John Deasy, the controversial former superintendent who led the Los Angeles Unified School District for three-and-a-half turbulent years, is embarking on a new venture that could prove just as challenging: keeping juvenile offenders from returning to jail, reports the Los Angeles Times. Deasy wants to open alternative juvenile prisons in Los Angeles and Alameda counties that could include activities such as yoga, meditation, art, counseling, athletics and education. His goal is to reduce recidivism by 50 percent. The vehicle will be a new nonprofit he is creating called “New Day, New Year.” Deasy said he is “just beginning to think through” the details and is working to line up funders.
He is troubled that the U.S. has a high number of incarcerated youth, and that “we have created sets of conditions and rules which facilitate that incarceration, such as minimum sentencing and … the very very specific targeting of some forms of drug use versus others.” While leading the L.A. district, Deasy visited incarcerated students several times a month and spoke to them about “what to do when you get out, how to talk when you get out, how to navigate the system to get back into school.” As superintendent, Deasy was known for his focus on data and his emphasis on more stringent teacher evaluations that included students’ scores on tests. A program he launched to provide each student with an iPad went awry and became the subject of investigations. A majority of school board members grew dissatisfied with Deasy, and in 2014, he resigned under pressure.