Q. What is the vision that guides your work? What will the world – and specifically Oakland – look like if you are successful?
Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ): The vision that guides our work is our ability to “dream beyond bars.” We carry the conviction of our ancestors when we say that every young person is a blessing. We know that black and brown culture is filled with tools and remedies to heal, so we proudly remind ourselves that “La Cultura Cura,” that our culture and art is healing. As our work spreads, we expect to see Oakland invest in youth programs, alternatives to incarceration, mental health resources, and stable housing, so that young people have opportunities to thrive.
National Center for Youth Law (NCYL): Our goal is to ensure that Oakland youth and their families receive the dignity and support they deserve, both in their homes and in their communities, so they heal and grow to become healthy productive adults.
Q. What current policy advocacy campaigns are you working on?
CURYJ: Currently, CURYJ is launching our campaign to close youth prisons and develop youth leaders in partnership with the Positive Youth Justice Initiative and the California Alliance for Youth and Community Justice. This campaign includes calling for a moratorium on charging youth as adults in the criminal justice system.
In addition, we are organizing around the implementation of Proposition 57, which, among other reforms, allows judges rather than prosecutors to determine whether a youth goes through the juvenile or adult criminal system. We have played a lead role in supporting the Prisoners United Hunger Strike to secure more humane conditions for people locked up in Alameda County facilities. CURYJ also is supporting the movement to eliminate bail and fines and fees for families caught in the criminal justice system.
NCYL: We are focused on ending the practice of prosecuting and incarcerating juveniles in the adult criminal justice system. As a result of Proposition 57, the number of Alameda County youth prosecuted as adults has decreased from 10 to 1 (as of August 2017). In addition to our policy work, NCYL supported Urban Peace Movement in successfully challenging the prosecution of the Da’Jon Ford as an adult. The Alameda County DA and Da’Jon were able to settle on a plea agreement and Da’Jon was released to the community.
We are also working to dramatically reduce incarceration of youth and build community alternatives to incarceration, such as treatment, education, and mentoring services for disadvantaged and under-served youth. For example, NCYL with with CURYJ and community leaders hosted the “Dream Beyond Bars” community forum in Oakland to educate the public and policy makers on the harms of incarceration, and the success and viability of community treatment alternatives for youth.
Q. What will you be focused on for the rest of the year?
CURYJ: For the rest of the year, we are focused on wrapping our community work up with gratitude and connection for all the change made this year. We’re preparing to make next year an even more groundbreaking time for CURYJ and young people in Alameda County and beyond.
NCYL: We will continue our work to reduce the number of young people involved in the juvenile justice system and to ensure that justice-involved youth remain in the community and receive rehabilitative services. We also want to make sure that community organizations are leading reform efforts related to the juvenile justice issues that most affect them.
Q. Are you working in partnership with other Akonadi grant partners in the Arc Toward Justice Fund? others?
CURYJ: We partner with many of Akonadi’s current grantees, including Urban Peace Movement, East Side Arts Alliance, Black Organizing Project, Eller Baker Center, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, National Center on Youth Law and BAY-Peace.
NCYL: We currently work closely with CURYJ and Urban Peace Movement.