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In the News

Carson City Juvenile Probation Chief Bianchi retires

December 15, 2016

Taylor Pettaway
tpettaway@nevadaappeal.com

Banister Appointed 

 Newly appointed Chief of Juvenile Probation Services Ali Banister stands in front of the Murphy- Bernardini Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

 

Carson City Juvenile Probation Services will see a change in leadership in the new year with the retirement of current Chief Ben Bianchi.

Bianchi, who has been with Carson for more than 25 years, will retire after serving more than two decades with Juvenile Services.

“It is very exciting (to retire) after 25 and a half years,” Bianchi said. “I started here looking for a job and I found a career and I am so thankful and blessed to work in the juvenile justice field with the youths and families. It has been very rewarding.”

Bianchi started with Juvenile Probation Services in 1991 as a youth counselor in the detention center. From there he climbed the ranks becoming a Juvenile Probation Officer, Deputy Chief and finally as Chief of Juvenile Services in 2013.

“I stumbled into this profession and I am so thankful for that,” Bianchi said. “It was all thanks to my brother and guardian angel Ron Wood for getting me into this career. I have just loved it and am so glad I got to work and learn from some really wonderful people.

“I want my appreciation to be out there because I never thought that I would finish out my career as chief.”

And taking his spot is Bianchi’s right-hand woman Ali Banister. Banister is the current deputy chief of Juvenile Services.

“I am so excited to get to pass the chief torch to Ali, she is a remarkable, capable, passionate and talented juvenile justice leader,” Bianchi said.

Banister has a bachelor’s in Psychology, a master’s in Justice Management and is currently working on her PhD for Public Policy. Banister has been in the juvenile justice field for about 10 years, starting her career in Fallon as a Juvenile Probation Officer and serving as the Deputy Chief of Juvenile Services for the past four years. Banister was Bianchi’s first hire with Juvenile Services when he started as Chief.

“I feel honored and lucky to continue to be a part of this team and help serve the youth and families in this community,” Banister said.

As chief, Banister will oversee both the detention and probation divisions within Juvenile Services. In her new position, she hopes to continue building the youth programs started in the last few years.

“In the last few years with Ben, we have expanded on community based programming and we want to continue to expand that for the kids,” Banister said. “By doing this we hope to keep the kids in the community and out of the detention center.”

She also hopes to continue to build upon community relationships in order to better help the kids in the community.

“I am a big advocate for programming and developing those relationships with other agencies so we have been reaching out to agencies like the Sheriff’s Office, Carson City Community Counseling, Carson City Behavioral Health Services and others,” Banister said. “It has been really good for us and it is important to the community that we all work together.”

“I am excited to continue to make a difference in the community with kids because I truly think you can make a difference in kids’ lives. It is pretty special when you can get to this level and can build and implement programs with our team at juvenile services.”

Serving as chief is a family tradition for Banister. She will be a third generation person to hold the position. Banister’s mother, Shelia Banister was a chief with Carson, as well as her grandfather, Dan Murphy, who was chief and juvenile court master in his time with Juvenile Services. Murphy also was one half of the duo to create the Murphy-Benardini Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

“It really is an honor to continue my family tradition, and it is something I always wanted to do,” Banister said. “I hope I can fill in their shoes because my family did a lot of great things for this department while they were here.”

Bianchi said he has the upmost faith in Banister to continue to do great things with the department.

“I really do believe we have the best Juvenile Services Department in the state and I am confident Ali will take this to new levels,” Bianchi said.

Banister will be sworn in as the new Chief of Juvenile Services on Jan. 3. The position is an appointed position, chosen by the Carson City District Court judges.


Carson City teens complete wilderness program

Thursday, August 18, 2016, Nevada Appeal, Taylor Pettaway
tpettaway@nevadaappeal.com

Ali Banister Wilderness Grad 2016

Juvenile Probation Officer Ali Banister speaks to the crowd at JPO Wilderness Program graduation Wednesday evening at the Plaza Hotel.

 

Kim Okezie Wilderness Grad 2016

Juvenile Division Special Master Kimberly Okezie presents a Wilderness School graduate with his certificate Wednesday.

 District Court Judge Wilson Wilderness Grad 2016

District Court Judge James Wilson emphasizes to JPO Wilderness School graduates that he was just an average student and really didn't like school but was able to succeed in life Wednesday at the Plaza Hotel in Carson City.

 

 

While some Carson City kids spent their summer traveling, tanning or binge watching Netflix, 16 teens spent their summer with nature.

These teens were a part of the Leadership and Resiliency Wilderness program through Juvenile Probation. The teens were court ordered to attend the 10-week summer program, where they learned about leadership, positive choices and health and fitness.

“It has been a long journey, but it has been a great one,” said Chief Deputy Director of Juvenile Probation Ali Banister.

Banister and the other probation officers held a graduation ceremony for the teens to celebrate the completion of the program Wednesday night. The teens’ loved ones joined them at the dinner and presentation to share in the excitement of the night.

“Here is a great example kids, as you look around the room at everyone in front of you, beside you and behind you, just remember they are all here for you,” Banister said.

As a part of the Wilderness program, the teens had to attend all day, four days a week and completed a number of activities including training and weight lifting at a gym, ropes courses, hikes, community service and white water rafting trips. The activities were grueling at times, pushing the teens past their mental and physical comfort zones.

“Overall you spent 236 hours, hiked 50 miles and after 300 burpees and pushups, I stopped counting,” Banister told the teens.

The purpose of the program is to provide a different outlet for the teens than the negative choices they had made that put them into the probation system. It’s meant to show the teens there are positive activities they can participate in as well as investing in the community and building leadership qualities.

“During the 10 weeks, I questioned at times if we were making an impact with the kids if we were making a difference,” Banister said.

But she said over the course of the program, she saw different examples of the kids improving and growing throughout the summer. She told the audience there was one father who approached one of the other officers and thanked them for giving him his son back.

The teens also expressed their gratitude for the program, saying it helped them find a new outlook on life.

“At times it was hard and at times it was easy, but here we are as a team,” said one of the participants.

She said going through the program helped her get through some hard times.

“I learned that I can have fun without being under the influence,” she said. “The program helped me work out my problems and it is nice to have a real smile on my face.”

One teen shared how the program helped him turn his life around. He said he used to be passionate about sports but once he turned to drugs, he was missing school, flunking classes and headed down a bad path.

“I had lost my passion in sports, I was never home and I was almost never sober,” he said.

He said he wasn’t happy about being put into the program at first, but at the end he was thankful. At the end, he was one of the leaders of the group and succeeding, learning about how to take the lessons learned in the Wilderness program to the real world.

“I learned that being a leader is helping others becoming leaders too,” he said.

Each teen received a certificate of completion with a parting sentiment from Probation Officer Matt Clapham. Clapham described the kids as inspirational, passionate, compassionate, positive and motivated.

“Thank you for spending your summer with us and finishing what you thought was impossible,” Clapham said.

Carson City Judge James Wilson also attended the celebration as their guest speaker. Wilson, who’s an avid outdoorsman, had spoken to the teens earlier in the summer before one of their overnight hiking trips.

“I want to start by saying how proud of I am of you for completing (the program) because it is not an easy task,” Wilson said.

He talked to the teens about the importance of perseverance and hard work for their goals. Wilson talked to the kids about how he was an average student throughout high school, college and law school but how he pushed himself and tried his hardest to get where he is today.

“This is hopefully a building block for you so you can know you can do difficult things,” Wilson said. “…Hopefully one of the things you learned is that sometimes you have to sacrifice and suffer and do things that you may not want to do for a goal that is worthwhile.”


Hockey great warns about substance abuse in Carson City

Wednesday, May 11, 2016, Nevada Appeal, Brad Coman

 

Former NHL hockey player Clint Malarchuk speaks to an audience about the dangers of substance abuse and how he overcame his own struggles at the Carson City Juvenile Probation facility Wednesday.

 

 Former professional hockey player Clint Malarchuk speaks at the Juvenile Probation Facility Wednesday.

 

 


 

Carson City Sheriff’s Office School Resource Officers receive training this week

03/30/2016

Sgt. Darrin Sloan, Carson City Sheriff's Office

The Carson City Sheriff’s Office School Resource Officers received training this week on basic school enforcement. In July the SRO staff will travel to receive advanced certification in time for the 2016-2017 school years.

The training provides officers assigned to Carson City Schools with instruction on law enforcement functions when conducted in a school environment and de-escalation techniques, mentoring students and becoming a positive role model for students and public speaking skills for classroom management tools to provide law-related education to students.

This training is the foundation for the Carson City SRO staff to establish lasting partnerships with their assigned schools and the students and staff. This training is being hosted by the Carson City Sheriff’s Office and provided by the National Association of School Resource Officers.

While students are on spring break, officers will receive training and begin developing strategies to implement new ideas into their assigned schools.

There is three total SRO staff. Two SROs are assigned to a middle school and its zoned elementary schools and one SRO is assigned full time to Carson High School.

There is one sergeant assigned to implement the new program, write policy and oversee the SRO staff. This program is initially paid for by a federal grant, C.O.P.S. (Community Oriented Policing Services). This grant assists in paying for staff salaries and some training. In addition to the Carson City Sheriff’s Office staff, there are attendees from Juvenile Probation and school administrator’s district wide.

The Carson City School resource Officers will also attend more advanced training in July while school is out on summer break.


 

Carson City Juvenile Services uses Great Outdoors to turn youths around

Nevada Appeal, January 28, 2016, Taylor Pettaway

 

 Wilderness

A group of juveniles look over the hill on a hike for their Leadership and Resilience Wilderness program with the Juvenile Probation department.

(Editor’s Note: This is the second part of a two-part series on Carson City Juvenile Probation Services).

Carson City Juvenile Probation Services has recently looked to the great outdoors to turn around youths’ lives.

One of the department’s newest programs is its Leadership and Resiliency Wilderness program it holds in the summer. Entering its second year, youths will spend the summer in a physically intensive program that will help teach them skills such as teamwork, leadership, healthy habits and respect.

Each youth receives a gym membership and workout clothes, and each morning the youth and juvenile officers in charge start at the gym to learn about staying healthy and taking care of their bodies. From there, they have class sessions in the afternoon with teachers or guest speakers who help them learn about valuable lessons such as job skills, interviewing and open discussion about issues they may be having.

“Research has shown that Wilderness programs for youth develop intense interpersonal relationships,” said Deputy Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Ali Banister. “It gives kids an opportunity to overcome significant emotional and physical challenges and the encouragement to gain a greater understanding of oneself by growing emotionally and intellectually.”

“Purposely taking a youth out of their environment and forcing them to reflect on life in an outdoor setting is a powerful experience. It allows them to break down barriers and provides kids with opportunities they have never experienced before. Being able to work with others as a team in a setting free of distractions, allows for considerable growth to occur in short periods of time. These effects can be both dramatic, long lasting and life changing.”, Ali Banister Deputy Chief Juvenile Probation Officer

They also participate in activities, including a low-ropes course in which all members have to work together to pass, and learn a lot of communication and teamwork skills that many of the juveniles hadn’t been taught before.

“Communication is extremely important on the ropes course, and an often times is forced, because they lack proper communication skills in their lives,” Banister said. “When they have to work together and communicate, for adolescents, especially troubled adolescents, it is huge for them to have to use other people to get through the course.”

Every Friday the youth and officers do a day or overnight hike to put their newly learned skills to the test and see what they have learned in the program. The department provides all equipment from tents to hiking boots to mountain bikes for the kids.

“Purposely taking a youth out of their environment and forcing them to reflect on life in an outdoor setting is a powerful experience,” Banister said. “It allows them to break down barriers and provides kids with opportunities they have never experienced before. Being able to work with others as a team in a setting free of distractions, allows for considerable growth to occur in short periods of time. These effects can be both dramatic, long lasting and life changing.”

She said it’s often life changing for the kids because a lot of them are from families who lack the interest or money to be able to explore nature, and for many of them, this is the first time they get to do activities such as hiking, biking or white water rafting. This year, Banister hopes to take the kids out on a four day, 40-mile hike.

“The change we see in some of these kids is incredibly rewarding because we see that they get a sense of accomplishment by doing these treacherous hikes and bike rides,” Banister said. “It is a huge growth for everyone, the officers included.”

DETENTION

Though the juvenile system’s goal is to provide intervention to the youths first, juveniles can be sent to the Carson City Detention Center though it’s usually for a short duration of time.

Unlike the adult system, juveniles can’t post bail and only stay in custody if they’re a risk to themselves or the community, a flight risk, have a history of not complying with supervision or brought in on a warrant. Many of those kids are still only housed temporarily, usually until they’re transferred to a residential program. Depending on the situation, a juvenile can be sent to youth corrections or if necessary, to a residential drug, alcohol, mental health or behavioral residential program.

“The main focus is psychiatric, the doctor is on site and medication management is in place to stabilize, manage and work on skill development to try to work those issues so they can have more likelihood of being successful when they return home and back to the community,” Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Ben Bianchi said.

However, the detention center isn’t like the county jail. The staff are all youth counselors, not sworn officers, and are there to provide a high structure, high supervision and high accountability environment for the students to thrive and succeed in by learning better self-control and self-monitoring skills.

ROLE OF A JPO

The role of a Juvenile Probation Officer is to provide supervision to the youths and create a relationship with them and their families to help steer them away from negative decisions and help provide a basis to achieve success in their lives.

“It is building relationships,” Bianchi said. “A lot of times there are barriers that we have to strip away in order to have that relationship with these kids and families, because they come into this setting scared, not trusting, and we have to engage with them to make them understand that a negative behavior brought you into this system, but this system is about helping you be successful as a young person, as an adult and get your education and skill development.”

The Juvenile Probation Officers provide supervision to the youths and develop a case plan with them to help them be successful on probation and after. When juveniles come in to meet with the officer, the officer can do drug testing, school visits, home visits and social media checks to make sure they are complying with the conditions of their probation. Often times, the officer tries to talk with the juvenile to see how they’re doing with their families, school and life to make sure everything is going well, Banister said.

“Just making the contact with the kids really meaningful and building a relationship with them is important because a lot of times kids are coming in and their PO is like another member of the family,” Banister said. “We wear many hats, as a probation officer. You are a counselor, you are a probation officer, sometimes you have to be an enforcer. There are so many things you have to do as a probation officer and you better be good at all of them. So, you better have a friendly personality but be firm when you need to. Our team at Juvenile Services does just that, from detention to probation. They wear all the hats and represent the City of Carson well.”

Probation officers can supervise juveniles up to the age of 21 if the youth isn’t completing their conditions correctly and Bianchi said they still keep working with the kids they need to up to that point.

“At the end of the day, we have legal jurisdiction until 21,” Bianchi said. “But we keep supporting them and our goal is to keep them out of the adult system and we put many young adults through programs after their 18th birthday in hopes to continue to work with them so that they don’t pick up an adult charge and then continue down in the adult system. People don’t realize how much legal authority we have on kids because it’s not close ended, You have to earn your way out of juvenile probation.”

Though, Bianchi said they often don’t see repeat juvenile offenders.

“That is what we try to do from the probation side of things, we put those supports and supervision in place to get that child to think before they make their next poor decision,” Bianchi said. “A majority of the kids that we work with know right from wrong, but they just get caught up in the moment, they are adolescents. And a majority of them, that we touch, we touch once. Kids do stupid things, sometimes they just need a little punishment, communication and support.”


Carson City Juvenile Services not just about detention

Nevada Appeal, January 27, 2016, Taylor Pettaway

 

Juvenile Probation Officers Matt Clapham, foreground, and Mike Rapisora give their full attention to a participant telling a story about school at the Forward Thinking Family program on Tuesday.

 Forward Thinking 2

 

Juvenile Probation Officers Mike Rapisora, left, and Matt Clapham facilitate an open and safe group family conversation.

 Forward Thinking Facilitators

 (Editor’s Note: This is the first part of a two-part series on Carson City Juvenile Probation Services. The second part will appear in Friday’s Appeal).

Carson City Juvenile Probation Services is more than about just detaining delinquent kids. It works with them through programs and intervention to improve their decision making and choices.

There are two divisions to Juvenile Probation, the detention center and the probation department. Juveniles can be brought into the probation department via arrest or referral by a law enforcement agency where they will go through an assessment to determine level of risk, severity of the crime, and juvenile’s history. From there, the officers will work with the District Attorney’s office to determine how to handle the case: they can dismiss the charges, grant diversion/intervention or file formal charges where the juvenile will appear in juvenile court.

“Just because they are arrested, isn’t a fast track to formal charges being filed and a court hearing taking place,” said Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Ben Bianchi. “Many of the youth that are arrested, still go through diversion whether it’s a sole sanction diversion, meaning community service or letter of apology, all the way to diversion that includes supervision with a probation officer.”

If juveniles are brought into custody when they are arrested, Juvenile Probation has a set of criteria for the detention center, using a points scale to determine whether to keep juveniles in custody or release them to their parents, including: severity of charge, history from the youth’s past 12 months, if the juvenile is on formal probation, if the incident is gang related, and if weapons are involved. If juveniles can be released from detention, the probation department can put them on a variety of conditional release rules ranging from home detention with an electronic monitor to drug and alcohol testing or follow-up assessments.

If the charge is so severe those assessments come back to the level of acuteness, where the youth need correctional care or mental health services, Juvenile Probation will get a petition filed to schedule a court hearing, and if found guilty or adjudicated on the offense, the next hearing is a disposition hearing. There, the juvenile department will conduct a family history interview and collect all the data from the assessments. The department then goes to court with the recommendation on whether the juvenile needs to be in a residential treatment program or not.

A juvenile can be placed on either formal or informal probation, which differ in the level of authority the officers have. With formal probation, if juveniles violate probation, the probation officer has the legal authority to place them under arrest and book them into the juvenile detention center. With informal probation, if juveniles offend, unless it’s in violation of a law, they aren’t subject to arrest.

DIVERSION

Though each case is unique, Chief Bianchi said with most of the juveniles seen, unless the charge is extremely severe, the department tries to put them in a diversion or intervention program to help the youth realize their mistakes and hopefully correct the behavior or decisions that put them into the juvenile system. Unless the youth are a risk to themselves or the community, the offense is severe to warrant detention, or they have a history of not complying with supervision, the youth can be later seen in court on formal charges though Bianchi said the department tries to avoid that route if possible.

“The philosophy of this department is to really invest ourselves in these youth and families who are identified to be high risk and develop those relationships, give them the support and interventions to get compliance,” Bianchi said. “But the long term goal of the department is to get those youth and families to recognize the negative impact their choices are having on their lives and get them to start making the necessary changes. Not because the law is hanging over their heads, but because self-change and making those changes is going to benefit them. So we want them to see and feel it as opposed to us forcing it.”

The purpose of Juvenile Services is to get the youth on a positive track to help them make better decisions later in life, Bianchi said.

“We develop a treatment plan to address whatever those risk factors are, whether it is some parenting classes for the parents, drug and alcohol counseling for the youth, or some extracurricular activities to get them to start making better decisions for life,” Bianchi said.

PROGRAMMING

In order to help the youth best, the Juvenile Probation Office also works with the parents to make sure once juveniles return home, they are in an environment that’s conducive to success.

In order to achieve this, the juvenile probation department offers a host of classes and programs for both juveniles and their parents.

“And we see it with juveniles going into probation or services, they expect the scope to be completely on the son or daughter and within a short time you realize the family is a huge contributor to the dysfunction we are dealing with,” Bianchi said. “There are times we are the counselors and mentors to the parent too and we have to have that tact and ability to engage with these parents because there are a lot of damaged families. We can’t expect them to go from here to here overnight. We have to work with them and invest time with them.”

The juvenile department offers up to 13 hours of counseling on a weekly basis — classes from family, substance abuse and mental health counseling to a entrepreneur class to try to create that early intervention piece to fix issues now in hopes the youth and family can change and stay out of the system.

“We put all these programs in place as an early intervention tool with the goal of the youth not ending up in corrections or detention later on,” Deputy Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Ali Banister said. “And that is the ultimate goal if we can reach them on the front end, put them in these programs early on, then we won’t see them on later down the road.

“We are trying to teach these youth to make better choices because the decisions based on the choices they make can affect them for the rest of their lives. These programs teach valuable skills and tools that will positively assist them and the decision they are making.

One program that’s provided is the Forward Thinking Interactive Journaling Series, a cognitive behavior evidence based program, where the juvenile probation officers assist youth and families in changing their thoughts, feelings and behaviors through Journaling.

It’s a collaborative class, taught by Juvenile Probation Officers Matt Clapham and Mike Rapasora, for the youth to have a discussion about their choices in life that got them to that point. “I participate with them, because I don’t have all the answers,” Clapham said. “My job is to facilitate so that we can learn together.”

It’s a seven week class that meets every Tuesday and Friday and includes lessons and homework for the youth to hold them accountable. Journals cover things such as substance abuse, responsible behavior and family communication.

The department offers one for just youths and one for both the youth and their families to attend together.

Clapham said it’s vital to have a collaborative atmosphere, because he doesn’t want to tell families what they should do, but rather have discussions on how to improve life within their homes.

“We are all parents and we can all learn from each other with different situations,” Clapham said. “This can help build the relationship with the child about communication and provide practice for that.”

 


 

Entrepreneurship program sets local youth on career and educational pathway

Nevada Appeal, January 14, 2016

 

 Klemm

Paul Klemm, treasurer of the New Entrepreneur Network club at Carson High School, is in training to become a manager at Jamba Juice.

 

Paul Klemm is a true success story. At 18 years old, he has already figured out hard work, self-discipline and problem solving are the keys to controlling his life. How does one so young know so much about success?

It’s a complicated story, according to Klemm.

At age 14, Klemm was in trouble and on probation. One day, he showed up for a routine test and his probation officer asked him if he wanted to take a class to help him get off of probation sooner. It started in five minutes. Klemm, wanting to do whatever it took to get off of probation, agreed.

“I did it just to get out,” he said. “After the first day I realized I really wanted to do the class.”

The class was the New Entrepreneur, or New E, program authored by Jeff Glass, a self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur who’s currently penning entrepreneurial curriculum called Generation U for the state of Nevada.

New E, sponsored by the Hop and Mae Adams Foundation, has been taught by Glass at Carson High School and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Nevada since February 2015. Glass will complete the New E curriculum through the end of the school year before launching Generation U.

“Generation U is all about the theory of generativity,” Glass said. “We all want to give back, to do work that matters. It’s about generating revenue and leaving a legacy for the next generation.”

Glass said Carson City and the Hop and Mae Adams Foundation has been an ideal springboard for his entrepreneurial curriculum, which teaches problem solving, networking and relationship skills and techniques for job searching and job readiness.

“You don’t change the culture of a city without touching all four corners,” he said. “Private schools, public schools, the probation department and the Boys & Girls Club are all areas where our youth can be learning how to problem solve, which is at the heart of entrepreneurship. I’m grateful for the opportunities the Hop and Mae Adams Foundation provided to me and to the youth of Carson City.”

Glass said the juvenile probation department has embraced the concept of entrepreneurship education as a cornerstone of probation programming.

“The goal is to have better relationships with family and community in perpetuity,” he said. “How many problems do we have without a relationship attached to it? When you build better relationships, you build better opportunities.”

Ali Banister, deputy chief juvenile probation officer for Carson City juvenile probation services, said the program is important to youth in the juvenile justice system because it teaches them skills they’re not likely to learn as teenagers, such how to prepare and interview for a job and what employers are looking for.

“During the program, the students also learn valuable skills such as the importance of treating others with respect, having integrity and following through with goals they have set,” she said. “Jeff has done an amazing job with this program, as he works wonderfully with the students. I’ve seen firsthand how the youth respect him, relate to him and really buy into the program.”

Upon conclusion of his term in the probation program, Klemm applied to be part of the New E Network alumni club at Carson High School, and was elected New E Club secretary/treasurer.

“Jeff is great teacher, he relates well to us,” he said. “He taught me how to work with people. I walked away with more initiative to start a business, more resources — a team, more motivation to own a small business, be my own boss someday.”

Klemm is working at Jamba Juice and is training to be a manager. He wants to own multiple businesses someday; a barber shop is on his mind. He said he got his first clippers at age 13 and started doing his own hair, then his friends’ hair and his friends’ dads’ hair.

“It’s artwork,” he said.

Klemm credits the program with helping him turn his life around, providing him with resources, skills and a network he can count on.

“Life is different now, I am different now,” he said. “I have better self-control, I’m more aware of problems. I wasn’t thinking of the consequences. Probation educated me. I was letting things, friends influence me in a bad way. It opened my eyes and I’ve taken control of my life.”