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.

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...]

Disrupting the School-to-Prison Pipeline

When the Los Angeles Unified school board voted in May 2013 to ban the practice of suspending students for “willful defiance,” the blogosphere roiled with outrage. “Moron” was one of the mildest words used to attack school board president Monica Garcia and her colleagues. Students were referred to as thugs and animals, with black and Mexican American students singled out for particular abuse. Teachers said they wouldn’t be able to teach if they couldn’t remove disruptive students from the … [Read more...]

States Must Move Funding from Correctional Facilities to Community-Based Treatment

Across the United States, juvenile arrest rates have reached 40-year lows, dropping precipitously over the past 20 years. As the national juvenile arrest rates have fallen in recent decades, so too has youth incarceration. States now have a choice: they can continue to invest in the detrimental and ineffective incarceration of youth, or reinvest in community-based alternatives that address the underlying causes of crime. From its peak in 1996 to the most recent national data available for … [Read more...]

From Plea Bargain to Organizer: A Women’s Story

I was trying to frame a story that shares the experience of the women that I have encountered in the work that I do but when writing, I felt more comfortable sharing my own experience because it is the one to which I can speak most truly. . . . We are living in a time where the expectancy of a Black person being arrested and convicted of a crime in the United States of America is one in three. Black people make up less than 13% of the total population but represent close to half of the prison … [Read more...]

Segregation Now and Forever: Robber Baron DeVos and the Looting of Public Education

Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever.” This was white supremacist Alabama Governor George Wallace’s epic battle cry in his infamous 1963 Inaugural speech demonizing the civil rights movement. Billionaire Christian conservative Betsy DeVos and her foundation’s robber baron school voucher crusade are inheritors of Wallace’s legacy.  For over a decade, DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education, has been “at the helm” of a largely unsuccessful … [Read more...]