By David M. Greenwald
San Francisco, CA – The Young Women’s Freedom Center, San Francisco Young Democrats, and the Coleman Advocates on Monday along with elected Public Defender Mano Raju, continued to push back against appointed DA Brooke Jenkins’ policy that allows youth to be tried as adults.
“We have a responsibility to listen to, empower, and support youth. Juvenile hall & adult jail provide none of this,” Mano Raju said in a tweet.
“Instead of charging youth in adult court, we should be focusing on raising the age limit in our juvenile system. We should be deepening the constitutional protections we have for our young people, deepening the services we provide, and closing Juvenile Hall,” Raju said.
Lucero Herrera of the Young Women’s Freedom Center said, “I was someone who was charged as an adult at the age of 17. I went through the adult system and didn’t get out until I was 22. None of my needs were addressed. Not my trauma. Not me living in poverty.”
Another activist added, “We wonder why people end up at places like this because we are not caring for our children like we used when we were organized. We are here to organize to make sure our children are not going to be killed off, hurt, and abused by the system.”
“We, the community, are the ones who break the cycle of recidivism, not the system. We are best positioned to identify alternatives to incarceration, criminalization & family separation,” said Kazani Finao of the Young Women’s Freedom Center.
Two weeks ago San Francisco Young Democrats (SFYD) released a statement here this week criticizing recent policy decisions made by Jenkins they labeled as anti-youth.
The DA announced in late September the creation of a new “Juvenile Review Team” to determine if incarcerated youth are worthy of having a second chance, or have them face charges in a traumatizing adult court process.
Said the Young Democrats, “Instead of supporting alternative methods such as diversion and rehabilitation, this new policy signals an intentional shift towards increased youth incarceration.”
They were also critical of the five strikes policy of drug use enforcement, stating, “This policy criminalizes addiction and treats a public health crisis as a law & order crisis. Recreating the failed War on Drugs with a similar return to the 3 Strikes Law will not solve the core issues of substance use disorders in San Francisco, but instead exacerbate them.”
They said, “Let’s make two things clear. First, anyone 17 and under is NOT an adult, and a lack of alternatives to incarcerating youth would be a failure of both the District Attorney’s leadership and efforts towards justice reform. Second, San Francisco cannot and must not incarcerate its way out of poverty, systemic racism, or a public health crisis.”
They called on the DA to:
- Refuse to charge minors as adults in court;
- Revoke the new drug misdemeanor (i.e. five strikes) policy;
- Work to reduce the population of and eventually close Juvenile Hall;
- Commit to supporting diversion and other alternatives to incarceration, in collaboration with community partners.
The Young Democrats said, “We should not be reversing course and doubling down on tried-and-failed initiatives. Instead, San Francisco should be leading the nation on being an example of progressive criminal justice reform, as well as empowering young people to participate in the political process.”