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.

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...]

Building a #BlackXmas

Why #BlackLivesMatter Is Dreaming of and Building for a #BlackXMas in the Wake of Donald Trump and Why You Should Too Since its inception in 2013, Black Lives Matter has recognized the killing of Black people at the hands of the police as not simply a question of a few rogue officers, but a part of a system that is built on the backs of Black people. Chattel slavery sought to reduce our Ancestors to workhorses, mules, and dehumanized beings whose labor could be exploited and whose own bodies … [Read more...]

The States Where Voters Decided to Give Criminal Justice Reform a Try

Even as Americans ushered in a presidential candidate who favors hard-line law enforcement tactics on Tuesday, voters still passed criminal justice reform measures by comfortable margins in many states. In California, 64 percent of voters passed Proposition 57. The measure provides those serving time for nonviolent felonies an opportunity for parole and allows them to earn early-release credits for taking educational and rehabilitative programs. It also moves the decision of whether to … [Read more...]

How America Outlawed Adolescence

One monday morning last fall, at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina, a 16-year-old girl refused to hand over her cellphone to her algebra teacher. After multiple requests, the teacher called an administrator, who eventually summoned a sheriff’s deputy who was stationed at the school. The deputy walked over to the girl’s desk. “Are you going to come with me,” he said, “or am I going to make you?” Niya Kenny, a student sitting nearby, did not know the name of the girl who was … [Read more...]

Yes on Prop 57: We Need to Protect Young People’s Potential

In 2010, my son was 17 years old and about to begin his senior year in high school. He was a funny kid with lots of friends and a big heart. Like many teenagers, he had big dreams—he wanted to be a professional athlete or a sports agent. When I thought about what the future held in store for him, I felt excited. But only 2 years later, my son found himself facing a sentence of 20 years in adult prison. My son was a teenager and he made mistakes—mistakes that resulted in far reaching … [Read more...]

Obama’s People and The African Americans: The Language of Othering

Names used to refer to the  “black” community have changed, and continue to change. I sometimes say I was born a colored boy, then I became a Negro, then black, then African-American, and still we are not done. To the list of identities black people in America have assumed or been asked to, we can now add, thanks to this presidential election season, “Obama’s people” and “The African Americans.” Most of these names were imposed on us, but not all. For a people to be whole, they must … [Read more...]

#CounselorsNotCops: Youth Justice Against the Police State

At the corner of Central Avenue and 120th Street in South Central Los Angeles, an abandoned Boys and Girls club trailer sits across from a fast food place and a liquor store.  The trailer is a few blocks from high achieving King-Drew Magnet of Medicine and Science, a predominantly African American and Latino school and unsung model of culturally competent instruction in the Los Angeles Unified School District. In neighboring Compton, children navigate vacant lots, brown fields and abandoned … [Read more...]