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.

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...]

Minors in Adult Prison

On February 1st and 2nd, representatives from dozens of youth justice organizations from across the state gathered for the annual meeting of the California Alliance for Youth and Community Justice (CAYCJ), a coalition committed to ending the treatment of youth as adults. In 2016, CAYCJ led the campaign to pass Prop 57, an initiative that abolished direct file and improved the process governing transfers of young people from juvenile to adult court. Due in large part to the efforts of CAYCJ … [Read more...]

If Kids Ran Juvie

Every couple of years, California takes a close look at its rules governing juvenile detention centers. In determined bureaucratic fashion, officials convene, debate and ultimately agree on updates to the state regulations covering the facilities that house children. This year, the California Board of State and Community Corrections is doing something different: They are considering the suggestions of dozens of juveniles who have actually spent time in detention. In January, at least 75 … [Read more...]

‘Rooms Infested With Spiders’: California Youth Urge Changes in Conditions at Juvenile Facilities

Nearly six years after he spent more than a month locked up in a juvenile hall in Los Angeles County, Francisco Martines vividly recalled the conditions in his cell. Inside the small concrete room at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey, Calif., he says the dirty walls were covered with graffiti tags and stained with the residue of spit and excrement. The stench of urine was unmistakable. At night, Martines had trouble sleeping on a ripped mattress. A thin blanket did little to keep him … [Read more...]

What We Can Learn from the Amazing Drop in Juvenile Incarceration

Lesson One: Don’t make policies when emotions are running high. The Bureau of Justice Statistics announced in a year-end report a 2 percent reduction in the number of prisoners nationally, continuing a modest decline of recent years. Overlooked by most observers, though, was the fact that the number of juveniles held in adult prisons declined to fewer than 1,000, an 82 percent drop from the peak year in 1997. Although America’s penchant for incarceration has been widely recognized in recent … [Read more...]

How the Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline Criminalizes Black Girls

Over the past several years, the movement to end sexual violence has been mainstreamed through social media, K-12 prevention programming and awareness campaigns. Terms like “victim-blaming” and “slut-shaming” have entered the public lexicon, and the prosecution of accused sexual predators such as Brock Turner and Bill Cosby have become cause celébrès. Yet, when the media puts a spotlight on sexual violence victims they are often young, white and middle class. And while it is estimated that … [Read more...]