•John Brodey
More of Same?
It sure feels that way. While we all wait for the end of the pandemic and a more complete return to normalcy, a little historical perspective is not a bad thing at this time. The Spanish Flu of 1918-19 is the best barometer of what the immediate future may look like. It was bad, as we know, with a third of the world’s population infected, some 500 million. With death rates close to 100 million, it actually lowered life expectancy in the U.S. by 12 years and in truth it never really went away. It struck in 3 waves and then the N1H1 receded but hung around as just the flu and later on it combined with other variants to form the bouts of swine and bird flu , etc.
I mention this to say our that ordeal is not over and we will likely have to continue to adjust our sights accordingly. As a club, we welcomed a return to live meetings just a few weeks ago. Our recent Thursday morning breakfast meeting at the Oak included a Zoom component for those taking the recent mandates to heart e.g., indoor gatherings must be masked. Thanks to our tech wizards, Fred Polkinghorn and Daymon Doss we managed a reasonable approximation of a ZOOM/LIVE meeting.
Our guest speaker was on Zoom, as were a few members, and while there were a few bizarre glitches right out of a Star Trek episode, we settled down to hear from David Koch who is the Chief Probation Officer for the Sonoma Co. Probation Department. He has been in this position since 2016 and with a budget of $80 million and 280 employees, his is a complex job. His department oversees approximately 2900 adults and young people under court ordered supervision (probation). Some are awaiting trial and must also be monitored. One of the most layered areas involves juvenile offenders. They are divided into the 140 bed Juvenile Hall facility and in the past, this included a 24 bed probation camp. The objective is to create an environment where young people can acknowledge and take responsibility for criminal behavior. The idea is to provide them with the tools to turn things around, develop new skills, and return to the community. It’s about intervention not reform. It seems to be working as the numbers are dropping. Ten years ago, the system averaged 300 youth per year, now it is down to 100. This is due to investments in education, child development programs , etc.
One of the most exciting developments also addresses the issue of homelessness. We all know that mental health issues contribute greatly to the chronically homeless population and troubled youthful offenders. The good news is that the county is building a new 72-bed mental health facility right next to the jail. They are also converting the VOM Children’s Home into a 16-bed psychiatric treatment center for juveniles. It was an uplifting meeting and no matter what the future holds the VOM Rotary will carry on whether it’s virtual/real or both.

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