nization which matches youthful offenders with
attorneys who give them guidance and advice, Ledet relishes offering new possibilities to
kids who have been in trouble with the law.
You literally transform these kids entire lives, he
said, explaining that one-on-one mentoring makes the difference. We have so many
kids who have gone on to very productive lives. Ive seen some real miracles.
Ledet was one of five California attorneys recently honored by the
youth authority for mentoring parolees through VIP. Founded 28 years ago with the goal of
enlisting help from the legal profession to do something about the revolving door that so
often characterizes the criminal justice system, VIP is the only California non-profit
organization to recruit attorneys to mentor young men and women on parole from state
Although almost 70 percent of parolees end up back in the criminal
justice system, VIPs mentors are able to reverse that dismal statistic. About 70
percent of the VIP parolees succeed on parole and are able to resist the recidivism which
plagues their population.
Last year, 407 attorneys volunteered with the program, mentoring
almost 500 young men and women throughout the state at a cost of less than 4 percent of
what taxpayers would spend to reincarcerate these individuals for a single year.
Since Ledet began to volunteer in 1986, eight young men have
benefitted from his tutelage, receiving encouragement and guidance as well as an
introduction to his belief that people must be held accountable for their actions.
As a 10-year member of VIPs Santa Clara Advisory Commit-tee,
Ledet also raises funds, recruits other volunteers and advocates for parolees in the
community. He hasnt missed a meeting in those 10 years and recently was elected
chair of the committee.
Ledet stepped into a father figure role for one of his parolees and
has taken two teenage brothers under his wing. One parolee who had never been to San
Francisco spent a day sightseeing there with Ledet.
I dont have a hard and fast rule, Ledet says,
I pretty much play each situation differently.
Since 1991, Ledet and another Santa Clara County lawyer have teamed
up to take about 150 young people river
rafting on the south fork of the American River. Not one has ever had a wilderness
experience prior to the river trip.
Co-sponsor Friends of the American River provides guides and
equipment, and funds donated by attorneys in the district attorney and public defender
offices are used to rent or buy equipment and supplies. Ledet bought enough sleeping bags
and camping equipment this year to be able to provide gear to parolees throughout the year
who wish to go camping on their own.
Ledet and his colleague usually take between 13 and 22 parolees on
the river trips, driving the 240-mile round trip, cooking rice and beans and taking
photographs. They devote an extra day to a few who are particularly high risk.
The payoff is real for Ledets current match, Shannon, who is
applying to the Friends organization for a scholarship to train as a river guide. He also
serves as a youth leader, where he shares a new-found interest in astrology, encouraged by
the gift of a telescope he received from Ledet a year ago.
This gives kids responsibility, Ledet explained. Its
very effective because when theyre mentoring another young person, it forces them to
keep up their standards.
Beach attorney Michael Buley, of Colby and Buley, was recognized by CYA for mentoring Sam,
a 24-year-old Asian-American who was committed to the youth authority for assault with a
deadly weapon, stemming from his involvement with a local gang. Paroled in 1996 after 40
months, Sam quickly landed two part-time jobs, enrolled in Cypress College and made the
required restitution of $197 the following year.
After earning an Associate of Arts (AA) degree with honors, Sam was
accepted at UCLA, graduating last summer with a degree in history. He currently is
enrolled in a Christian Seminary School program.
honored by the CYA for their mentoring activities were Los Angeles attorney Michael D.
Cramer, Ann August, a VIP volunteer since the mid-1970s, and Brian Cardoza, a lawyer in
the Southern California Edisons general counsel office in Los Angeles.
A VIP mentor since 1994, Cramer helps young men while they are still
institutionalized at the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility and later when they are
paroled to Los Angeles County. The Ventura assignments are particularly challenging
because mentors can visit their parolees only one weekend a month. Cramer drives 180 miles
round-trip to make his visits.
In addition to his mentoring activities, Cramer is a member and
current chair of the local VIP advisory committee and recruits other volunteers for the
program. He has been honored twice as an outstanding volunteer and in 1998, he and his
parolee received an Outstanding Match of the Year award.
August began her career as a mentor in San Jose in the mid-1970s and
joined the organizations San Diego operation when she moved south in 1979. Since
then, she has mentored more than 32 parolees, remaining in contact with several over the
Also a recipient of other awards honoring her commitment to
volunteerism, August says, The power of mentoring can best be measured by the
difference between hope and despair; between self-esteem and worthlessness; between
happiness and sadness; between serenity and anxiety; and, ultimately, between success and
failure in pursuit of the good life.