A Judge offers jobs not jail to 1st time offenders

If was tough for Judge John Phillips. Since 2000, he had long since lost count of the number of minors he had sent through the California penitentiary system for crimes committed during a violent, unguided, and hopeless adolescence.

“You send these young people to prison, and they learn to become harder criminals,” he said once.

So 20-years ago he set out to find a better way—to teach kids job skills instead of sending them to prison! Phillips started Rancho Cielo at the base of a hill in the town of Salinas, California utilizing an old juvenile detention center ironically, and with a board made up mostly of county supervisors, judges, and law enforcement leaders.

Rancho Cielo started out only accepting adolescents, but that all changed in 2015 when Salinas saw more underage murders than anywhere else in the nation.

That's when Rancho Cielo would be out frequently passing by high schools, county jails, juvenile detention centers, homeless shelters, and foster homes, always asking if it were possible to take in the worst of the worst, hoping to interrupt the course of these youths’ lives and turn them toward a brighter future.

It's working! Each year, 220 students attend Rancho Cielo, and while some don’t make it, 84.8% of first-time offenders who enroll at Rancho Cielo never re-offend! That's compared to the 40% recidivism rate in the county.

Here's more of the story!

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