Youth and Justice

A shocking number of youth of color are “pre-criminalized” via their negative experiences of school. Instead of helping these children to succeed, underfunded and overcrowded schools tend to regard them as a threat to discipline. In California tens of thousands are miseducated—marked for failure--then repeatedly suspended and then finally expelled for what is called “defiance.” Breaking the school-to-prison pipeline by preventing dropouts and pushouts is a top priority for everyone seeking to end mass incarceration.

America Only Country Still Sentencing Kids to Die in Prison

For too long we have depicted our youth, especially our black youth, as lost causes. But they can change. s a black man in America, I’m keenly aware that people who look a lot like me are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. The way adults of color are treated in our justice system is already upsetting, but the way our justice system treats children, especially black children, is simply deplorable. Nowhere is this more clearly evident than on the issue of juvenile sentencing. Black … [Read more...]

How Washington Winks at Violent Discipline of Special Needs Kids

Kaden Perrizo was 11 years old when he entered an “orthopedic impaired” class at Taylor Elementary in Santa Clara, California. Kaden suffered an immune system disease as a toddler that left him unable to walk without leg braces or to speak more than a few words; his parents say he functions cognitively like a 4-year-old. His teacher, according to allegations set forth in a lawsuit brought by Kaden's parents on his behalf, tied him to a chair. He was also confined in a 3-by-4-foot cell made of … [Read more...]

Justice at Last for the Youngest Inmates?

How many times does the Supreme Court have to repeat itself before its message gets through? In the case of life-without-parole sentences for juveniles, the answer seems to be: at least one more time. On Tuesday, the justices will meet to consider whether to hear two separate cases asking them to ban those sentences categorically, in line with the Eighth Amendment’s guarantee against cruel and unusual punishments. It should be an easy call. For more than a decade, the court has been moving in … [Read more...]

The Unsung Role That Ordinary Citizens Played in the Great Crime Decline

Most theories for the great crime decline that swept across nearly every major American city over the last 25 years have focused on the would-be criminals. Their lives changed in many ways starting in the 1990s: Strict new policing tactics kept closer watch on them. Mass incarceration locked them up in growing numbers. The crack epidemic that ensnared many began to recede. Even the more unorthodox theories — around the rise of abortion, the reduction in lead or the spread of A.D.H.D. … [Read more...]

Keeping Juveniles Out of the System: LA County Steps Up

Sending a young person to a Los Angeles County juvenile probation camp to be supervised and rehabilitated costs about $247,000 a year. Providing programs in the community to keep that same person out of trouble costs a fraction of that — several thousand dollars a year or even less. And the results? Many kids, even those who committed serious crimes, are less likely to fall back into the juvenile justice system if they are kept out of a camp than if they are sent to one. They do even … [Read more...]

When Black Children Are Targeted for Punishment

Sixty years ago today, Minnijean Brown and eight other black students walked into all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., as angry white protesters shouted obscenities, spat on them and threatened violence in full view of television cameras. The Little Rock Nine were escorted by soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division at the order of President Eisenhower, a moment that is rightly celebrated as a triumph in civil rights history. But a few months after taking her historic steps, … [Read more...]

Black Disparities in Youth Incarceration

African Americans 5X More Likely than Whites to be Held Black youth were more than five times as likely to be detained or committed compared to white youth, according to data from the Department of Justice collected in October 2015 and recently released.1) Racial and ethnic disparities have long-plagued juvenile justice systems nationwide, and the new data show the problem is increasing. In 2001, black youth were four times as likely as whites to be incarcerated. Juvenile facilities, … [Read more...]

Failed Juvenile Justice System Costs California More Than Dollars

$271,318. That’s how much California expects to spend per youth this year on its failed state youth correctional facilities, the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). This amount of money could drastically improve a young person’s education, well-being and development opportunities. To give perspective, a four-year undergraduate education at Stanford University costs approximately $276,000. Instead, the money is being squandered on DJJ’s dangerous and poorly designed facilities, which have … [Read more...]

Bullies in Blue: The Origins and Consequence of School Policing

Under the auspices of protecting children, we have accepted the infringement of law enforcement into one of the most important civic institutions: our schools. Once in schools, the scrutiny and authority of law enforcement are turned upon schoolchildren themselves, the very group that’s supposed to be protected. This report is intended to shed light on the origins of school policing as well as the real and devastating consequences of education under law and order. Over the past 50 years, … [Read more...]

Legislation to Reform the Juvenile Justice System

This year, the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice is co-sponsoring two bills in the California Legislature: Senate Bill (SB) 190 and Senate Bill (SB) 439. SB 190 will end the harmful assessment and collection of fees charged to families for a youth’s involvement in the juvenile juvenile system, and SB 439 will establish a minimum age of juvenile delinquency court jurisdiction. These bills will lessen the impact of the juvenile justice system on young Californians and enable families, … [Read more...]