The YJC’s most significant accomplishments since 2003 include:
- In 2003, the YJC worked with the L.A. Archdiocese to close the inhumane confinement of youth on a juvenile module at County Jail which included 23-1/2 hour lock-down in single-cells, no access to education but packet thrown into the cell, and sun for one hour every two weeks in cages on the roof.
- In 2006, the YJC partnered with Human Rights Watch, the Catholic Archdiocese and several human rights lawyers to advocate for state legislation to give people who were sentenced as youth to Life Without Parole an opportunity for review of their cases. The first bill died in the Senate, the second made it through the Senate, but died by one vote in the Assembly. On August 16, 2012, Senate Bill 9 made it through the Assembly with just one vote giving it the needed majority. The bill will return to the Senate for a concurrence vote, and then head to the Governor’s Office for his signature.
- The YJC’s original goal was to reduce detention and incarceration in L.A. by 75% within ten years. To date the juvenile hall and Probation camp population has decreased by 50%, and the California Youth Authority/Division of Juvenile Justice has closed 2/3 of the CYA/DJJ sites. These changes have come through: dramatic drops in arrest since 2,000 when the crack epidemic largely subsided, organizing to expose inhumane conditions and ineffective and expensive programs, and the fiscal crisis that has forced local and state government to rethink their addiction to incarceration.
- The YJC has pushed the Probation Department and the L.A. County Board of Supervisors to address racism in the system – “disproportionate minority contact/confinement.” Last year, we linked several technical advisors to Probation and other groups in L.A., including the Hayward Burns Institute/Community Justice Network for Youth, which established a demonstration site in L.A. Over the last 18 months, the YJC coordinated the Deon Whitfield Work Group (DWWG) to increase both community and government pressure on Probation to address DMC and the data collection needed to monitor its root causes.In October of 2007, the YJC began a chapter on the visiting line at Sylmar (Barry J. Nidorf) Juvenile Hall in order to improve conditions, with a special emphasis on conditions in the “compound” – a maximum security, (baby-max) detention facility for over 200 youth being tried as adults. At the time, youth hadn’t received outdoor access, recreation or school for months. Parents and youth were successful in gaining access to regular outside recreation and school and have stepped up as major leaders in local, state and the national efforts to end Life and other extreme sentences for youth.
- The YJC led the organizing of California’s opposition to Senator Feinstein’s and Congressman Schiff’s federal gang bills and support for Congressman Bobby Scott’s Youth PROMISE Act in 2007 and again in 2009 and 2010. As part of this effort, L.A. was the first city in the nation to pass a City Council resolution in support of the Youth PROMISE Act.
- In the spring of 2008, the YJC won a moratorium on L.A. County Probation’s practice of billing families up to $25 for each day their child was in juvenile hall and /or camp. Bills escalated to thousands of dollars in a matter of months, and families who were already struggling financially had their wages, tax returns and even homes taken by the county. As part of the campaign, the YJC compiled evidence and issued a report – Getting Paid – on the financial hardships caused to youth and their families by the bills. We are working to expose and end this practice throughout the state, as well as helping other jurisdictions in their challenge of similar policies.
- The YJC’s goal has been to transfer public resources from suppression toward community-based, owned and operated alternatives to arrest, court, detention and incarceration. During the past two years:
- In response to a dramatic escalation throughout the county of police shootings of unarmed people, as well as increased neighborhood homicide rates in some communities, the YJC initiated a campaign in 2008 to Stop the Killing. As a result of a week of actions throughout the city, the YJC gathered community support to begin challenging L.A.’s extreme spending on police and incarceration. The YJC successfully pushed the Mayor’s Office and the City Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on Gang Violence to add youth development to their department’s titles, wrote a definition of youth development that was adopted by the City Council, and is now working to pushing that Los Angeles City and County create a joint youth development department. In 2011, the YJC released a police budget report – Cross the Line – and the 1% Campaign began to get attention from the City Council and County Board of Supervisors, including several who used campaign data to question law enforcement budgets for the first time. The YJC called for the City and County to take 1% of the budget from law enforcement – (just 1% from LAPD, County Sheriffs, Courts, Probation, the District Attorney and the City Attorney equals $100 million a year) – to fund 500 full-time gang intervention workers, 24 comprehensive youth centers open 3pm to midnight 365 days a year, and 50,000 jobs for youth – prioritizing youth on the gang database and/or youth returning home from lock-up. In 2012, the YJC invited additional organizations to build momentum and vision for the campaign. LA for Youth is now led by more than 40 youth development organizations and was successful in increasing summer jobs for youth from 0 to 2,000 in FY 2011-2012 and to more than 6,000 in FY 2012-2013.
- The YJC was the largest and most consistent youth and parent voice pushing for the establishment and continued funding of Summer Night Lights in parks throughout the city. The project has kept Parks Department recreation centers open until midnight for activities and youth jobs, proving that youth development is a cheaper and more effective solution to violence than suppression.
- Developed a platform and organizing strategy to end the School to Jail Track and worked with the L.A. Dignity in Schools Campaign to challenge truancy tickets, end truancy sweeps and create new policies for police in schools, including stopping an joint L.A. City Council and L.A. Unified School District initiative that would have allowed school police to issue truancy tickets on school grounds, ending the school police and LAPD issuing of tickets if youth are making an effort to attend school, and ending the use of fines in Los Angeles City for the first two tickets and capping all fines at $150.) (Truancy tickets are $250 for the first ticket, $750 for the second and $900 for the third, and many youth ditch school in order to avoid the fines and police intimidation. For some youth, truancy tickets also lead to a violation of Probation and lock-up. In the fall of 2007, the YJC opened FREE LA High School to train youth in organizing and public policy development, and to serve as an alternative to incarceration and as a re-entry program for youth coming home from lock-ups.
- Served as the only youth voice on the Community Engagement Advisory Committee of the City Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on Gang Violence, and passed the first modern gang intervention model adopted by a City government in the U.S.
- The YJC contributed significantly to the defeat of Measure, A which would have significantly increased police suppression in Los Angeles, in addition to the defeat of Proposition 6. Inn both instances, the YJC ran the largest field campaigns to get out the vote in Los Angeles. (Authored by State Senator George Runner out of L.A. County, Proposition 6 represented the most expensive, punitive and far reaching criminal and juvenile injustice bill in the history of the United States – even given California’s recent history in passing Three Strikes and Prop 21. If passed, Proposition 6 would have cost 1 billion the first year (in prison, jail and juvenile hall expansion plus prisons and law enforcement program costs, and 500 million every year after that for law enforcement and lock-up costs, plus guaranteed cost of living increases every year. Because there was no new money identified for the initiative, the Proposition would have shifted money from education and human services.)
- The YJC exposed the lack of voting rights education, protection and enforcement within L.A. County’s juvenile halls and camps and the state’s CYA/DJJ youth prison facilities, and won opportunities for education, registration and absentee voting from the inside.
- Worked with Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes (FACTS) to establish the Fair Chance Project to support groups for people facing (in court) or already serving Life sentences in order to provide defendants/convicted people and their families court support, help with appeals, advocacy and preparation at Parole hearings, and organizing for increased opportunities, an end to mandatory minimums and fair sentencing. The YJC’s court support, court monitoring, and work to find and prep witnesses has resulted in fairer sentencing for dozens of youth, hung juries in two cases, and one acquittal.The YJC was also active in creating the L.A. chapter of All of Us Or None and has also been active in the local efforts in L.A., Compton and Inglewood to Ban the Box from employment applications. (Compton has now banned the box!)
- Since the start, the YJC has pushed for an end to gang suppression policies – including gang databases, injunctions and enhancements in court – and in 2007 won the state’s first gang injunction exit process in an agreement between the L.A. City Council and City Attorney’s Office. In 2011, the YJC worked to pass state law to implement a similar process throughout the state. It was vetoed by Governor Brown. The YJC is working to reintroduce another bill as well as legislation to guarantee right to notification, appeal, removal and resources for everyone on the CalGang database.