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a new season


A New Season For Youth Justice Reform

by Shabnam Javdani, The Huffington Post

July 10, 2016

Summer has begun, and while some kids will be enjoying their first taste of freedom, others will be doing anything but.

On any given day, more than 54,000 youth in the U.S. are being held under lock and key in residential placement facilities. In New York alone, over 1,600 youth are in confinement. And in this current moment, a kid in prison in almost any other State would also be hundreds of miles away from their home. We have essentially taken the structure of the adult corrections system and slapped it on youth.

This should alarm us.

Why have we recreated the adult justice system for youth when we know that youth’s development is different, and so are the reasons behind their offending? Brain science tells us that what all kids need most to truly thrive are stable relationships with family, friends, teachers and community members. The most cutting edge research tells us that these types of consistent relationships can actually buffer the impact of poverty and community violence for those kids who are disproportionately exposed to them due to growing inequalities in income and resource distribution. So why have we taken them away from their homes at this critical time in their development? Whether our goal is to promote public safety, community building, or rehabilitation and healthy development—this is one of the worst things we can do.

There is simply no need for there to be any large non-local prison facilities for youth. These facilities engender practices—like solitary confinement—that have been directly recommended against by global human rights organizations. No good, and only tragedy, comes from this. This summer marks the anniversary of Kalief Browder’s death. Accused of stealing a backpack, Kalief spent 2 of 3 years awaiting trial in solitary confinement at Rikers Island. He committed suicide last June.

The global health community has been crystal clear that these practices are a violation of human rights. And, in no uncertain terms, the World Health Organization and UNICEF recommend secure confinement in large facilities as an absolute last resort. Instead, they fully support keeping kids involved with crime closer to their communities. These are promising recommendations. Countries with fewer large youth prisons have much lower rates of youth crime. And, within the US, cities that support community-based alternatives to youth confinement have, on average, lower youth recidivism rates.

NYC is taking this to heart. It is shifting from an adult corrections structure to one in which youth—even after they have been found guilty—can be placed in small, local, residential facilities close to their families and neighborhoods, and attend local schools during their stay. This “close to home” initiative represents a change to the laws that govern how the system responds to youth in NYC. Because they are legislated, they have lasting power.

If a juvenile justice system as large and complex as NYC can take this big step, why aren’t more cities following suit? There is no need for youth prisons. What we do need is a more equitable distribution of resources so that kids can stay close to the relationships and resources that they need to thrive.

NYC’s juvenile justice system is far from perfect, however. We know it is succeeding in actually keeping youth close to home, but that is all we know. We need to know more about how these local facilities work. Are families actually visiting kids more often? Are kids being connected with local services, both during and after their confinement? Are they succeeding more in their local schools? And ultimately, can this initiative result in a reduced rate of recidivism so that fewer kids end up being confined—either inside or outside of the city?

Would placing Kalief closer to home have prevented his death? We don’t know, but we need to find out.


Shabnam Javdani is the Assistant Professor of Applied Psychology, NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. This article was coauthored by Erin Godfrey, Assistant Professor of Applied Psychology, NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.



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turning the tables

After a season of disappointments, some hopeful events have happened recently.

When I share with you the scale of things, perhaps you will conclude that I am merely grasping at straws, yet I feel that from the novelty of things which are occurring, something may be going on here. What it may be I cannot say… I am simply “going with the flow” and will report on what actually happens as it materializes.

Do you recall the name Emma Collins, the young woman who recently wrote the article about us on VICE, which unleashed an international onslaught of media inquiries? Well, she wants to come out and see for herself, and she is due to arrive next Wednesday, July 20, and will leave on the weekend. The expense of airline tickets, a rental car, and several nights at a motel affirm a level of curiosity/commitment that I find truly remarkable.

I often describe Estrella Vista as being at “the end of the road,” so anyone who makes it out here really gets my attention.

Now a German journalist who writes for nationwide newspapers and magazines such as DIE ZEIT, Süddeutsche Zeitung, and NEON says she will be visiting in August. Lately I have been trying to discourage such visits as a waste of time, but even when given the facts about recent events, they still keep coming. Even the Dutch producer who found me and visited continues to write. Yesterday I received an email from her Dutch production company saying that they are thinking of another approach to the project that does not involve Derek’s participation.

On another note…

warren williams 1A couple weeks ago I received a request for my address from Warren Williams, a new correspondent who killed his father at age 14 in 2010 in Pensacola FL. “I would like to send you a book,” he said, and it arrived a few days ago.

I was surprised. This hasn’t happened with young parricides before.

“Usually it is I who sends books; this is a real turning of tables,” I replied. “Kids take and take. This is the first time anyone but Lone Heron (a female parricide in her late 40s who may take over Estrella Vista after I die) has ever given me anything. I really appreciate it and am intrigued.”

“I do not plan to take and take from you, Dan. Not my style. I am used to giving,” he replied.

I quizzed Warren on what he hoped I would get from the book, but he wouldn’t be explicit.

“It is a book about spirituality, so it varies from person to person,” he answered.

Part of the excitement of this life is, you never know what the future holds. I don’t know what kind of friendship will develop with either Warren or Emma or any of the journalists. I don’t know where the relationships may lead.


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death of the story


On July 9th, the American journalist Sydney Schanberg died at age 82 of a heart attack. He was best known for his coverage of the war in Cambodia for the New York Times. He was the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize, two George Polk awards, two Overseas Press Club awards, and the Sigma Delta Chi prize for distinguished journalism.

la-la-et-killing-fields-02-jpg-20140129Schanberg was played by Sam Waterston in the 1984 film The Killing Fields, based on the experiences of Schanberg and the Cambodian photojournalist Dith Pran in Cambodia. Pran also worked for the New York Times and died in 2008 at age 65 of pancreatic cancer.

My connection with these men was through Dr. Haing S. Ngor, the physician, actor, and author who is best known for having won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1985 for his debut performance in The Killing Fields, in which he portrayed Dith Pran.

Haing Ngor visited my Minneapolis home once, and gave me two autographed copies of his 1988 book, Haing Ngor: A Cambodian Odyssey. After reading A Cambodian Odyssey, I realized that Haing Ngor’s story was every bit as worthy as Schanberg’s for depiction of the genocide of the Cambodian people.

Ngor was trained as a surgeon and gynecologist. He was practicing in the capital, Phnom Penh, in 1975 when Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge seized control of the country and proclaimed it Democratic Kampuchea.

He was compelled to conceal his education, medical skills, and even the fact that he wore glasses to avoid the new regime’s intense hostility to intellectuals and professionals. He and his wife My-Huoy were expelled from Phnom Penh, along with the bulk of its two million inhabitants as part of the Khmer Rouge’s “Year Zero” social experiment. They were imprisoned in a concentration camp, and My-Huoy subsequently died giving birth.

Although a gynecologist, he was unable to treat his own wife, who required a Caesarean section, as he would have been exposed and both he and his wife (as well as the child) would very probably have been killed. After the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979, Ngor worked as a doctor in a refugee camp in Thailand and left with his niece for the United States in 1980. In America, Ngor was unable to resume his medical practice, and he did not remarry.

In 1996, I was shocked to hear that Ngor was shot dead outside his home in Chinatown, in downtown Los Angeles. It was a bungled robbery by three reputed members of the “Oriental Lazy Boyz,” a street gang which had prior arrests for snatching purses and jewelry. Prosecutors argued that they killed Ngor because, after willingly handing over his gold Rolex watch, he refused to give them a locket that contained a photo of his deceased wife.

After the release of The Killing Fields, Ngor had told a New York Times reporter, “If I die from now on, OK! This film will go on for a hundred years.” Let’s hope it does.

Yet now that everyone but Waterston is dead and cannot defend the film, some brilliant producer will probably want to re-make it. That would be a fate worse than death, but it is the Hollywood way.



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overworked by choice

empty beach.

Overworked Americans aren’t taking the vacation they’ve earned

by Patti Neighmond, National Public Radio

July 12, 2016

A majority of Americans say they’re stressed at work. And it’s clear the burden of stress has negative effects on health, including an increase in heart disease, liver disease and gastrointestinal problems.

Still, though it’s been known for years that periodically disengaging from one’s everyday routine can reduce stress, most Americans don’t take advantage of their days off. A recent poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health finds about half of Americans who work 50-plus hours a week say they don’t take all or most of the vacation they’ve earned.

And among respondents who actually take vacations, “30 percent say they do a significant amount of work while on vacation,” says Robert Blendon, a professor and health policy analyst at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health who directed the survey. “So they’re taking their stress along with them wherever they go.”

Take 27-year-old Julie Hagopian, for example. She lives in Alexandria VA, works in digital marketing for a large educational company, and says she adores her job. But it consumes at least 60 hours of her time each week, she says, and includes plenty of stress. The biggest problem, Hagopian says: There’s no “off switch.”

“I’m on call all the time—to moderate, create content, curate everything,” she says. “So, generally speaking, even when on vacation, I’m checking email and moderating social feeds.”

When it comes to taking the classic one to two weeks of vacation—forget it, she says. That would require burdening her colleagues with her workload, and they already have too much to do.

So, instead, she takes a few days here and there, but always stays connected via phone calls or online.

For 33-year-old Adam Rowan, who lives in Dolores CO, staying “connected” isn’t a big issue, he says, because he just doesn’t take vacation. Ever.

“It’s just not my thing,” he says with a chuckle, “which probably sounds strange. But I’d prefer to be at work, getting things done.”

Rowan works in information technology for a large outdoor retail company. Because many of his colleagues in IT got their start in their early 20s, Rowan says he feels like he has a lot of catching up to do. He skips vacation to keep learning more, he says—”just to get a foot in the game.”

In our poll, 35% of people who work 50 or more hours a week say they also skip vacations because they want to get ahead at work. Like Hagopian, 42% say there wouldn’t be enough people to pick up their workload if they took days off. And many, like Hagopian and Rowan, say their office doesn’t have many people with the same expertise who could serve as backup.

“If I leave and something breaks and somebody who doesn’t know how to fix it tries to fix it, it could get a lot worse,” Rowan says.

Rowan is hardly alone in his dedication to the job. Today, Americans take far less vacation time than they did a few decades ago, says psychologist Matthew J. Grawitch of Saint Louis University, who studies stress in the workplace. Research shows that, on average, Americans now take 16.2 days of vacation a year, compared with nearly three weeks of vacation in 2000.

That’s an unfortunate trend, he says; not only can time off help alleviate stress, it can also be personally rejuvenating and motivate people to be more productive once they return to the job.

Recent research suggests employee health and well-being improve even during short vacations. That has led scientists studying workplace stress to urge people to take shorter vacations throughout the year if they feel they can’t manage a week or two all at once.

At least some employers concur. Diane Domeyer, executive director of The Creative Group, a staffing firm, recently surveyed more than 400 advertising and marketing executives and found that 39% say they believe their employees would be more productive if they took more time off.

But Grawitch says it’s one thing for employers to recognize the value of vacation and another to make it happen.

“It has to involve thinking through how to restructure work, utilize technology more effectively, [and] to coordinate vacation times so work is still being accomplished—and not by the person who is on vacation,” Grawitch says.

Of course, that can require more investment in staffing from employers. Domeyer says an increasing number of companies are choosing to make that sort of investment because they recognize the relatively high cost of burnout—either in the form of lower productivity or in the loss of employees.

If you’re one of those people who go on vacation and just can’t disconnect completely, Domeyer suggests you resist the temptation to answer email immediately. A too-quick response suggests you are available to do work, she says.

Instead consider using a “delayed delivery” function in your emailed responses, she suggests. That gets the note off your plate, but doesn’t deliver it until the day you return—from vacation.


Patti Neighmond is NPR’s award-winning health policy correspondent, based in Los Angeles.



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working while sick


Sick? People Say They Still Go To Work, Even When They Shouldn’t

by Rae Ellen Bichell, National Public Radio

July 11, 2016

A majority of working adults say they still go to work when they have a cold or the flu. There are some jobs where doing that can have a big effect on health.

At least half of people who work in very public places, like hospitals and restaurants, report going to work when they have a cold or the flu. Those were among the findings of a poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

They are some of the last people you’d want to go to work sick, because they tend to have a lot of contact with people. And that helps spread disease.

“It’s one of the biggest food safety problems that there is, and we’ve known about it forever,” says Kirk Smith, who oversees foodborne outbreak investigations with the Minnesota Department of Health. But he says it’s really hard to get people to stop doing it.

When it comes to food handling, there’s one illness that’s particularly concerning: norovirus. “It is by far the most common cause of foodborne illness,” says Smith. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus is responsible for 35% of them.

That’s because there are billions of virus particles per gram in stool and vomit. It only takes about 20 of those to get someone sick. And norovirus can hitchhike from surface to surface. It takes a high concentration of bleach to kill it.

“And so it just takes microcontamination of your hands, if you don’t do a perfect job washing, to be able to contaminate food with enough of the virus to infect lots and lots of people,” says Smith.

The same virus has plagued restaurant customers across the country. Last winter, 140 people—including much of the Boston College basketball team—got sick from eating at a Chipotle in Boston where one person had gone to work sick.

“It’s definitely the norm to go into work sick. That’s what I and most of my co-workers usually do,” says Anthony Peeples. He used to work at an Olive Garden restaurant. Now he’s a bartender at a casino in Michigan City IN.

At Olive Garden, he says, he was in a bind when he got sick, because he didn’t have any paid sick leave.

“I don’t think anybody really wants to go out there and get people sick or let alone work when they’re miserable, but you have to,” he says, “Or else you’re not going to be able to pay your electricity or water or your rent.”

The Food and Drug Administration has something called the Food Code that says food workers need to stay home 24 hours after their symptoms go away, but not all states have adopted the rule.

The CDC has found that 1 in 5 food service workers has reported working while sick with vomiting and diarrhea.

People don’t want to leave their colleagues in the lurch, says Laura Brown, a behavioral scientist with the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health.

She and her colleagues interviewed employees at about 500 restaurants in nine different states and then calculated which factors were most strongly linked to people going to work sick.

“Forty percent of workers did say to us that they’d worked while sick in the past because they wouldn’t get paid,” Brown says. “But when we look at the data statistically, that doesn’t really seem to be a large driving factor in whether or not people actually work when they’re sick.”

A lot of them went to work because they were worried about losing their jobs if they didn’t show. And there was another thing. “We found that workers who were concerned about leaving their co-workers short-staffed were more likely to say they’d worked while sick,” Brown says.

Likewise, those who worked in places that had backup options—like on-call workers to fill in for sick staff—were less likely to work while sick. So the biggest factor, Brown says, was that “the workers are concerned about their co-workers having to work a man down.”

NPR’s poll also found that it isn’t always money that drives people to work when they should stay home.

Adults in low-paying jobs are more likely to say they go to work ill—but about half of those in high-paying jobs are, too.


Rae Ellen Bichell is a journalist based in Helsinki, Finland.



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the teddy bear


The Real Teddy Bear Story

by the Theodore Roosevelt Association

How did toy bears come to be named after President Theodore Roosevelt?

It all started with a hunting trip President Roosevelt took in 1902 in Mississippi at the invitation of Mississippi Governor, Andrew H. Longino. After three days of hunting, other members of the party had spotted bears, but not Roosevelt.

Now what? The President’s bear hunt would be a failure! The next day, the hunt guides tracked down an old black bear that the dogs had trailed quite a distance and attacked. The guides tied the bear to a willow tree and called for the President. Here was a bear for him to shoot!

But Roosevelt took one look at the old bear and refused to shoot it. He felt doing so would be unsportsmanlike. However, since it was injured and suffering, Roosevelt ordered that the bear be put down to end its pain. Word of this hit newspapers across the country, and political cartoonist Clifford Berryman picked up on the story, drawing a cartoon showing how President Roosevelt refused to shoot the bear while hunting in Mississippi.

berrymanThe original cartoon, which ran in the Washington Post on November 16, 1902, shows Roosevelt standing in front. The guide and bear are in the background, and they’re about the same size. Later, similar cartoons appeared, but the bear was smaller and shaking with fear. This bear cub then appeared in other cartoons Clifford Berryman drew throughout Roosevelt’s career. That connected bears with President Roosevelt.

The Teddy Bear tie came when a Brooklyn, NY candy shop owner, Morris Michtom, saw Clifford Berryman’s original cartoon of Roosevelt and the bear and had an idea. He put in his shop window two stuffed toy bears his wife had made. Michtom asked permission from President Roosevelt to call these toy bears “Teddy’s bears”. The rapid popularity of these bears led Michtom to mass-produce them, eventually forming the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company.

At about the same time, a German company, Steiff, started making stuffed bears. Margaret Steiff earned her living by sewing, first by making stuffed elephants, then other animals. In 1903, an American saw a stuffed bear she had made and ordered many of them. These bears, which also came to be called Teddy Bears, made the international connection.

More than a century later, teddy bears have never lost popularity, and all can be traced to that one hunting trip in Mississippi.



What the Theodore Roosevelt Association doesn’t emphasize is that Roosevelt had the original bear killed by someone in his party “to put the bear out of her misery,” and she was eaten that night. Ah, reality.

Theodore Roosevelt was also famously the police commissioner of New York long before he was president or assistant secretary of the navy. He did a lot to clean up the New York police department.

Because police, fire, and emergency officials found that giving a teddy bear to a child during a crisis stabilized and calmed them, the National Association of Police & Lay Charities (NAPLC) created the Teddy Bear Cops program to distribute teddy bears to police, fire, and emergency officials throughout the United States, for their use in providing teddy bears to children in emergencies. It seems the program is needed now to help the country cope with this latest round of police violence.

Reality strikes again.



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