Just One Visit: Volunteers Make a Difference for Prisoners UCLA Luskin professor’s book launch highlights little-known but vital role that volunteers play in the juvenile and adult prison system

By Stan Paul

Just one visit. For those whose lives are entangled in the pipeline of the juvenile and adult justice systems, the life-changing meeting might come from a family member. It could be a psychologist. Or a chaplain. Or it could never come at all.

For many, though, the visitor is a volunteer — someone who can make the difference between continuing a downward spiral through the criminal justice system and turning a life around.

“The cycle continues until someone breaks it,” said Ernst Fenelon Jr., who was part of a Nov. 3 panel speaking about volunteers who help those incarcerated in America’s juvenile detention centers and adult prisons. The event also launched a new book co-edited by UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs Social Welfare professor Laura Abrams. It was sponsored by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs Department of Social Welfare, the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin, and the UCLA Justice Work Group.

New book co-edited by UCLA's Laura Abrams.

New book co-edited by UCLA’s Laura Abrams.

The book, “The Voluntary Sector in Prisons: Encouraging Personal and Institutional Change,” was published “to highlight many examples of great practice, of volunteer programs that make a real difference behind bars … and impacting not only those who take part in the programs, but the volunteers,” Abrams said. She was accompanied by one of her three co-editors, Emma Hughes, an associate professor and chair in the Department of Criminology at California State University, Fresno.

“This event, and the book itself, is intended to honor volunteers in jails and prisons, juvenile and adult institutions, who devote their personal and professional time, travel long distances and overcome numerous bureaucratic hurdles to reach out to those locked on the inside, whose humanity and dignity is often limited by the very condition of incarceration itself,” Abrams said in her introductory remarks.

Abrams said that the work of her colleagues and co-editors highlights many examples of great practice, impacting not only those who take part in the programs, but the volunteers as well. “Unfortunately, this evidence of good practice is not well-known, so other volunteers have to keep reinventing the wheel, rather than benefitting from the experiences of others,” she said.

The co-editors pointed out that volunteers themselves are very diverse. They may be formerly incarcerated, currently incarcerated, teachers, musicians, artists, students or people of faith. A unique feature of the book is that it includes the voices of a number of people currently serving time, in addition to the 19 contributing authors from the United States, Canada and Britain.

“You may be that one person,” said Fenelon, whose 25 years of experience with the California prison system includes more than 14 as an inmate. He is now the program coordinator for the Prison Education Project (PEP), a “prison-to-college” program that seeks to enhance the educational experience of inmates and parolees while providing practical tools for reintegration.

“You’re here because it is a calling,” Fenelon told the audience of academics, social welfare students and volunteers, some of whom also had been wards of the foster care, juvenile justice and adult prison systems in California. “The best people to speak are the volunteers,” continued Fenelon said. Like himself, they “speak from a voice of unique experience,” and “sat where they sat” and they strive to “reconnect [those incarcerated] to their humanity.”

He was joined by Rosalinda Vint, president of Women of Substance and Men of Honor Inc. Vint, who grew up in the foster care system, has been “that one person,” Hughes said in introducing her.

“All of us have a friend or relative touched by the system,” said Vint, whose nonprofit organization provides mentoring, leadership training and other services for the Department of Juvenile Justice Ventura Youth facility. The former corporate executive, who left a successful 25-year career to reach out to foster youth, said it is a privilege to serve those who, like her, have suffered abandonment and loss. Recounting her own and her siblings’ experiences within the foster care and criminal justice systems, Vint paused, as her voice cracked with emotion. She continued, “This has changed my life, what I do. I wish someone would have come for me, looked me in the eye and said it is going to be OK.”

The relationship between two of the event’s speakers, Felix Miranda and Matthew Mizel, is an example of the significant difference that volunteering can make in the lives of both volunteers and those they help.

Miranda was raised in Nicaragua and he “saw things that no kid should see.” He was angry when he came to the United States, eventually ended up in trouble and lost 13 years of his life to the prison system in California. Mizel, a native of New Jersey, had a successful career in the entertainment industry before becoming a volunteer with Inside Out Writers in 2003, teaching creative writing in juvenile and adult facilities.

They met while Miranda was imprisoned, and the experience was transformative for Mizel, who was volunteering with the nonprofit organization founded in 1996. Mizel is now a doctoral student in the Luskin School’s Department of Social Welfare, where his research focuses on ways to reduce racial inequality in the justice system.

“I had to grow out of that phase,” said Miranda, who was recently released from prison and is now a member of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC). “You can make a change.”

Miranda said that at first he couldn’t understand why Mizel kept showing up to his prison visits, and more than once asked him why he would do this.

“He came every week — that’s what impacted my life,” said Miranda, who also is now a member of the Inside Out Writers alumni project. He credits Mizel “for the love and friendship he showed me,” and the writing program for the positive changes he experienced.

“Don’t just show up,” Miranda said about volunteers’ need for perseverance and engagement. “It’s the follow-up that matters.”

According to Hughes, the book is also intended to show correctional officials and policymakers how valuable this work is. “All too often volunteers are confronted with insurmountable hurdles in terms of red tape and bureaucracy when trying to access facilities.”

Hughes added, however, that she is encouraged by recent changes.

“I am heartened that this year, CDRC (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) has a mandate to establish a volunteer advisory committee at every adult prison, with the intention of better supporting volunteer-led programs,” Hughes said.

The evening’s presentations also included a moving spoken word performance by Harry Grammar, who brought students from his New Earth Arts and Leadership Center, a comprehensive re-entry center serving 2,500 young people each year who are incarcerated in Los Angeles County detention centers and placement homes.

‘Minority Report’ Hits Major Racial Themes Scott St. Patrick’s Luskin-sponsored performance provides a no-holds-barred look at race in America through the centuries

By Zev Hurwitz

It can be difficult to truly empathize with another community’s narrative. Tragedies and injustices toward a racial group only resonate up to a point for those not directly impacted. But true empathy cannot be felt without experiencing the narrative up close.

Scott St. Patrick and his company brought the black American experience up close to a diverse crowd of nearly 200 students and community members when they took to the stage in the Broad Art Center.

Sponsored by the Department of Social Welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, “Minority Report” is a nine-vignette journey through the black experience in America. Each act was a solo piece by one of seven actors articulating a narrative that touched on a different area of the history of black Americans.

“In Social Welfare at Luskin, we are committed to struggling with racism as a social justice issue,” Gerry Laviña, director of field education for the Luskin School, said as he opened the evening. “We also acknowledge and will acknowledge tonight that the struggle has gone on for generations and continues today.”

St. Patrick, the show’s creator, led off with an extended poem that addressed some of the program’s hardest-hitting themes. St. Patrick began with an emotionally charged lament of the “epidemic of violence” against African Americans by police, which followed a montage of cellphone footage of recent acts, including the death of Eric Garner by police in which Garner could be heard gasping, “I can’t breathe.”

St. Patrick’s opening monologue, which slammed a system in which African Americans are predisposed to institutionalized racism toward blacks and drew parallels with the shooting of the Cincinnati Zoo’s gorilla, Harambe, set the tone for the following acts.

Several of the most impactful vignettes described historical instances of oppression toward African Americans — both violent and socially oppressive. Detra Hicks lamented the cyclical nature of racism toward blacks in America in a piece that linked the violent 1955 murder of black teenager Emmett Till in Mississippi to the more contemporary killings of Tamir Rice and Jordan Davis.

“Where the hell is peripety?” she exclaimed, referring to the literary device wherein a protagonist’s misfortunes are reversed.

In between each vignette, a clip of relevant video or audio set the tone for the following act. While much of the content focused on graphic illustrations of violent injustices and systematic inequality suffered by blacks, a piece by comedian Donald George probed some of these areas with a touch of humor. He likened the 2016 presidential election to a choice between different sexually transmitted infections in the first fully humorous segment of an otherwise serious series.

Kelly Jenrette discussed civil disobedience in her piece “Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party” and highlighted the story of institutional repression of voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer. Jenrette currently stars on television in the Fox series “Pitch,” which follows a fictional African American woman breaking the gender barrier in professional baseball.

In “Black Tulsa,” Marcuis Harris delivered an informative piece on how, even in instances of success for the black community, racism rears its ugly face in a violent and destructive manner. Harris’ piece focused on the destruction of a thriving Tulsa, Okla., black community, which was leveled by supremacists in a “race riot” in 1921.

Even the terminology used to describe these instances is part of the issue, Harris said. “‘Race riot’ implies equal footing,” he said, describing the overnight destruction of Greenwood. “This was terrorism.”

Jaclyn Tokos, the only non-black performer of the evening, described the various points of contention — with both blacks and whites — she has faced as a white woman engaged to a black man.

“You can’t teach someone who to love,” she asserted, following a video of boxing legend Muhammad Ali’s 1971 interview in which he explains why he would never choose to marry outside of his race.

Several performers wore attire related to their performances, though Tokos’ donning of a “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt (her fiancé’s, she said) not only made a strong impact, it also reminded audiences of the times. “Minority Report” was performed at a critical time for race relations in America and to be reminded of this in an aptly named piece, “Interracial Love,” was pivotal to the message.

Tokos was followed by Kiya Roberts, who continued to preach love — between blacks. “I don’t need you, but I want you,” Roberts says to no man in particular in her vignette, “It’s Complicated…” The pursuit of love as a means of resolution to the pain between races was stressed more than once during the performances.

As the evening came to a conclusion, “Minority Report” became a “call to action,” to fight injustice and inequality with the power of love. Audience members were left with an “it’s on us” mentality and affirmation that love truly is the only way forward.

St. Patrick performed in two other acts, including the closing. In “Katrina,” St. Patrick led a multimedia-guided personal drop-in to the conditions inside the Superdome in post-Hurricane Katrina. For several days following the devastating storm in 2005, thousands of New Orleans residents were told to seek shelter at the stadium, having been promised provisions. However, the nearly all-black population housed in the Superdome went largely neglected, with few-to-no rations or supplies brought in, and horrific restroom conditions — all on top of deep emotional trauma.

In the most moving moment of the performance, St. Patrick brought the audience inside the Superdome and shared vivid descriptions of the sights and smells. “Many of you couldn’t even last one minute,” he said. Those who dared to attempt to flee to a neighboring community came across a battalion of armed guards, who blocked access to the relatively well-supplied Jefferson Parish.

As the audience absorbed the horror experienced in the days following Katrina, they were reminded of the underlying message of the evening: What ethnicity is experiencing this travesty? Would the conditions have been the same had the ethnic makeup of those inside the dome been different?

After witnessing nine vignettes of reflection, the audience is more likely to acknowledge the ugly truth that is the “Minority Report.” No. No it would not.

Read more about the genesis of “Minority Report” and why Social Welfare Chair Todd Franke chose to sponsor it at UCLA.

 

Author and academic Benjamin Barber speaks to the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs on Oct. 26 about the role of cities in solving global problems. Photo by Les Dunseith

Global Change Should Stem from Local Leadership Author and academic Benjamin Barber says cities present the best hope of solving the world’s problems

By Zev Hurwitz

While voters weigh the prospects of which presidential contender is best suited to address the big issues in 2016, one academic thinks the real change-makers are at city halls — not the White House.

During an Oct. 26 lecture at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, Benjamin Barber, a noted political theorist and author who holds a Ph.D. in government from Harvard University, lectured on his philosophy that the key to addressing major global problems is tackling those challenges from the local level.

“Common sense problem-solving pragmatism makes cities the most useful governing institutions in the world as compared to the 19th Century ideologically based national politics of … countries all over the world,” Barber said.

Speaking in front of a crowd of more than 50 students, faculty and community members, Barber asserted that cities are uniquely positioned to address every major challenge facing the international community because these issues are no longer specific to individual nation states.

“Every problem we face is a problem without borders,” said Barber, a professor emeritus at Rutgers University and founder of the Global Parliament of Mayors. “Cities are positioned to address every major problem we have globally.”

The lecture’s title, “How Cities Trump Trump: Urban Pragmatism vs. Toxic Campaign Demagoguery,” was meant “to draw you in, the same way MSNBC does: with Trump,” Barber said, noting that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s rhetoric claiming an international conspiracy to undermine American sovereignty is flawed and “toxic.”

“Trump is right in pointing to the loss of sovereignty, but where he’s wrong is thinking that it is due to stupidity,” Barber said. “We need to learn how to accommodate, not how to scapegoat.”

Nationalized global power, the way Trump describes it, started disappearing after World War II and hasn’t existed since, Barber said.

“Sovereignty, the jurisdiction of a national government over all of the issues its people face, doesn’t exist anywhere in the world, in any country claiming to be sovereign,” Barber said. “We are still responding to these global, borderless problems with sovereign nationally based governments.”

Because the power spheres are organized differently in the 21st Century, the real power — and driving force for change — lies in cities, which Barber said is euphemistic for all regional and local governance, not necessarily individual municipalities.

Cities have a unique interest in driving solutions to global issues because “the problems of cities and the problems of the globe are very much the same.” To illustrate this point, Barber pointed to two major issues: climate change and terrorism.

Most of the world’s population, in the 21st Century, lives in cities, and most cities are within proximity to bodies of water, meaning that much of the world’s population has a vested interest in combating climate change and rising sea levels. In addition, Barber said, 80 percent of greenhouse gases are generated from cities. Because the cause and the effect are both specific to cities, cities are best suited to address that challenge.

About terrorism, Barber said that problem-solving must come from local leadership because terrorists almost exclusively target cities.

“Nobody has attacked a pecan farm in Sacramento,” he said. “They come after cities because that’s where the people are. Terrorism is aimed at cities because cities represent everything that terrorism rejects.”

In order to address major global challenges, Barber said, cities, and their leaders, need to practice collaboration with interlocutors locally and with other cities.

“Cities work by consensus, by collaboration, by building bridges and working with everybody,” he said.

Barber spoke about his involvement with the Global Parliament of Mayors, an international body of local leaders that convened for the first time in September. There was a need for “enacting common urban legislation, not just best practices.” According to Barber, the United Nations’ model of organizing nation-states based on their sovereignty has stymied opportunities for problem-solving. The Global Parliament of Mayors has potential to be a unifying force beyond international borders.

“This is a founding seedling for what, in time, can become a genuine governance organization — a kind of U.N. body,” he said, calling the ideal for the organization to be a body that is “defined by the natural collaborativeness of cities” and their capacity to work with one another.”

The Department of Urban Planning organized the lecture and the Department of Public Policy co-sponsored it, with assistance by the Luskin Center for Innovation and the UCLA departments of History, Philosophy and Political Science.

Mark A. Peterson, chair of the Luskin School’s Department of Public Policy, introduced the speaker, saying that the lecture “couldn’t be more timely.”

“Much of the American public, and our own faculty and students in the Luskin School, have felt intense frustration over the years of policy stalemate at the national level,” Peterson said after the event. “Dr. Barber presented the possibility of a different pathway for addressing major issues — problems for which there seems little prospect of making progress through congressional and presidential action, regardless of the results of the 2016 elections.”

Peterson also noted the application of Baker’s philosophy in Luskin’s curriculum.

“The motto of the Public Policy Department is ‘advancing knowledge in the public interest’ — an essential requirement for understanding the causes of societal problems and identifying interventions that mitigate those causes,” Peterson said.

“However, the actions to be taken, whether by national governments or subnational institutions, are necessarily determined by governing institutions embedded in political processes, ideally with full opportunities for democratic choice and accountability. All of these elements are features of the Public Policy MPP curriculum and prominent in Dr. Barber’s scholarship and public engagement.”

Barber has authored 18 books, including 1995’s best-selling “Jihad vs. McWorld: How Globalism and Tribalism Are Reshaping the World” and 2013’s “If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities.

Soham Dhesi, a first-year Master in Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) student attended the event. Like Peterson, Dhesi said she found parallels between Barber’s lecture and her Luskin coursework in urban planning.

“A lot of people ask me, ‘What is urban planning — haven’t cities already been built?’” Dhesi said. “This is an answer to how cities can be important tools to address these global problems.”

Dhesi referenced the histories and theories of urban planning and course discussions on grassroots movements and individual participation in change-making, saying she found application of Barber’s views on the potential for cities to lead the way.

“Citizens, through their participation in the city, can bring about change,” she said. “Cities are a way for people to participate, which is harder to do at a national level. This goes in line with what we were learning in class about community development.”

UCLA Luskin Lends a Hand as #BruinsGiveBack Luskin staff members, alum help out at Wattles Farm as part of UCLA Volunteer Day

By Stan Paul

With a little help from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, a group of new Bruins has found a way to forge a new path — from day one.

As thousands of Class of 2020 UCLA students fanned out across Los Angeles to more than 50 sites, 45 freshmen volunteered at Wattles Farm — a lush oasis just off L.A.’s famous Hollywood Boulevard — where they helped clean up more than 4.2 acres of pathways at the community center.

Luskin staff helped coordinate the activities and served as UCLA Volunteer Day task captains at the community garden. The Luskin School has adopted the site and coordinated the volunteer effort at Wattles Farm for the last three years, according to Marisa Lemorande, director of alumni relations and director of social media at the Luskin School.

“This aligns well with the Luskin School’s commitment to service,” Lemorande said. She also donned a yellow task captain shirt and worked with the busload of Bruin student volunteers.

“I wanted to help out the community,” said freshman Tiffany Hoang, a biology major who worked with fellow freshman Susan Munguia, an applied mathematics major, filling a wheelbarrow with organic materials for use on the paths.

UCLA junior Leah Broukhim said the event was a great opportunity to connect with students and make sure that new students “get good feelings” for UCLA from the start.

Faculty, staff and Bruin upperclassmen also volunteered to pitch in and supervise some of the work — clearing paths of weeds and stubborn roots, and smoothing out the winding walkways. UCLA Luskin staff members Ricardo Quintero and Ari Gilliam and Public Policy alumna Amanda Daninger also were on hand as volunteer supervisors.

Toby Leaman, who serves as board president and co-head garden master at Wattles, said the farm has participated in UCLA Volunteer Day since it started. “We are so thankful,” Leaman said. “It has helped us so much. We are grateful for UCLA helping us out.”

Leaman, who has been with the community garden for 23 years, said that Wattles farms reaches out to the community by giving tours and hosting students and organizations to show adults and children how things are grown. The gardens include pumpkins, squash, coffee beans and various fruits, as well as herbs and a wide range of native plants.

Also stopping by was Los Angeles District 4 councilmember David E. Ryu, a UCLA alum. “This is a hidden gem,” Ryu said. “I love Wattles Farm.”

Real-World Experience for Public Policy Students In Applied Policy Project presentations, Luskin students pitch policy solutions for clients and get feedback from faculty and peers

By Stan Paul

As graduation looms, Public Policy students from UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs face an annual rite of passage — a culmination of two years of study known as the Applied Policy Project (APP). Getting a master’s degree hangs in the balance.

In teams of two or more, the students present their research to a gallery of policy experts from the Luskin School. Standing before wide-screen projections that illustrate the results of seemingly endless hours of study and investigation, the sharply dressed students review complex policy issues and present possible solutions. As fellow students cluster nearby to show support, Luskin faculty, project advisers and clients listen intently and evaluate each project’s effectiveness. Was there enough attention to detail? Is the concept logical? Is it relevant? Persuasive? And, most importantly, is it supported by evidence?

These challenging presentations are only part of the process. The Master of Public Policy (MPP) candidates also face follow-up questions from faculty and colleagues, who inquire about options researched but not presented, or merits of the solutions they have proposed.

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This year, client projects ranged from local transportation, policing and social justice issues to international employment, education and the well-being of workers in developing countries. State issues such as high-speed rail and health care reform were addressed, as were the short-term rental market and electric vehicle charging options.

The clients included the Southern California Association of Governments, the Coalition for Engaged Education, the California High Speed Rail Authority and Covered CA, among others.

“Public Policy education isn’t about abstractions,” said Mark Peterson, chair of the Department of Public Policy. “It’s about deriving effective solutions to real problems and being able to communicate the value and efficacy of those solutions to decision makers. The Applied Policy Projects put our MPP students in that real-world arena. Their oral presentations and the probes from the faculty put their ideas and analysis to the test in real time, just the preparation our graduates need as they take up positions in government agencies, nonprofit organizations and private firms striving to address the pressing issues of the day.”

The three-day APP program featured 62 students and 18 presentations, each lasting 20 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of Q&A. Here are highlights of three of the students’ talks, which took place in May:

Medical Education for Future Leaders

What do medical students need to learn today to become leaders in medicine for the future?

Three MPPs — two of them also current UCLA medical students — devoted their project to finding an answer to this question. Their project is no mere thought experiment. The UCLA Geffen School of Medicine, which has already begun to address this issue, is the client for the project to determine the needs and direction of a modern, forward-looking medical school and the education it provides.

MD-MPP students Monica Boggs and Maggie Chen, and their project partner Jeffrey Lyu, an MBA-MPP student, presented their findings and made recommendations to their client-partner, Clarence J. Braddock III, the vice dean for education and chief medical education officer for the Geffen School of Medicine.

“Physicians need to have the understanding that they are part of something bigger,” Lyu said during the presentation. “What’s encouraging is that the school is already moving in that direction.”

Among the recommendations of the group:

  • Improving curricular tracking
  • Fine-tuning candidate selection, including attention to identified attributes and “character traits.”
  • Identifying faculty champions and growing grassroots communities to promote information-sharing among faculty to build knowledge among faculty and provide role models for students
  • Communicating a commitment to identified attributes such as awards for faculty and students that demonstrate “attributes essential to the physician of the future.”

“This one is going to hit the ground running,” said faculty adviser Wes Yin, associate professor of Public Policy. Yin said the students will present their project again for the medical school.

Filling Policy Gaps

For some students finding solutions to problems can arise from other new or existing policy solutions.

Take the newly opened Expo Line extension linking downtown to Santa Monica by light rail. While the new line provides a long-anticipated transportation solution between these two areas, the volume of ridership remains uncertain. In anticipation of this, the City of Santa Monica, as client, commissioned a group of MPPs to look at how to increase ridership given that West L.A. — and Los Angeles in general — is stubbornly “auto-centric.”

The students, Abdallah Daboussi, James Howe, Natalia Sifuentes and Takehiro Suzuki, looked at the question of how to create incentives for ridership to help Santa Monica toward development of a sustainable goal of “no net new vehicle trips.” The group recognized the barriers created by the cost of an entire round-trip and availability of first/last-mile connections, as well as built-environment limitations such as which stations are already in place, and a lack of interest by the City of Santa Monica in building new parking, Daboussi explained.

“Our job was to fill in those gaps,” Daboussi said, adding that the accompanying criteria included analyzing the impact of cost, the level of political acceptance and compatibility with the surrounding environment and existing infrastructure. To do this, the RIDERS (Ridership Increases by Developing Expo Line Solutions) team conducted on-site assessments and used GIS (Geographic Information System) data to gauge land use around the existing stations.

Possible solutions included creating public-private partnerships with commercial parking, incentives for the elderly and disabled, a public service announcement program that included free radio spots and an installation of “wayfinding” signs to help riders easily navigate to area stations. The students also recommended creating a means to connect with the Expo Line for those who use a bicycle as part of their daily transportation.

Worker Well-Being

Another MPP group looked at the challenge of increasing the well-being of urban workers in India. Availability of jobs in general is important, but other factors are just as necessary.

“It’s not just about job quantity but also about job quality” in the distribution of well-being and motivation, said team member Kurt Klein.

Second-year MPP student Wajenda Chambeshi discussed some of these factors, including jobs in which workers have the opportunity to move up. Strategies to bolster employment and the labor market are needed, as are ways to give a voice and representation to workers.

The client for the project was the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and the adviser was Manisha Shah, associate professor of Public Policy and APP coordinator. Shah has studied anti-poverty programs and workfare schemes in India, as well as development around the world.

Yin provided some context about how much time the Luskin students spend working on the presentations. “Students have been working on the projects since the summer before their second year of the program,” said Yin. He added that students may start fully committed to an idea at the outset, but part of the process is narrowing their focus once they realize the scope of these issues.

Yin said he was impressed with this year’s students and that their hard work has materialized into “actionable” items for their clients.

Tae Kang, an MPP candidate who was part of an APP presentation to the Coalition for Engaged Education, said the process is stressful but provides valuable experience for UCLA Luskin Public Policy students.

“While I was a bit nervous to present in front of my brilliant professors and colleagues, I was more excited that this would be the culmination of all of our hard work, all the challenges we have overcome, and the relationships we have formed,” Kang said. “And as I took that first step forward and that next step, I could not have been more excited and honored to be in this program.”

New Study Puts a Critical Lens on Sex Trafficking Report by Luskin Center researcher reveals large gaps in the collection of U.S. trafficking data

By George Foulsham

Sarah Godoy realized that she wanted to devote her life to fighting human trafficking when, during a trip to India, she overheard a pimp speaking to a 10-year-old girl. The pimp was questioning where another girl, a 5-year-old, had gone and when she would return to the brothel.

“Pedophilia was written all over this situation,” said Godoy, who was completing an international social work internship as a Social Welfare graduate student at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs at the time of the trip. “I just thought, ‘I cannot see this.’ I had to intervene. That was an eye-opening experience for me.”

Upon returning to the U.S., Godoy interned at the Los Angeles-based, nonprofit organization Saving Innocence where she worked directly with domestic-born survivors of sex trafficking. The internship was during her second year in Luskin’s social work program.

And she has now authored a new study, “Shedding Light on Sex Trafficking: Research, Data and Technologies With the Greatest Impact,” a comprehensive literature review of sex trafficking in the United States, with components of global human trafficking as well.

Godoy conducted the research while working as the lead researcher and content manager for this report and an accompanying database in the Luskin Center for Innovation. The website, humantraffickingdatabase.com, will provide users with pertinent literature and contact information for vetted service providers in the field. The site is expected to go live in the next month.

Godoy included more than 135 pieces of relevant literature on sex trafficking, dating from 1999 to 2016, and conducted about 70 qualitative interviews. While she found some enlightening and often horrific statistics on the subject, what she didn’t find was equally disturbing.

“Weak methodologies in empirical evidence, and small data sets that urge readers to not republish as a national representative,” she said. “That’s what we found. We don’t really have a comprehensive, representative sample of what sex trafficking in the U.S. really is.”

While Godoy did find data for trafficking in California, Los Angeles County, Washington state and Florida — among other high-intensity areas — she did not find adequate national numbers. “We don’t really see nationally what’s happening because there’s no representative sample, so we must rely on proxy sources,” she said. “That’s a really big problem.

“More recently, in certain states, there has been legislation that says the child welfare system has to collect data on suspected at-risk youth and confirmed sex-trafficked youth who are system-involved within their jurisdictions, which is really wonderful,” Godoy added. “But that’s not across the nation, so again we lose the opportunity to gain a national representation of sex-trafficked youth in the child welfare system. We don’t have any federal legislation that would allow for a national repository to input data on sex-trafficked individuals and that is a detriment to the movement because of the transient nature of this population.”

Nevertheless, the international numbers compiled by Godoy are daunting. According to the study, human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal enterprise in the world. It is estimated that there are 21 million women, men, girls, boys and transgender individuals trafficked worldwide — roughly equivalent to 3 out of every 1,000 people. Women and girls are identified as the most-trafficked populations, comprising 11.4 million of the labor- and sex-trafficked victims.

Adults account for 74 percent (15.4 million) of the victims and children younger than 18 account for 26 percent (5.5 million). According to data collected by the International Labour Organization, exploitation occurs in myriad settings but the most notable and widespread industries are domestic servitude, agriculture, construction, manufacturing and entertainment.

“I think something that’s important to highlight is the critical lens that we use when looking at the literature,” Godoy said. “We’re not just republishing U.S. statistics. That’s something that we see over and over again in the anti-sex trafficking, anti-human trafficking movement. For example, 100,000-300,000 children are at risk of being sex-trafficked in the U.S. each year. But, we look at it and say, ‘OK, this is also a weak methodology and we need more comprehensive data.’ Or, ‘the average age of entry is between 12 and 14,’ but again it’s from that same data set. So, we really need to be more critical when we’re republishing statistics. I think it shows that not enough resources are being put into adequately capturing data.”

Equally frustrating is any attempt to profile the traffickers — both those who exploit the individuals and those who purchase sexual activity.

“We have information on what traffickers look like, but in every single capacity, there are a lot of gaps,” Godoy said. “For example, for traffickers, there tends to be a lot of law enforcement bias: Who is being policed, what neighborhoods are being policed? We know that in a massage parlor, sex trafficking happens. We know that on the street, on the internet, in escort services, trafficking happens. But law enforcement tends to focus on the most physical crimes. So, they’re going to the streets and they’re looking online because there’s been a lot of talk about the internet as a platform to buy and sell children and buy and sell sex. So, again, there is a dearth of information in the statistics.”

Godoy’s report includes a series of recommendations to address the gaps, including those that exist regarding technologies that might help with the anti-trafficking efforts around the world.

The recommendations include:

Establishing a national database for FBI and local law enforcement to input, access and share pertinent information on human trafficking cases across jurisdictions.

Enhancing social media platforms to include a space for survivor leaders, more recent survivors and service providers to be used as an empowerment tool and healthy communication outlet.

Expansion of existing mobile-based apps for survivors, social service providers and law enforcement that provide vital information on local services available for survivors.

Including an emergency function in newly developed or pre-existing mobile-based apps commonly used by youth that instantly notifies specified contacts (caregivers, social workers, etc.) and/or local law enforcement with an urgent text message, email, and/or phone call that indicates potential danger and includes geospatial information.

Creating a digital platform for vetted social service providers that bolsters safe and timely information sharing for multidisciplinary stakeholders providing rehabilitative services to survivors.

Offering internship and employment opportunities for human trafficking survivors that teach higher levels of skill (programming, coding, etc.).

Facilitating an app-based challenge for survivors to develop ways to prevent sex-trafficking with at-risk youth, intervene with victims, enhance after-care services and reduce recidivism for survivors through accessible technology.

And conducting further research on the interplay of technology with the following populations: at-risk youth in schools and the child welfare system; mental and physical health of human trafficked victims and survivors; child labor practices; labor trafficking of adults; and sex trafficking of adults.

Godoy will be in Washington, D.C., on April 29 for an event sponsored by Polaris Project, the nation’s largest anti-human trafficking organization. Polaris oversees the national human trafficking resource center hotline, which provided a lot of the data for her study. In Washington, she will be one of three people presenting research on the subject.

As she weighed how to approach the presentation of this study, Godoy was firm about one aspect.

“I said to the design and layout expert who worked with me on this report that I don’t want the same dark imagery on the cover,” Godoy said. “I don’t want chains. I don’t want blood. I don’t want any of this negativity.

“I want it to be light, to show that there is a hope at the end of this and that these survivors are very resilient and deserving of more.”

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IPP Bridges Studies to Global Career International Practice Pathways (IPP) offers internships to students across the globe.

By Adeney Zo

Since 2011, the International Practice Pathways (IPP) program has offered a global component to Luskin students’ education prior to the inception of Global Public Affairs. This summer, IPP once again sent a group of students to internship placements around the world, offering them the unique opportunity to see their education come to life on the international scale.

The global journey begins with Shafaq Choudry MURP ’16, who interned in the mayor’s office in Panama City, Panama. Having grown up in Venezuela and worked extensively with Latino communities as a planner, Choudry was immediately drawn to a placement opportunity in Latin America. “The IPP summer program in Panama presented a tremendous opportunity to work at a recently established Department of Urban Planning under the mayor’s office on transportation and land use projects,” she explained.

Her areas of academic interest include sustainable transportation and equitable development, so the opportunity to work in a rapidly developing city was invaluable.

“Panama City has undergone rapid growth and development over the years, and with new leadership in place, the Department of Planning is investing in strategies and tools for inclusive and equitable growth,” said Choudry.

Despite the practical experience she gained, Choudry was most inspired by the people she encountered during her time abroad.

“I met extraordinary, young and talented individuals that are passionate about transforming their city for the better,” said Choudry. “Their open and eager-for-change attitude allowed me to integrate with the team and generate ideas for the future together.”

Choudry will continue her travels this year with a comprehensive thesis project in Mexico City, an endeavor she hopes will lead to a career in Latin America. “Toward the end of my 10-week fellowship in Panama, I received the affirmation I needed in order to pursue international planning work in Latin America as a consultant,” she said.

Like Choudry, Katie Merrill MSW ’16 had deep personal ties to her placement — Europe — having lived and worked in Germany before coming to Luskin. Motivated by this combination of personal and academic interest, Merrill chose to intern at the UN Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

“I have always been interested in the UN and the grand scale of global humanitarian work,” said Merrill. “I was particularly attracted to the idea of working at UNHCR in the wake of the Syrian refugee crisis.”

Merrill was given the freedom to design and run a study on staff alcohol abuse across the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Many UNHCR staff members work in dangerous areas under highly stressful conditions, leading to a widespread alcohol abuse problem, Merrill explained. “I was shocked and fascinated by what I heard on a daily basis, and I felt a profound responsibility to do them justice,” she said.

“This experience showed me just how intimate research can, in fact, be,” she continued. “I spent hours on the phone with staff members speaking about very jarring personal experiences. It was so powerful to feel that my synthesis and communication of their messages may very well lead to real and important policy changes in the organization, and it was an honor to be at the heart of something so big.”

Merrill and her coworkers interviewed more than 100 staff members over the course of her study, and her findings will be incorporated into a final report to UNHCR.

Away from city life, Jason Karpman MURP ’16 applied his studies in urbanization and environmental impact to the rainforests of Chiang Mai, Thailand. When considering where to apply for his IPP placement, Karpman had his sights set on the research organization World Agroforestry Centre. Between their global office locations, Thailand had the most abundant forest area, covering approximately 37% of the country. “I was drawn to the ecology of the place,” explained Karpman.

IPP offers students the chance to engage in real-life applications of their studies, and this aspect of the program resonated deeply with Karpman. While the majority of his time was spent conducting literature review and research at Chiang Mai University, Karpman was most inspired by field visits to the rainforest itself. He recalled the breathtaking moment when he entered a tropical rainforest for the first time:

“It’s one of those awe-inspiring experiences, and I was humbled by how spectacular [the rainforest] is, how productive it is,” said Karpman. “There was green as far as the eye can see. It solidified that these places provide important environmental services for our planet.”

To future students considering IPP, Karpman recommends the program as the ideal window between the first and second year to reassess the direction of one’s studies.

“[I realized] how to maximize my last year in this program to get the skills and content education I need,” he said. “I can’t overemphasize how important the value of the program is — it’s a moment to pause in your education, reassess things and then get back in the program.”

 

 

Accepting a Grand Challenge UCLA Luskin Researchers Awarded First LA Grand Challenge Grants to Support Efficient Transportation and Local Sustainable Water Research

By Stan Paul

Innovative and sustainable use of water and energy in Los Angeles is at the heart of UCLA’s Sustainable LA Grand Challenge, and three UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs researchers are at the forefront of this campuswide initiative.

Brian Taylor, Juan Matute and J.R. DeShazo are among 11 winners of the $1.2 million in competitive research grants awarded through the Challenge’s Five-Year Work Plan, which envisions a 100-percent renewable energy and local water scenario for the greater Los Angeles area by 2050. In addition, Jaimee Lederman, an Urban Planning doctoral candidate at Luskin, was recently named an LA Grand Challenge Powell Policy Fellow for a research/scholarly project that will directly contribute to advancing the goals of the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge.

Taylor and Matute said that their project will specifically study the viability of shared zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) and transportation network companies (TNCs) “to and from major transit stops to promote both ZEV and transit for commute-related traffic.” They believe the “meteoric rise” in use of TNCs, like Uber and Lyft, may address so-called “first-mile, last-mile” problems of daily transportation and encourage “mix-mode” travel that includes the use of expanding rail and bus rapid transit networks in Los Angeles.

“The TNC business model enables high daily vehicle utilization rates and high occupancy rates (percentage of seats filled) compared with personal vehicle ownership and operation,” said Taylor and Matute in their winning proposal. In addition, they indicated that the high rate of utilization rates will help zero-emission vehicle owners to “amortize the higher initial cost over a greater number of annual operating hours,” thus providing quicker returns on their investment.

Taylor, a professor of Urban Planning, is director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies and director of the Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS) at Luskin. Matute serves as associate director of the Lewis Center and ITS. DeShazo’s winning proposal will assess whether creating a unified water market, or “OneWater,” as he calls it, out of the current fragmented system of more than 200 community water systems in Los Angeles, is a real possibility. DeShazo is director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation and is a professor of Public Policy, Urban Planning, and Civil and Environmental Engineering at UCLA.

“A regional water market could enable those systems with underutilized water resources to develop and supply water to systems facing higher costs, poor quality and unreliable supplies,” said DeShazo. “This opportunity to trade water expands the lower-costs supply options available to higher-costs systems, thus reducing regional inequality,” he said.

DeShazo pointed out that each system in the county’s fragmented market varies in numerous ways such as access to groundwater and aquifer storage, storm water capture, direct and indirect water re-use as well each of the current system’s potential for conservation. The proposal also calls for the creation of an advisory panel for a joint powers authority that would manage the OneWater market.

“The only way that all water systems in L.A. County can achieve 100 percent local water is if a system that enables the trading of water among systems is created,” noted DeShazo. “Trading would create a revenue stream that attracts new investment in blue infrastructure.”

Lederman’s proposed project is titled, “From Great Idea to Sustainable Outcomes: traversing political roadblocks of local participation in regional environmental initiatives.” Serving as her faculty mentor is Martin Wachs, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Urban Planning. The fellowship award was made possible through a generous gift from Norman J. Powell.

The Sustainable LA Grand Challenge is currently engaged with more than 150 UCLA faculty and researchers from more than 70 campus departments who are seeking ways to improve the quality of life as population growth and climate change affect the Los Angeles area.

Read the complete story on the UCLA Newsroom website.

New Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., Award Advances UCLA Luskin’s Mission of Social Justice The new Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., Social Justice Award was created to advance research that focuses on issues of racial justice and inequality

By Adeney Zo

Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., served as dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs for seven years, and his legacy here continues to inspire and provide support for Luskin students.

Through the efforts of members of the UCLA Luskin advisory board along with many other donors, the new Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., Social Justice Award was created to advance research that focuses on issues of racial justice and inequality. Reflecting the School’s mission to bring about social change through academic excellence, this award highlights student scholarship that addresses crucial societal issues.

Board Chair Susan F. Rice explains, “Frank Gilliam’s commitment to social justice permeated his leadership approach. His collaborative style in cross-discipline initiatives left a significant legacy on the students, the faculty, the campus and our Board of Advisors. In particular, the Board relished Frank’s pride in the Luskin School students as research practitioners engaging public personnel in social justice issues. It seemed fitting to establish an award recognizing student initiative.”

This year’s award recipients will be studying a wide range of topics related to social justice, diversity and equity.

Susanna Curry, a doctoral candidate in Social Welfare, was selected for a project which will study housing insecurity among millennials. Curry’s ultimate goal as a researcher is to help end homelessness in the U.S., but her research will first examine the causes of housing insecurity among millennials in early stages of adult life.

“I want to encourage social welfare scholarship to include a greater understanding of housing insecurity, that is, the situations in which people find themselves immediately before becoming homeless such as living temporarily in another person’s home, moving frequently, and facing eviction or a high rent burden,” said Curry.

Curry aims to study how childhood adversity and access to social supports, particularly stemming from the foster care system, may influence housing instability among young adults.

“It is important that we better understand living situations and housing-related stressors beyond age 21, and associated risks and resources, so that service providers and policymakers can develop greater supports for these [foster] youth as appropriate into young adulthood,” said Curry.

Curry will also examine on a national scale how social and cultural patterns may factor into this issue.

While Curry’s work will examine a nationwide issue, three recipients of the award will focus their research on issues within UCLA. Elizabeth Calixtro, a master of Public Policy student; Kevin Medina, a master of Social Welfare and master of Public Policy student; and Nisha Parekh, a master of Public Policy and Law student, were selected for their proposal to evaluate diversity and equity programming at UCLA in conjunction with the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

“We plan to use the data we collect to create feasible recommendations for the UCLA Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) regarding ways to harmonize the various EDI-related efforts across campus,” said Medina. “EDI was created less than a year ago, and we aim to provide recommendations that will further this harmonization project.”

All three members of the team have backgrounds in social justice work, allowing for them to advance the mission of the award while also utilizing their combined experience to create change within UCLA.

“We felt that selecting a topic addressing equity issues would allow us to bring together multiple lenses and skill sets to create an impactful policy project,” said Medina. “This award provides us with the necessary and scarce resources to actualize our ambitious vision for our policy project.”

The team will be evaluating the EDI’s programs through focus groups, interviews and a campuswide survey. They will also be contacting universities similar to UCLA in order to understand how other schools implement diversity and equity programming. With the implementation of a new undergraduate diversity requirement for UCLA College freshmen, this study may play an important part in the development of these courses.

Other award recipients are Marylou Adriatico, a master of Social Welfare student, and Joanna L. Barreras, Charles H. Lea III and Christina Tam, all doctoral candidates in Social Welfare.

To learn more about the Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., Social Justice Award, or to make a contribution, visit this page.

A summary of the project descriptions for the Social Justice Award winners can be found here.

Creating Good “Food Citizens” for Future Food Equity and Security Food Studies Graduate Certificate Program Taking Applications Starting Feb. 1, Selected Students to Begin Fall 2016

By Breanna Ramos

The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs will open the application period for the Food Studies Graduate Certificate Program starting Feb. 1. The program is open to all UCLA graduate students and selected applicants will begin taking classes in Fall 2016.

Food equity, security, and environmental sustainability are growing global concerns, and there is an increased interest in developing programs to alleviate such issues, specifically within the University of California system.  The certificate program falls under UC President Janet Napolitano’s Global Food Initiative, which was launched in 2014 to address “…one of the critical issues of our time: how to sustainably and nutritiously feed a world population expected to reach eight billion by 2025.”

“It shouldn’t be an issue for people to get healthy foods or for us to worry about whether or not we’re going to have healthy foods in the future,” said Alexis Oberlander, Project Manager for the program at the Luskin School. Oberlander is just one of the many staff members who strongly supports food studies’ importance and participated in developing program details.

“That’s part of what’s most exciting, having people from the North and South campuses: from English, Dentistry, and all over,” said Public Health professor May Wang. “We can’t really talk about food without addressing all these other social, economic, and even political aspects.”

The program requires that participants take courses in multiple fields. Among the four graduate-level courses students must take, one must be a core interdisciplinary class that was specifically designed for the program. The other three courses can be chosen based on personal preference and selected from the following categories: Food Policy and Food Systems, Nutritional Science, and Social and Cultural Aspects of Food.

“The hope and intention of the program is that it’ll bring students together across all disciplines to think about the complex issue that is food in our country today,” said Sarah Roth, graduate student researcher for the program. “Bringing together law, business, public policy, urban planning, and public health students into the same room so that they can both understand one another’s perspective and use that understanding to leverage change.”

Applications will become available in February, with about 10 participant slots available. The program is expected to attract students from various disciplines.

“A passion for food is the critical component for applying,” said Oberlander. “Applicants should express any ideas that they have about how they’re going to use food studies in their education and future careers because that’s our goal: supplementing their education, so that they can go into the working world with their certificate and apply it to whatever they’re doing.”

Events have been planned to attract not only potential students, but to educate others about why studying food is crucial. A calendar of campus events relevant to food studies also is available online at: http://luskin.ucla.edu/content/food-studies-event-calendar

“What we really want to do is create good food citizens,” said UCLA law professor Michael Roberts, lead instructor for the core course. “What ‘good food citizens’ means is that we’ve got people in the community who understand and appreciate food and who can improve the conditions, the consumption, and or production of food in the local community and beyond.”

For more information on the program and other food studies related resources, visit the certificate website at: http://luskin.ucla.edu/foodstudies.