Outreach to Juveniles in Adult Jails
Miami artist and attorney Xavier Cortada is currently working (during 2001) with juvenile offenders aged 14 – 18 who are incarcerated at Turner Guilford Knight Corrections Facility waiting to be tried or sentenced as adults. These youth have been transferred, or direct filed, to adult criminal court, and are participating in ArtCARE: Outreach to Juveniles in Adult Jails. As part of this project, 140 youth will write a message that Cortada will incorporate into a collaborative mural. A smaller group of youth will make drawings, write poetry, create a rap recording, and participate in video and photography sessions.
A public exhibition showcasing the mural and other materials related to this project will open on February 1st, 2002, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. at Casa Grande Cultural Center. After the exhibition, the mural will be installed in the lobby of the Office of the Public Defender. ArtCARE: Outreach to Juveniles in Adult Jails is a collaborative effort of The Office of the Public Defender and Miami-Dade Art in Public Places.
These youth, on the threshold of entering the adult court punishment system, are in need of support programs and guidance as they make the transition to adulthood under the harshest of conditions. This program will provide the benefits of arts access by using art as a vehicle for these youth to develop self-awareness and to share their life experiences with each other and the community at large. The various projects created by the youth during this phase of ArtCARE will be designed to caution other youth about the consequences of delinquent behavior and to educate the public at large about the direct file process and its many consequences.
The underlying premise of the exhibit is that the direct file approach treats these children as if they are little adults who are not salvageable, and frequently denies them an opportunity to turn their lives around. Florida leads the nation in juvenile transfers to criminal court. In fiscal year 1999-2000, nearly 3,300 juveniles were transferred to adult criminal court in Florida. Rather than placing youth in the revolving door of adult probation, prison and boot camps, they could be sentenced to intensive and long-term juvenile commitment programs such as Bay Point Schools. Such commitment programs have a record of successfully rehabilitating these adolescent offenders who are often emotionally unformed and in desperate need of support, education, and guidance as they enter adulthood.
Miami-based Cuban-American artist, attorney and activist Xavier Cortada combines his passion for art with a deep concern for social and political issues and a belief in the power of art as an agent for social change. He has worked collaboratively with diverse groups across the United States, Latin America, Europe and Africa to create pro-social community murals and participant-driven art projects.
Locally, Cortada has served as Artistic Director of various efforts sponsored by Miami-Dade Art in Public Places, including Master-Peace (a school-based art project in Miami-Dade County Public Schools) and PATH (Public Art Transforming Housing in Miami-Dade Housing Agency). In 1999, he worked with youth in the County’s residential dependency and delinquency programs to create the mural that hangs in the façade of the Juvenile Courthouse.
ArtCARE: Outreach to Juveniles Being in Adult Jails is a continuation of an ongoing ArtCARE program providing the benefits of arts access to juvenile offenders. Miami-Dade Art in Public Places received funding from the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs Community Grants Program and is in partnership with the Office of the Public Defender. ArtCARE: Outreach to Juveniles Being Tried As Adults is an aspect of the Anti-Violence Initiative established by Public Defender Bennett Brummer to help clients lead law-abiding lives.
Miami-Dade Art in Public Places is a nationally recognized percent-for-art program established in 1973 to oversee the implementation of public art installations and educational programs. An ordinance allocates 1.5% of the construction cost of new county buildings for the purchase or commission of artworks. The goals of the program are several: to enhance the artistic heritage of Miami-Dade County, to give dimension to the public environment for residents and visitors, to increase public awareness to works of art, to promote understanding and awareness of the visual arts, and to provide educational opportunities to at-risk youth.
Law Offices of Bennett H. Brummer, Public Defender
Bennett H. Brummer, the Public Defender for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida, created the Anti-Violence Initiative (AVI) to build and enhance client, government and community collaborations. The AVI is designed to improve public safety, government accountability and reduce the number of victims. It is directed toward effecting meaningful, positive and lasting changes in clients’ lives. The collaboration between the Office of the Public Defender and ArtCARE is in furtherance of the principles of AVI.
Miami-Dade County Corrections and Rehabilitation Department
The Miami-Dade County Corrections and Rehabilitation Department employs more than 2700 officers and staff and is comprised of six correctional facilities. One of the facilities, Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center (TGK), is the facility where juvenile males are held awaiting trial and sentencing. Director Lois Spears is dedicated to providing caring, compassionate and competent services to incarcerated juveniles. The professionals with the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation collaborate with the community, various public and private agencies and the criminal justice system to deliver quality correctional services.
Miami-Dade Weed and Seed
Weed and Seed is a strategy within the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs. It is a comprehensive multi-agency effort to prevent crime and revitalize the community. Volunteers and staff of the Miami-Dade Weed and Seed Ex-Offender Re-entry Program conduct weekly visits with juveniles who are transferred to adult court and are detained at the Turner-Guilford Knight facility. The outreach program endeavors to recreate a sense of morality in the community while opening doors for ex-offenders who feel there is no hope for them after incarceration. Following the completion of their sentences, Miami-Dade Weed and Seed facilitates the juveniles’ access to social, economic and educational opportunities.
With the support of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners.
This project would not have been possible without the amazing team of committed individuals who collaborated to guarantee its success. Carol Wilson-Sharp, a social worker in the juvenile wing of Turner Guilford Knight Corrections Facility, has worked with juveniles for many years. She was with the team everyday and provided insight into the plight of the youth. Ms. Wilson-Sharp’s office is papered with drawings and letters written by former juvenile inmates. Some of the letters form part of the exhibition. Tim Walker is a designer and photographer in Miami who volunteered to photograph the boys for the exhibition. LaEatrice McMurray of the Public Defender’s Office was instrumental in ensuring that jail visits ran smoothly and Jonathan Stout spent numerous hours producing a videotape of the youth. Conrad Hamather, artist and Director of Galleries, Miami-Dade Community College, created an installation evoking the cell experience at TGK. In addition to coordinating the ArtCARE project and compiling this publication, Lea Nickless Verrecchia of Miami-Dade Art in Public Places collaborated with Xavier Cortada to create an art installation for the exhibition using prison jumpsuits and messages written by the youth.
We also thank the following individuals: Wayne Rawlins, Executive Director of Miami-Dade Weed and Seed, and Public Defender employees: Elisa Corrado, Rebecca Cox, Tamara Gray, Carlos J. Martinez, Anita Margot Moss, Marie Osborne, Kathleen Redmond, Lolita Samaroo and Mildred Velez. We also wish to especially thank Janelle Hall, Captain Manny Fernandez, Lieutenants C. McKenzie and T. Vickers, Sargeant C. Lindo, Corporals P. Prydent and W. Dominguez, Officers F. Chicoye, S. Johnson, G. Faison, C. Martin, L. Hardley, S. Perry, M. Thompson, F. Belus, Black, Handfield, Counselors Terry Moore and Juan Canelo and the entire Juvenile staff at Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Facility.