Vital Intervention and Directional Alternatives

Photograph by  Conci Althouse

Photograph by Conci Althouse

VIDA is a structured 16-week program for non-violent, at-risk youth between the ages of 11 and 17. A collaboration among the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, community-based organizations, volunteers, schools, and families, the program teaches youth the importance of effective decision-making and taking responsibility for their futures.

VIDA began as a dream. Patrolmen Drew Britness and Vince Romero, along with the East Los Angeles Station deputy sheriff staff, wanted to help their community's troubled youth and families. Since its inception in 1996, VIDA has grown into a comprehensive re-directional program with eight locations across the Los Angeles County.


The process begins with a referral from a community agency that has identified a delinquent youth. Upon referral, youths complete intake interviews with trained VIDA staff members. During the interview, the applicant’s risk level is assessed to determine if the youth meets the program’s targeted level of moderate to high risk of offending/re-offending. 

Photograph by  Stefan Weinberger

Photograph by Stefan Weinberger

Following the interview and selection for the program, the youth attend an orientation night with their families. Once the program begins, VIDA staff members conduct home and school visits during the week to monitor social behaviors, reduce truancy and improve academic performance. The mid-week re-directional component focuses on the student’s most pressing risk factors. These range from family issues, educational issues, vocational skills and employment to anger issues, self-control skills, self-management skills, anti-social attitudes, substance abuse and anti-social peer contacts, depending on the student. Lowering these factors involve addressing how the student interacts with the community and developing pro-social attitudes while reducing negative peer contacts.

Photograph by  Stefan Weinberger

Photograph by Stefan Weinberger

Students spend eight hours on Saturdays at the VIDA sites closest to their homes. The Saturday component focuses on students’ perceptions of themselves in relation to the community and authority figures. Staff members tackle topics such as personal health and hygiene, physical conditioning, individual and group dynamics, life responsibilities, substance abuse, negative peer groups, community stewardship and revitalization and gender-sensitive issues.   

In addition to the mid-week and Saturday components, students, along with their parents, spend one night per week participating in two-hour group classes that target family issues. The goal of these sessions is to slowly rebuild damaged relationships and equip both the parent and child with problem-solving skills that increase positive communication and understanding.

At the conclusion of the program, each participant receives a certificate of completion and is referred to other community-based programs to continue the pursuit of their individual goals and careers. It is the hope that VIDA students and their families will emerge with stronger bonds in place, as well as better judgment, integrity, tact, initiative, commitment, respect and a new take on life. 

...after all, VIDA is life. 

SISTER INMATE facilities Richard Weintraub's Forest Game with students enrolled in VIDA. The students build creative problem-solving skills through challenging exercises with related discussion questions, self-awareness games and stories to improve social interaction, lessons on interpreting dreams as communications from the unconscious mind, and a method of listening, observing, and questioning called "communisynthesis."