Working from scratch is pure for Nick Birchard.
After graduating from San Jose State College with a psychology diploma within the early Nineteen Nineties, she instantly went to work in Santa Clara County’s probation division, taking over the essential consulting job at youngsters’s services.
Almost thirty years later, his profession has come full circle. Starting Monday, she’s going to head a division that’s breaking floor in modern legal justice reform strategies, chaired by outgoing Chief Probation Officer Laura Garnette.
Birchard guarantees to proceed this legacy.
“Working with people who find themselves underserved, who get into the justice system has at all times been a type of name for me,” Birchard mentioned in an interview. “And having the ability to present companies to help rehabilitation has at all times been my focus.”
He additionally brings to this work distinctive perception into the communities that almost all want the ministry’s reforms. A local of East San Jose, Birchard attended faculty within the Alum Rock and Eastside Union faculty districts. A part of the sector — became a magnet for Mexican laborers in the 1920s. He dried up after working within the mercury mines within the Almaden neighborhood – incomes him the nickname “Sal Si Puedes”, which implies “Get out should you can” in Spanish, resulting from his issues with crime, poverty and underdevelopment. The area is also close to what Cesar Chavez calls home. Earlier than forming the United Farm Staff labor union.
Birchard mentioned the issues that East San Jose faces right this moment additionally existed when he lived there.
“As a result of I grew up in these areas, I perceive what poverty is,” he mentioned. “I perceive not having sufficient sources and the impression this has on households and society. After I was working within the probation division, bringing that lens with me, it was at all times for me to serve the neighborhood and the way can we greatest serve areas the place sources are missing?
Supervising each adults and youngsters, Birchard’s workplace homes lower than 6,000 individuals within the probation system. Their duties embody serving as a substitute for imprisonment by supervising those that have been convicted or pleaded responsible to a criminal offense. As well as, it manages two youth services that home 80 ladies and boys.
Birchard mentioned that final quantity — a complete of 56 children at Juvenile Corridor in San Jose and 24 children on the William F. James Ranch in Morgan Hill as of mid-January — has been a hit in itself.
Ten years in the past their inhabitants was as excessive as 350. This discount was resulting from quite a lot of completely different initiatives that Birchard and others within the county collaborated on. detention services to zero. It now floats between zero and low single digits at any given time, Birchard mentioned.
“It labored,” he mentioned. “And now they’re taking these efforts and attempting to develop it throughout the state of California.”
Within the coming years, these hard-won low numbers will seemingly improve, and he hopes to extend surprisingly.
That is as a result of Birchard and the division are getting ready for a state invoice that might return girls and boys to their Santa Clara County houses that might usually be despatched to state-run services. Birchard defined that by closing bodily distance, younger persons are nearer to necessary sources reminiscent of household and neighborhood visits;
In line with Birchard, Senate Invoice 823, referred to as the Reorganization of State Youngsters, will convey 12 girls and boys again to the county over the following six months.
“They are going to be linked to their neighborhood, to their households, and they won’t be despatched to a spot the place that connection is now not occurring,” he mentioned.
When Birchard took over the division this month, it epitomizes a broader purpose: guaranteeing that her purchasers do not get misplaced within the legal justice system.
“If you happen to do not make long-term, systemic adjustments, communities will proceed to undergo,” he mentioned. “How will we put all the pieces in place to make it possible for does not occur?”
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