Who We Are
Probation Reform Implementation Team and Staff
The individuals serving on the PRIT bring many years of experience, diverse perspectives, and a passion for public service to this important task.
For over 25 years, Saúl has participated in social movements that seek to transform society. He works to end structural racism, and discrimination of all kinds, by developing leaders, teaching, and engaging in collective action to change laws.
Since 2003, he has trained residents and students to fight injustice by partnering them to work for social change. Together, they have challenged racism in the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, supported formerly incarcerated people to build power to change laws that discriminate against them, and helped undocumented college students build a voice and a social movement.
Saúl has served as a human rights advocate in Central America, a welfare rights advocate for homeless families in San Pedro, CA, and a community organizer in South Los Angeles.
Today, he works to enhance the capacity and impact of change agents as Founder and Director of Solidarity Consulting.
Saúl is a native of Los Angeles County who has been working with community based organizations and stakeholders to improve the social safety net in our region since 1998. He has played a central role in equipping residents which County Departments serve to participate in the policy making process and partnering them to enhance service delivery.
These civic engagement efforts of LA County residents have ranged from developing the leadership skills of DPSS clients during welfare reform, creating a voice for kinship caregivers in DCFS, and training residents with conviction and incarceration histories served by County Courts, Probation, and other departments, to shape laws and policies to support their rehabilitation. He has also served as a community capacity builder for LA County’s First 5 Commission’s Best Start partnerships.
Saúl has a long history of training local college students to prepare for public service and social change. He served as the Director of UCLA School of Law’s Critical Race Studies Program from 2005 to 2011, and is currently appointed as Public Administration and Civic Engagement Faculty in Claremont Lincoln University’s Masters in Organizational Leadership Program.
Saúl was born and raised in northeast Los Angeles and graduated from public schools. He attended UCLA, where he earned a BA in Communication Studies and a Law Degree.
Alex Sanchez is an internationally recognized peacemaker and co-founder of Homies Unidos in Los Angeles where he has developed and implemented innovative violence prevention and intervention programs since 1998 and has also led the organization as Executive Director since 2006. An outspoken community leader, Alex’s commitment to disenfranchised youth and their families in the Latino and largely Central American communities of the Pico Union, Westlake and Koreatown areas of Los Angeles, is rooted in his own personal journey that includes having been a gang-involved youth, target of the INS, LAPD and Salvadoran national police and death squads. Alex’s family migrated to Los Angeles, California at the end of the 1970s, during the height of military repression in El Salvador. After being involved in gangs and serving time in state prison, he was deported in 1994 to El Salvador where he met the founder of Homies Unidos, Magdaleno Rose Avila, and others striving for social change. This turning point marked Alex’s commitment to improve his life and to help other youth do the same. He brought back that message of hope and redemption to California and helped found Homies Unidos in Los Angeles in 1998.
Alex is a hands-on prevention and intervention professional that has made a positive impact in the lives of thousands of at-risk youth and their families. As a well-respected violence prevention pioneer and expert on gang culture and youth criminalization, Alex has advocated for comprehensive intervention strategies, immigration reform and Black-Brown unity – promoting racial tolerance and cultural understanding as a form of violence prevention. Alex adeptly connects these issues to a deeper analysis of local, national and transnational politics, systems and policies. He has been sought out to consult with academics, journalists, filmmakers, elected officials, non-profit agencies and advocates at local, national and transnational levels to address youth violence prevention and intervention and is the recipient of many awards including the Drum Major Award from the Martin Luther King Legacy Association, the Lottie Wexler Award, the AGAPE Award and others. He is a proud husband and father and symbol of peace, compassion and courage to his family, friends and community.
Alex was notified in January 2013 that all charges were being dropped by the federal government. This video below was days after he was released in 2009, seven months after his arrest.
Cyn Yamashiro has dedicated his professional career to representing and serving individuals charged with crimes. He studied Economics at UCLA before attending Law School at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. He finished his career as a public defender as a long cause trial deputy and served as a trainer and supervised the juvenile office in Compton, CA. Cyn was recruited to Loyola Law School to create one of the first legal clinics on the West Coast dedicated to criminal defense. At Loyola Law School, he taught courses in advanced criminal litigation skills, trial advocacy, criminal law and juvenile delinquency law. He has commented on cases and trends in criminal and juvenile law for television, radio and print media and frequently lectures on criminal and juvenile delinquency law. He has published in the area of indigent defense delivery systems and how different systems affect dispositional outcomes. Cyn Yamashiro is L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas’ appointee to the Los Angeles County Probation Commission, where he served as president for two years. He is also a member of the advisory board of the Loyola Law School Center for Juvenile Law and Policy and was a founding member of the Pacific Juvenile Defender Center and the Center for Juvenile Justice in Boulder Colorado. He is currently a member of the board of Outward Bound Adventures. Prior to his appointment as the directing attorney of the IJDP, he was in private practice, representing clients in trial and appellate matters in state and federal court.
Dr. Sheila Balkan
Dr. Balkan has a doctorate in Sociology from UCLA with an emphasis on criminology, deviant behavior and mental illness. Dr. Balkan has served as a research consultant for the Los Angeles County Probation Department, the Los Angeles Department of Mental Health Social Services, and the "gang unit" for Los Angeles County. She has taught various Sociology courses at UCLA and Los Angeles Valley College. In addition to her many years of research experience, she holds a private investigator's license in the State of California.
Services have included identifying downward departures under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, alternative sentencing plans, comprehensive social profiles and assessments, and topical research for presentation in bail modification, preplea reports, sentencing proceedings, and penalty phase work in capital cases.
As a specialist in sentencing evaluations and reports, Dr. Balkan has participated in over 4000 state and federal cases in the last 30 years. Dr. Balkan's cases have involved virtually every kind of crime:
- Securities fraud and antitrust violations
- Bank and insurance fraud
- Customs violations
- Tax fraud
- Money laundering
- Mail and wire fraud schemes
- Environmental violations
- Healthcare fraud
- Public corruption
- Narcotics offenses
Her clients are often professionals charged with crimes or facing licensing or disciplinary matters, such as doctors, lawyers, pharmacists and teachers.
In addition to handling cases involving white collar crimes, she has broad experience with violent crimes and sex offenses.
What makes Dr. Balkan unique is her creative approach, her ability to fashion a presentation tailored to the individual and her skill in presenting the results of her work to the court or other decision-makers. Dr. Balkan works with counsel to identify relevant factors and reasonable grounds for mitigation and then marshals the facts that will make the most compelling case. In federal court, she has achieved significant results based on family circumstances, physical and mental condition, diminished capacity, and post-offense rehabilitation, among others.
Frequently, it benefits clients to become involved in community service projects, either to demonstrate their rehabilitation or for purposes of alternative sentencing. Dr. Balkan is especially adept at finding or creating public service placements for clients that utilize their particular skills.
The heart of the sentencing presentation is the report itself. Dr. Balkan's reports are extremely enlightening. Clients' personal histories are set forth in depth and in a way that humanizes them before the court. Their community service or related activities are thoroughly documented. Dr. Balkan works with clients' families and friends so that their letters of support have maximum impact. When separate evaluations from doctors, psychologists or other professionals are required, Dr. Balkan coordinates their efforts and works with them to achieve the strongest presentation for her clients.
In many cases Dr. Balkan's results have been truly extraordinary in terms of attaining positive dispositions to cases, reclaiming clients’ lives and allowing defendants to pay their debt to society through valuable service.
Jose Osuna is the Principal Consultant for Osuna Consulting. Prior to founding Osuna Consulting, Osuna was the Director of External Affairs at Homeboy Industries, a position he held as part of the executive management team with the organization. Jose led Homeboy’s external advocacy initiatives, such as ‘Banning the Box’ from employment applications. These issues are important to the population served at Homeboy Industries, where up to 75% of those who work in the program and seek their services have served prison terms and have felony convictions. Osuna continues to work in partnership with Homeboy Industries on numerous special projects, including the Global Homeboy Network, and most recently, establishing a Homeboy Alumni Network. Before working in external affairs, Osuna was the Director of Employment Services, as well as the head of the Solar Panel Installation Training and Certification Program – both at Homeboy Industries.
Jose Osuna first arrived at Homeboy Industries as a trainee enrolled in the eighteen-month program the organization offers. Prior to this, Osuna served thirteen years in prison, and had been involved in gangs since the age of ten. Nine years ago, Osuna’s son Moises was killed as a result of gun violence – he was seventeen years old. Jose Osuna uses this experience, among many others, as the strongest motivating factors in his work at Osuna Consulting. By combining both his personal and professional experience, Osuna is able to bring a unique perspective and a fresh approach to his work.
Jose Osuna is uniquely qualified to provide consultation services in a diverse set of areas, such as: gang rehabilitation, community based re-entry solutions, working with elected officials and community leaders to attain potential and appropriate private and governmental funding, general community organizing, and social justice advocacy efforts.
Jose is a current member of L.A. County’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Public Safety, appointed by L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis.
Jose Osuna is a proud father to his surviving children: Jesse, Isabel, and Josie.
Mr. Jenkins served as Chief Probation Officer for San Diego County from 2007 to 2016. He currently serves as Senior Policy Advisor to the Justice Reinvestment team at the Council for State Governments.
In his role at CSG, Mr. Jenkins leverages nearly 40 years of criminal justice experience to assist supervision agencies in states across the country in adopting best practices to reduce recidivism and increase public safety.
Mr. Jenkins’s role at the CSG Justice Center comes on the heels of his retirement from the San Diego County (California) Probation Department, where he worked since 2007 managing the supervision of approximately 12,000 adults and 2,000 juveniles involved with the criminal justice system. During his tenure there, Mr. Jenkins also served on the CSG Justice Center’s Board of Directors, where he was involved in projects related to school discipline, behavioral health, and justice reinvestment.
Prior to his position in San Diego, Mr. Jenkins worked for 30 years in the Orange County (California) Probation Department, where he rose to the level of division director. While in Orange County, he helped design the jurisdiction’s first drug court and subsequently helped develop additional drug, DUI, and mental health courts.
Mr. Jenkins is a nationally recognized expert in the implementation of evidence-based practices in community corrections. While chief in San Diego, he chaired both the San Diego County Community Corrections Partnership and the Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council. He serves on the board of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, and is a member of the California Judicial Council’s Collaborative Justice Courts Advisory Committee. He also serves on the National DWI Court Task Force. Mr. Jenkins was appointed by California Governor Jerry Brown to the California Council on Mentally Ill Offenders, and was also appointed to the California Prison Industry Board.