Joaquin DiazDeLeon is a college student, youth justice advocate and a Mayoral Appointee to the San Francisco Reentry Council. He's also spent time in the juvenile justice system.
Joaquin was recently featured on KQED's "Perspectives" program, where he discussed his time in juvenile detention and California Governor Brown's realignment proposal:
The whole point of juvenile incarceration should be about reform, preparing young people to re-enter society. Too often though, I felt like nothing more than a paycheck for guards whose sole job it was to lock and unlock doors...At 16, I was sent to two different state facilities that were more than 100 miles from my hometown. Gangs dominated the culture, and egos raged out of control. I was in a fight on my very first day.
Separated by a two-hour drive from my mom, my town and everything I knew, I spent a long time believing that I was labeled for life. I couldn't imagine a day when I would be anything other than my crimes, when people could see me as a human again.
I think people are missing the point when they debate whether or not counties should re-take control of juvenile justice, because I'm shocked communities ever gave teenagers away to the state in the first place. Rehabilitation happens when teenagers are forced to connect to their communities and confront their mistakes. Teen offenders need to understand that they're defecating where they eat. They need community support, instead of being locked up far away.
Joaquin is part of a growing group of advocates, families and government agencies calling for realignment of California's juvenile justice system. But not everyone agrees, in an interview with Youth Radio, Bill Sessa (communications manager at the CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) said that CA's DJJ is better than critics realize.
Listen to Joaquin's story and chime in. What do you think? Are you in favor of Gov. Brown's realignment proposal? Or is Bill right - the state should leave the DJJ alone?
Liz Wu is a Digital Accounts Manager at Prichard Communications, where she oversees digital outreach for Reclaiming Futures and edits Reclaiming Futures Every Day. Before joining the Prichard team, Liz established the West Coast communications presence for the New America Foundation, where she managed all media relations, event planning and social media outreach for their 6 domestic policy programs. Liz received a B.A. in both Peace and Conflict Studies and German from the University of California at Berkeley. She tweets from @LizSF.
*Photo at top courtesy of Youth Radio
Updated: February 08 2018