CALABASAS, Calif. – A former probation camp in the scenic Malibu canyons in Calabasas is being transformed into a place to help youths.
Harry Grammer, an activist for juvenile justice says the exterior beauty of the the former David Gonzalez probation camp can be misleading. It was once a jail for up to 120 young people, but now, he is redesigning it into the transformative career institute.
“When Los Angeles was the largest incarcerator of children in the entire world, we had to step back as a community and ask ourselves why is that, what’s going on here? And that prompted me to want to do more,” Grammar said.
Grammer began the transformation of the former Juvenile Detention Center through first commissioning a vibrant mural for the 600 foot wall, he says his motivation comes from mentees like Jaylin Robinson. Robinson participated in a program through Grammer’s mentorship nonprofit, New Earth.
“Jaylin had a real unique interest in making music. And Jaylin joined our flow program very curious, bright eyed, bushy tail and he became a part of the work we were doing in that camp. Well luckily we had a pathway for him to transition back into the community, and for him to continue that work,” Grammar said.
Robinson reflects on what it was like to have once served time at Camp Gonzalez in a solitary confinement unit.
“It was a lot of confusion. Because it was more like do you want me to get better or do you want me to just sit here and do nothing with my life,” said Robinson.
Grammer wants at risk youth to never have to feel that kind of confusion again. He is even having Robinson help with ideas as they recreate the center.
“Especially from where I come from, there’s no role models, there’s no mentors around, so when you meet somebody like Harry, you grasp onto them, and you really soak it all in,” Robinson said.
Grammer is working with Robinson to provide music workshops at the center.
“For me I see it as a state of emergency, to father, and father can also mean mentor or stand next to or accompany a young person into their future. Because if we don’t, you know we might be looking at an extinction of our young people in our communities to gun fire, to violence and also to incarceration in their future,” said Grammer.
He says, it starts with one individual at a time. The Tranformative Career Institute is tentatively slated to open in the Fall of 2019.