OAKLAND MEASURE URGES ‘REIMAGINE’ of Youth Justice System; Vote Next Week

By The Vanguard Staff

OAKLAND, CA – A resolution urging Alameda County to “Reimagine its Youth Justice System” will be introduced Oct. 3 by Oakland Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas, and Councilmember Carroll Fife.

The community-driven collaborative plan to reform its juvenile legal system will be voted on by the Oakland City Council Tuesday, Oct. 4

“Reimagining our youth justice system is a moral necessity to undo the harms of misguided policy which falsely equates punishment with accountability,” said Oakland Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan. “Our approach to youth justice has led to rampant racial and ethnic disparities within the system. It is incumbent upon us to transform our youth justice system into one that centers healing and the communities it directly impacts.”

Kaplan added, “Thank you to the Free Our Kids Coalition for bringing this resolution to the Council and advocating for what policy you want to see from your city leaders. I am proud to co-sponsor this legislation with Council President Bas and Councilmember Fife and urge the support of my council colleagues and fellow leaders with the County on this effort.”

The resolution, said the three lawmakers, “calls for Alameda County Board of Supervisors to support the Reimagine Youth Justice proposal developed by the Free Our Kids coalition. Alameda County would partner with directly impacted youth and youth advocates to create a plan that explores a rehabilitative, health-focused, and care-first model of youth justice. Through receiving services by trusted community-based organizations, the goal is to drastically reduce the number of young people who are in contact with the justice system and prevent the criminalization of youth.”

“Providing system-impacted youth with the resources and services they need to heal, move responsibly, and reach their full potential for success and fulfillment is especially important in this moment, as we recover from the devastating effects of COVID-19,” said Council President Bas. “The pandemic environment exacerbated already-challenging conditions for many of our marginalized young people, making it even harder for them to obtain and sustain paths of education, employment, health, and stability. We urge Alameda County to move forward in making our communities healthier and safer by championing this initiative to boldly resource and reimagine youth justice.”

Despite reforms that have reduced the total number of young people involved in the criminal legal system in Oakland and Alameda County, youth of color continue to be significantly more likely than their white counterparts to have contact with the system, according to supporters of the measure.

The cite:
42 percent of all youth referred to Alameda County’s justice system come from Oakland.
Black youth from Oakland are approximately 113 times more likely than white youth to be criminalized and arrested.
99 percent of youth from Oakland who are under probation supervision in Alameda County are youth of color.

“The over-policing and criminalization of the young people in our City, particularly Black youth, makes this resolution in support of reimagining youth justice in Alameda County in a way that centers a community-based public health approach very critical,” said Councilmember Fife, adding, “Youth in our City deserve opportunities to rise above their circumstances and to move beyond their mistakes. Creating a system that is restorative will not only lead to improved futures for young people who have had contact with the justice system, but it will lead to safer communities overall.”

The proposal was created by Free Our Kids, a coalition composed of 10 local community organizations: Urban Peace Movement, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Young Women’s Freedom Center, CURYJ, Haywood Burns Institute, National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, 67 Sueños, and Youth Law Center.

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