We are pleased to welcome Gretchen Williams, LCPC (Substance Abuse Counselor for PGCPS) & Toni Perry (Deputy Director for Operations at DC Department of Corrections) who are going to speaking to us about the School to Prison pipeline… yet another presentation you won’t want to miss!
Gretchen Williams, MDiv, LCPC, is a therapist who provides substance abuse prevention and intervention to students in the alternative programs with Prince George’s County Public Schools. She is a compassionate and empathic therapist who motivates, encourages and challenges young people to focus on improvements that lead to positive change. Ms. Williams’ presentation will incorporate insight from her training, research and experience with urban youth. This session will focus on the importance of prevention strategies and early intervention to help youth make better choices to prevent addiction and incarceration.
Ms. Perry will explore some of the innovative, cutting edge programming that is being used in the DC Department of Corrections and throughout the USA to stem the school to prison pipeline – programs that provide young people with realistic tools to become productive citizens who will never return once released, even if the youth enter the system.
Additional Bio Information:
Gretchen Williams, MDiv, LCPC
Ms. William’s 15 years of professional experience includes inpatient counseling to adults with mental illness and substance abuse concerns, school-based mental health and substance abuse intervention, trauma treatment of incarcerated females, and counseling to children and adolescents in the foster care system in addition to providing outpatient services to individuals, couples and families.
Ms. Williams employs a variety of techniques to guide her clients to wholeness, mental health and sobriety. She is client-centered and also utilizes motivational interviewing in her approach with clients. Clients know that the treatment setting is a safe place to discuss the most intimate details of their lives.
Currently, Ms. Williams’ work has surrounded providing assistance to urban youth with a significant rate of substance usage, academic challenges, behavioral problems, legal issues and family concerns. Many teens are faced with co-occurring disorders that are fueled by undiagnosed or untreated mental illness and self-medication with drugs and alcohol. Unresolved grief is also a major contributing factor to some of the concerns encountered by urban youth. Genetics and environment can provide a breeding ground for substance abuse amongst adolescents. Ms. Williams is committed to addressing these issues to lighten their load, allow them to experience personal success and prevent incarceration.
While large percentages of urban youth are successful; significant numbers encounter challenges that often prevent them from experiencing favorable outcomes. Early exposure to drugs, sex, instability in the home and untreated mental illness are a few of the concerns that are faced on a daily basis. Additionally, large numbers of young people have unresolved grief due to the violent death of a family member or friend. Adolescents seek comfort or self-medicate to manage these issues. They are typically unaware of the effects of drug usage on their brain and bodies. Subsequently, truancy, failing grades and expulsions become the standard until they make the choice to change course.
Toni Perry has always been interested in Criminal Justice, since first reading Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood in the sixth grade. She wanted to major in Criminal Justice in college, but instead attended Yale University where she received a BA in Psychology in 1982. She realized her dream of immersing herself in the field at SUNY Albany where she received a MA in Criminal Justice in 1983. She began her criminal justice career within the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, where she worked as a Correctional Counselor for one year before returning to her home in the District of Columbia.
During the last 30 years, Ms. Perry has seen major changes in the field of criminal justice and corrections, most notably advances in how mental health and trauma informed care can be utilized to reach vulnerable populations. One area that has garnered some of the most intense re-evaluation has been how to deal with the youthful detention and prison population. In this case, reference in not being made to “youth” who are housed in institutions for various status reasons. Reference is being made to young men and women, sometimes as young as 14, who are being tried as adults for heinous crimes such as murder, rape and armed robbery. With the rise in crimes by males under the age of 22, many communities are clamoring for justice with little regard for the outcome of long range incarceration for this population.
Large urban educational systems, families and communities are failing youth to such a degree that being incarcerated may be the only time in a young man’s life where he is compelled into a structured educational environment. For example, in the District of Columbia, all inmates under the age of 18 must attend school in a special secondary education program which allows them to accelerate and “catch up” on credits so that they can graduate. And the best part of the program is that the student “graduates” with a high school diploma of his or her home high school, just like any other student!
There are so many innovative programs that are customized for this young population to give them the discipline and motivation that have shamefully been so lacking in their young lives. Just recently, President Obama mandated changes in how youth were housed in solitary confinement, sending shockwaves through the Federal Bureau of Prisons and institutions throughout the country.