The San Diego County Probation Department gave juveniles in custody the opportunity to share a holiday meal with their families, in an attempt to keep them on the right path, according to probation officers.
On Friday, the East Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility hosted its second annual Thanksgiving dinner for 21 young men in the Youthful Offenders Unit, and 33 of their family members, according to the County News Center.
The Youthful Offenders Unit holds 16 to 20-year-old men who have either committed a high number of crimes or serious crimes.
A 19-year-old in custody, referred to as David, said he was grateful to see his family.
“I was really thankful because it's hard enough being locked up for the holidays, but giving us an opportunity to have family there--not the day, but the day after-- to celebrate helps," David said. "I just want to spend as much time with them as possible."
David has a one-year-old son who was born on Thanksgiving Day last year, while David was in custody. He met his son for the first time at the detention's 2016 Christmas dinner.
David said he knows he is missing out on his son's life, but that is his motivator to do his best while in custody. He is scheduled for release in January.
Supervising Probation Officer Brian Day said the opportunity to connect with family is a good motivator to avoid violence, perform well in school and participate in rehabilitation programs, which will allow the troubled youth to return home as soon as possible.
Since the probation officers also share the meal with those in custody, it offers the opportunity for the youth and families to view officers as supportive people rather than adversaries, according to Probation Chief Adolfo Gonzales.
"Sharing the holiday meal together builds trust between the officers, youth and their families, which is necessary so we can work together on their rehabilitative goals," Gonzales said.
The Probation Department also hosted a Thanksgiving meal for the Girls Rehabilitation Facility Unit in Kearny Mesa this year. The meal was prepared by staff, detention youth and kitchen personnel for 21 girls in custody and 22 guests, according to a statement.