Knowing many of the teens have been sitting in jail cells and thinking for hours about what landed them there, Bettina Graf—restorative practices lead for the San Mateo County Office of Education—focuses on helping them separate their actions from their identities before they begin classes in the county’s court and community schools.
Youth Media Clips
Hundreds of law enforcement and education officials joined criminal justice reform advocates at the hearing, “Deconstructing the Prison Pipeline,” hosted by Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon and Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre (D-Babylon).
Black girls are being criminalized at alarming rates. They are hobbled by negative societal stereotypes that stretch back to slavery. By educators, counselors, caseworkers and judges who fail to address their trauma and emotional needs. By school discipline policies that push black girls out of school and punish them more often and more harshly than their white peers.
The Sonoma County Probation Department recently launched a comprehensive review of its juvenile justice system to determine how well department policies and practices align with what research shows works to improve outcomes for youth while using resources efficiently.
“This could be a really beautiful state if we fix it.” Those words were spoken by a young man at a juvenile day report center in southern West Virginia. They sum up the results of over 100 interviews and surveys of young people conducted over the last year about mental health issues.
Years after serving time as a youth offender, the photographer Brian L. Frank has devoted himself to documenting young men’s experiences with the criminal justice system. In “Out of Bounds: Coming of Age in Gang Territory,” he takes an intimate look at the effect of targeted policing on minority youth in the Central Valley of California, where the children of agricultural workers and former factory workers have few opportunities.
“We used to send 3,800 kids to the state system. Now we send none,” said Vincent Schiraldi, senior research scientist and co-director of the Columbia University Justice Lab. Schiraldi said crime also went down.
Corrections and health and human services officials say the plan heralds a cultural change in the state’s approach to the youngest in the justice system, and creates opportunities to better bridge educational, mental health and social services to prepare minors for release.
Every day spent in an adult jail or prison facility not only puts youth at risk of physical harm, but also compromises any real hope of providing them with quality educational services and real opportunities for success upon release.
When Suzi Jensen went to see her mom in prison at the age of 12 she was only allowed to hug her twice, once at the beginning of the visit and once at the end. “They just had tables and you had to sit across the table from her,” said Jensen, now in her 30s. “At that age, being a 12-year-old girl, there were a lot of things happening, big changes and not being able to sit and cry and talk to her was terrible.”