Gov. Mary Fallin appointed David Hall, sociology/music education senior, to a position on the state advisory board for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP).
The board deals with the annual dispersal of federal money to fund programs in Oklahoma in compliance with the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. As a member of the board, Hall will attend a retreat, training sessions and quarterly meetings where he will participate in discussions regarding new programs and the allocation of about $1 million from the federal government.
Hall is one of about 12 members so far. Other members include Rep. Cyndi Munson (D-Okla.), Rep. John Paul Jordan (R-Okla.), a state Department of Human Services employee, and professors from Oklahoma schools.
Because the full board has not yet been appointed, the January meeting was postponed to February. Hall was recommended to the position by board member Dr. Gregory Parks, psychology professor at Oklahoma City Community College.
“Dr. Parks knew me from previous speaking engagements, and I apparently made enough of an impression for him to remember me a year and a half later,” Hall said. “I was lucky because one of the requirements is that a couple of the members have to be under 24, so I just had to fill out an application.”
Hall said he was an attractive candidate because he was involved with law enforcement as a minor, went to juvenile custody multiple times himself and had experience in foster care.
There is more freedom to implement ideas that will move the state forward because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently removed the rule that requires the board to only fund programs that have been tried before, Hall said.
“Some committee members are already on board with an idea I have regarding young people in the OKC metro area who have been in foster care and age out while in juvenile custody,” Hall said. “They’re being looked at to move to adult jail because their sentence hasn’t been completed.”
Moving aged out residents to jail is expensive and does not give them an opportunity to improve their lives, Hall said, so he devised a plan to create a holistic housing model for this group.
Through partnerships with groups like Habitat for Humanity, Hall said he wants to create a healthy living situation that will give the young adults an opportunity to build a positive lifestyle at a reduced cost for them and the state.
“It costs a minimum of $25,000 per year to keep someone in jail, but we could break a kid’s cycle immediately by giving them legit tools and reducing the cost of living, which would allow us to afford to have a mentorship in place,” Hall said. “I’ve already talked with different people that sat on a board for the county and worked out memorandums with facilities. It’s possible, we just need to do it.”
All funding from the board must support the JJDP Act’s four core requirements:
– deinstitutionalization of status offenders,
– separation of juveniles from adults in secure facilities,
– removal of juveniles from adult jails and lockups, and
– reduction of disproportionate minority contact within the juvenile justice system.
Hall hopes to address issues including the unfairly high likelihood of minority races to be stopped and frisked, the poor resources provided for delinquent minors and their caretakers, and the stigma children receive when they encounter trouble with the law or go to juvenile custody.
“Before I went into juvenile custody the first time in eighth grade, I reached my first breaking point,” Hall said. “When that happened, I had consecutive years of chronic stress, physical and mental abuse, as far back as I could remember. When I left juvy, I went right back to my abuser for six more years. They couldn’t take care of me because they didn’t have proper resources and didn’t think of themselves as an abuser.”
At the time Hall went into juvenile custody the first time, he was in honors courses and became the only child in the district to receive a 100 percent score on the end-of-instruction algebra exam.
“Because of multiple times being detained and arrested, I was considered a clinical bad kid, but I had my life together, I just couldn’t handle it psychologically,” Hall said. “I showed signs of PTSD [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder] through my freshman year of college, and, though he was kind enough to not say the reason, my roommate moved out because I’d have night terrors in my dorm room.”
Hall will serve in the position while finishing his education degree, but the limit of his appointment is undetermined. He hopes to teach music, as well as government, history and sociology, attend grad school, and eventually run for a government position.
Beatrize Martinez, second-year law graduate, said she wasn’t surprised about Hall’s appointment.
“He’s been working on foster care advocacy ever since I met him as a freshman,” Martinez said. “He’s traveled and been a spokesperson for foster youth and has had immense passion every step of the way. I remember thinking, ‘most 18 year olds are thinking about what party they are going to, but here he is, unwavering and unrelenting in making sure positive changes are made for the foster youth of Oklahoma.’”
Hall said he’s excited for the opportunity to help youth like himself.
“People don’t just wake up one day as a 16-year-old and decide to get in trouble with the law-it starts early on,” he said. “Being able to be a part of this group is really great because I can make a difference for those who were put in my situation. It’s surprisingly easy to get involved with this stuff when you care about something.”