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CA Youth Push For Changes To Juvenile Justice System

December 6, 2010

Young people who have made some wrong decisions in the past now need adults to make some right decisions. Hundreds of youth from California and other states are in the nation's capital today to urge Congress and President Obama to pass legislation that they say protects children.

Tshaka Barrows, with California's Community Justice Network for Youth (CJNY), says they're supporting the Youth PROMISE (Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education) Act.

"It is a measure of trying to hold these systems accountable for racial and ethic disparity, making sure that youth are not being locked in adult jails and just asking the counties that are making decisions about these young people every day to be more accountable."

Barrows says states like California spend about $5.7 billion dollars each year imprisoning youth, even though the majority are held for nonviolent offenses. He points out that some community-based alternatives to detention and incarceration have been shown to reduce recidivism by up to 22 percent.

Malachi Garza with CJNY says some California youth rehabilitation programs are working, such as the Center for Young Women's Development in San Francisco. The program helps young women after they are released from juvenile hall and are on probation.

"These types of programs - re-entry services or preventative services - teach these kids job skills, make sure they have a diploma, make sure they have their identification and papers. If they have children, make sure their children get the immunization shots they need and go to the clinics they need to access."

Barrows says today's event in Washington, D.C., kicks off CJNY's Week of Action.

"Young people, old people, people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds - it's a very diverse crowd of folks from across the country coming together to talk about what's going on with young people and the juvenile justice system."

The campaign also supports reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Act.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA