rear our children and nurture them. However, because of many circumstances the most pertinent being " crack cocaine " we have many children and their parents that have fallen prey to this drug. Consequently and largely because of this problem many of our children have had to visit the San Francisco Juvenile Probation Department. The visits to SF Juvenile Probation Department are linked to crime and breaking the law.

We have many advocates in our community the foremost being Espanola Jackson who understands the system. Way back when - 150 Otis was affectionately called Hotel 150 Otis. Juveniles were detained at this facility. Times have changed and now we have several facilities that book and detain our children. Hopefully as the years have gone by the system has changed for the better.

The advocates present at the meeting expressed some deep concerns and the SF Juvenile Probation Commission with Mr. Jim Queen as its President listened and took notes. Since this was the first time the Commission is trying this new method of holding meetings in the community - there were many unknowns - but anyone who attended the meeting will tell you that this meeting was very beneficial and an eye opener to the Commissioners. The Commissioners may have been surprised to know that some of us have followed the Grand Jury report on the SF Juvenile Probation Department. We had a good dialog on this topic and we hope that with Chief William P. Siffermann now in charge who hope to see a new leadership, new vision, and a change in the old ways.

For too long have too many youth been incarcerated or jailed without proper justice and consideration. This statement is not a general statement but one that has been a concern to those advocates, judges, teachers, parents, friends, supporters and most of all to the constituents of San Francisco.

San Francisco has a population of about 750,000. Year after year the youth population in our schools has been dwindling - families are moving out of San Francisco. The Youth Probation Centers that house our youth have had an on going problem with a large number of Probation Officers on Light Duty, absenteeism, and plain lack of enthusiasm on the part of many Probation Officers. Today in San Francisco we have less youth. However District 10 has a large population of youth the most among all the Districts.

Let me be very clear that we do have some Probation Officers that have an excellent track record but they are surrounded by a lot of negativity. I have gone out my way to state these facts so that those that are in the position to make a change can and should open the windows, allow a lot of fresh air and get rid of the cobwebs.

We fully understand the Civil Service System is detrimental and can bring lengthy obstacles to get rid of the weed. However the time has come to expose the few lazy Probation Officers to the community at large - a method put in place to phase these Probation Officers to other pastures that accept mediocrity.

It is not acceptable to have Probation Officers that adversely impact our children which leads to lengthy incarceration and even transferring our youth to other States and to a life long career of criminality. This is a crying shame but unfortunately this has been happening in San Francisco. Mayor Gavin Newsom, Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, some other Supervisors do not understand the plight of our youth. The only Supervisors that do care and understand are Chris Daly and Ross Mikarami. It is time the San Francisco Police Department, the San Francisco Health Department, the Youth Commission, the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors support our youth.

It is a joke when the justice system looks for support from the City and County of San Francisco and finds absolutely no support and help. These folks should read Fresh Direction - Community Programs prepared by Community Programs Division of the San Francisco Juvenile Probation Department date June 2005. This large document makes very interesting reading.

There has been a disconnect with the community at large. Each District and we have 11 - should have a number of Ambudsman to support our youth. A higher proportion of Ambudsman from those Districts that have a higher percentage of incarcerated youth such as District 11 and 5 is warranted to create a better working relationship with the SF Juvenile Probation Department and the Community At Large.

We have serious issues with those youth that cannot be understood and dealt with compassion and understanding. The youth from Cambodia, Laos, Samoa, Tonga, recent immigrants from Latin American countries are all treated in a general manner. We cannot guess our youth and incarcerate them because when they are brought before judges to be adjudicated - they are left to the mercy of the Wind without proper representation. This nonsense must stop. The community should be involved and the youth given a chance to be useful taxpaying constituents.

The Grand Jury has set us some objectives and has revealed to us a number of deficiencies. We do have a new SF Juvenile Probation Commission. We have a new SF Juvenile Probation Chief - Chief William P. Siffermann who has come here to San Francisco with a lot of experience from Chicago. The Windy City may help us to clear the Fog that has been sitting in and around our youth and SF Juvenile Probation Department for too long. As the SF Juvenile Probation Commission makes its rounds visiting the various Districts - the Commission will learn a lot. The community will learn a lot. Together we have to learn to help our youth. Incarceration is very bad - preventive measures are important but this cannot come without sacrifice and love. This cannot come without community partnership and meaningful dialog.

Let us shove the politics aside - work with the new Chief and make good things happen. To the youth I say the time has come to think positive and work with those agencies and leaders and stay away from crime and incarceration. This is easily said then done - but at this moment - we see the killings, we see the incarceration, we the breakdown in families - we see obstacles within the SF Juvenile Probation Department - we see it all. Let us work to bring some sunshine and we can do that only if we are united and with lots of teamwork. We can do it with sacrifice and love.

SF Juvenile Probation Department by Forest Hill.

A mural inside SF Juvenile Probation Department.

Chief Siffermann - a true leader for change.

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