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.

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...]

Violent Crime Arrests of Youth in California Expected to Decline Through 2020

A new research report from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ) predicts ongoing declines in the violent felony arrest rate of California's youth through 2020. The report analyzes past violent felony arrest data for two age groups — children under age 12 and youth ages 12-17 — to identify the relationship between childhood arrest rates today and those of older youth five years in the future. The analysis finds a strong, predictive relationship between the violent felony arrest … [Read more...]

Captive Lives: The ‘Invisible Victims’ of Incarceration

Children Doing Time Luna Garcia swipes through the photos on her phone until she finds it — the one of a young man with a slight mustache standing against a wall, his blue shirt neatly pressed, holding a chubby baby girl. It’s the kind of picture someone might snap at a holiday dinner, a grainy image of a girl and her dad. But just out of the frame are armed guards and metal doors. It was visiting day at San Quentin State Prison. It’s a rare photo of Luna with her father. Now 17, she … [Read more...]

Court Costs Entrap Nonwhite, Poor Juvenile Offenders

When Dequan Jackson had his only brush with the law, at 13, he tried to do everything right. Charged with battery for banging into a teacher while horsing around in a hallway, he pleaded guilty with the promise that after one year of successful probation, the conviction would be reduced to a misdemeanor. He worked 40 hours in a food bank. He met with an anger management counselor. He kept to an 8 p.m. curfew except when returning from football practice or church. And he kept out of … [Read more...]

Failure After Farrell: Violence and Inadequate Mental Health Care in California’s Division of Juvenile Justice

The history of California’s state youth corrections system, the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), has been mired in violence and abuse. In 2003, after advocates exposed decades of inhumane conditions, DJJ was sued (Farrell v. Kernan) and subject to a court order mandating systemic and cultural reforms in all its facilities. In 2016, Farrell was dismissed. CJCJ’s new report finds that, despite over a decade of monitoring, DJJ continues to be a dangerous and traumatic place, which fails to … [Read more...]