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’s Real Digital Divide

A group of former Facebook and Google employees last week began a campaign to change the tech companies they had a hand in creating. The initiative, called Truth About Tech, aims to push these companies to make their products less addictive for children — and it’s a good start. But there’s more to the problem. If you think middle-class children are being harmed by too much screen time, just consider how much greater the damage is to minority and disadvantaged kids, who spend much more time in … [Read more...]

Conservatives Just Don’t Understand That Racism Runs Deep in American Education

Behind the push to roll back school discipline protections lies a dangerous dismissal of bias in classrooms. Betsy DeVos and company are at it again. The DeVos-led Department of Education is currently cooking up ways to get rid of the 2014 Obama-era guidelines for K-12 public school discipline, which was aimed at ameliorating discrepancies based on race, class and disability when it comes to how students are punished in school. In November, conservative think tanks Center of the American … [Read more...]

When Parents Commit a Crime, It’s Their Kids Who Do the Time

She had 25 grams of marijuana on her when she was arrested ― about $300 worth. Although she admitted to getting high regularly, the weed the police found in the glove compartment of the car Jackie was driving did not belong to her, and neither did the vehicle. They belonged to her boyfriend, a known drug dealer in the Florida city where they both lived. Jackie was sentenced to two years in prison ― less than the maximum sentence for drug possession ― because she agreed to cooperate with the … [Read more...]

Death by Inequality: Poverty and Racism Are Killing America’s Children

A new report concludes 600,000 children have died in the United States for no reason over a 50-year period. Thousands more will die this year, and next year, and the year after that. 600,000 is a lot of people. it’s more than the population of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Or Oakland, California. Or Minneapolis, Minnesota. Or Omaha, Miami, Atlanta, and Milwaukee. An entire city of children has been lost. This is the real “death tax.” It’s a tax on poverty, a tax on race, a tax on political … [Read more...]

2018-19 Budget Proposal Would Expand California’s Youth Correctional System at a Time of Falling Populations

Last week, Governor Brown released his budget for fiscal year 2018-19, which proposes a 1 percent increase in spending across adult prisons and the state’s youth correctional system, the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). Notably, the budget pledges $3.8 million for a new young adult pilot program at DJJ, which would prop up the failing system and extend its harms to a new population of young people. Despite substantial state investment in local alternatives to DJJ, including more than $260 … [Read more...]

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...]