Attorney Francis ("Frankie") V. Guzman is a juvenile justice attorney at the National Center for Youth Law. He is working to eliminate the practice of prosecuting and incarcerating children in California's adult criminal justice system and advocates for alternative sentancing and local treatment for youth charged with serious offenses statewide.
Raised in a poor, mostly immigrant community plagued by crime and drugs, Frankie experienced his parents' divorce and his family's subsequent homelessness at age 3, the life-imprisonment of his 16-year old brother at age 5, and lost numerous friends to violence. At age 15, he was arrested for armed robbery and, on his first offense, was sentenced to serve 15 years in the California Youth Authority. Released on parole after six years, Frankie attended law school and became an expert in juvenile law and policy with a focus on ending the prosecution of youth as adults.
Through partnerships with community organizations and advocacy groups, Frankie has helped lead the effort to reduce the number of youth prosecuted as adults and serving time in adult prisons. Recent successes include SB 260 (2013) & SB 261 (2015) Youth Offender Parole Hearings, and SB 382 (2015) Juvenile Fitness Hearings. Even more recently, Frankie played a significant role in developing the youth justice portion of the Publis Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016 in partnership with the Office of California Gov. Jerry Brown.
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Omar Zapata is a Ventura County native with a passion for working in public service, mentoring youth and staff. He is currently the Director of Program Services for the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Oxnard and Port Hueneme (BGCOP) and sits on the BGCOP training and sagety committees. As Director of Program Services his responsibilities include but not limited to overseen BGCOP 18 locations and staff, maintaining and strategically enhancing all BGCOP departments and programs. He has over 20 years of experience working in public service.
Omar received his bachelor's degree in Sociology and Master's degree in Counseling Psychology, with an emphasis in Marital Family Therapy from California State University, Northridge.
Omar joined the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Oxnard and Port Hueneme (BGCOP) in the fall of 2007, with a background as a youth at risk conselor for the city of Venture Parks and Recreation, Social Worker (Case Manager) and Administrator/Director for foster care group home youth.
He started as a Coordinator for the BGCOP Afterschool Programs then transferred to the Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) as an In-School Academic and Career Advisor Case Manager and then was promoted as the Director of School Based Programs. Under his leadership BGCOP has received four BGCA Program National Merit Awards for program excellence in the areas of Character and Leadership Development, The Arts, Sports, Fitness and Recreation and Educational and Career Development. Omar continues to demonstrate great mentoring and leadeship with the adolescents, program staff, collaborative partners and the community he works with.
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Approximately 2.1 million youth under the age of 18 are arrested in the United States in a single year. Outcomes for youth involved in the justice system can include recidivism, academic failure, as well as mental health and substance abuse issues. However, there is a movement to reform the justice system by offering youth alternative interventions focused on rehabilitation and skill building to create a brighter and stronger future. Hear from juvenile justice experts as they offer tangible solutions to help get youth on a more positive path and support them to reach their full potential.