With the new wave of politicians sworn into office this month, the United States has been buzzing with political headlines and tweets from elected officials ready to disrupt the madness in Washington D.C. California has had its own share of political news headlines this month with Newson stepping in as our new governor, the state providing unemployment benefits to furloughed government employees and our very own Kamala Harris announcing her presidential campaign this past week.
On Tuesday afternoon, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced his intent to shift the control of the Juvenile Justice Division “away from corrections officials to government health and human services providers, a move he said is long overdue and would build on past efforts to divert children and teens from a path to prison,” as stated in an article by the San Francisco Examiner.
During the 1980s and 1990s, crime rates rose in California and in turn, created a “tough on crime” approach which led to many young people being tried as adult offenders. Many people during this time believed that teens had fully developed brains and therefore, deserved to be tried as adults. New research has definitely proved this myth incorrect, and therefore, community agencies and advocates have pushed for a more rehabilitative approach to the juvenile justice system since the old system’s “court practices and fines disproportionately affect low-income and black and Latino children.”
Under this new proposal, “the California Health and Human Services Agency would oversee more than 660 young offenders,” the article added. Newsom reported this announcement in front of elected officials and young people being held in these centers and facilities. He stated that his goal was to end the juvenile justice system and begin to have a more asset based approaches towards the most vulnerable young people standing before him. He wants to put an end to focusing on the mistakes and wrong choices the young people may have committed in their earlier years.
As a high school teacher, I am well aware that the school to prison pipeline begins in the early years of a child’s education. While I join community organizations working on this initiative and working with the young people detained, I worry about how this initiative will play out day to day. An announcement like this is exciting and provides hope for many families of the teens being held, but I hope it is met with actionable measures that will begin to take effect immediately. We need to focus on rehabilitative programming and provide those released with holistic support to avoid them falling into the same negative choices.
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