Last month, California's Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO), joined the growing momentum for Governor Brown's juvenile realignment proposal with a report explaining the potential financial incentives. While advocates and pollicy groups continue to call for realignment and the de-incarceration of the juvenile system, it's important to take a step back and hear from the families with children in the system.
In an interview with Turnstyle News, Sumayyah Waheed, director of the Ella Baker Center's Books Not Bars campaign, explains why the current system is making it difficult for families to stay connected with their kids, which in turn makes it more difficult for the kids to rehabilitate:
Turnstyle: How does the juvenile justice system affect families and young people?
Waheed: It’s really stressful for the families. The thing I hear most often from families again and again is that you’re locked up right there with their child. For a mom she can’t really separate it, knowing that her child is locked up isn’t something she can just put aside. For families there are the everyday challenges of planning around visitation, and the hours of travel, and the money, and staying in a hotel over night depending on how far it is. And then there are the challenges of youth who are facing trouble inside in, trying to advocate for them to be safe and then at the same time trying to get something better for all youth.
Turnstyle: And do you feel that keeping youth at the local level will actually help with the issues that families deal with, like the separation and anxiety, and the day-to-day problems they face?
Waheed: It definitely helps. Right now you have some youth from L.A. who are in Stockton—so being in their county is going to make a huge difference. At the local level there are more avenues for having a voice. At the state level there’s Sacramento and most parents can’t make it out there on a regular basis. By allowing youth to be closer to their families it allows the families to be engaged in insuring that the youth can actually come out and do better once they’re out.
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.
Updated: March 21 2018