Alabama; Mobile — The Oakland City Council recently passed a resolution supporting a community-driven collaborative plan to reimagine the juvenile legal system in Alameda County. The resolution was co-sponsored by three council members including Oakland Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas and Councilmember Carroll Fife.
The plan, Reimagine Youth Justice, was created and proposed by Free Our Kids, a coalition of 10 community organizations dedicated to replacing the punitive justice model with a “community justice model.” The proposal outlines steps Alameda County would take to develop a plan in collaboration with directly-impacted youth and trusted-community organizations to reduce the number of youth that come into contact with the justice system through a care-first approach. The Oakland City Councilcil now urges the Alameda County Board of Governors to support this proposal following the resolutions passing.
The proposal’s key facts included the following:
- Punishment-based approaches do not rehabilitate young people.
- Alameda County disproportionately locks up young people of color.
- Alameda County spends up to $800,000 per year per youth at Juvenile Hall and Camp Sweeney.
- Alternatives, like Alameda County’s restorative justice program, are much cheaper and more effective in creating safety.
Kaplan stressed that the problem of violence in the local communities was troubling and the escalation of violence must be prevented. However, she firmly believes in the solution Free Our Kids proposes to look at the root causes of violence and address underlying conditions.
“The Free Our Kids coalition is laying out the essential answers to how we stop that spiral, how we save lives, how we save communities, and how we make sure we build a future of peace, health, and mutual support,” Kaplan said. “I’m honored to stand together with the grassroots community effort to reimagine youth justice to make sure we uplift our young people, make sure that there is housing, make sure that there are jobs, that we make sure there is access to a healthy environment, and that we stop the violence in our community.”
Amira Jourdan, a 19-year-old Oakland native, agreed with the council’s resolution because of this over-policing of Black and marginalized communities. Jourdan revealed that she even had a friend impacted by violence, however, violence from the police. This type of police brutality and surveillance is often never discussed when attempting to solve problems of violence in communities.
“When the Black Lives Matter protest was reaching its peak again in the summer of 2020 I had a friend who was assaulted by police,” Jourdan said. “He’s half African-American and Mexican and he was just walking down the street, not even a part of the protests, and was assaulted by the police for just being there.”
A significant concern is the fact that over 42% of all youth in Alameda County referred to the juvenile system are from Oakland. On top of that Black youth from Oakland are arrested and criminalized over 113 times more than their white counterparts. Over 99% of youth in Alameda County on probation supervision are youth of color. These are all troubling facts for supporters of the resolution despite recent reforms to the juvenile system.
"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 by centering a community-based public health approach very critical,” Fife said.