Alameda County Voters Back Replacing Youth Incarceration with Health and Community Based Approaches, New Poll Shows 

Campaign(s): Justice Reinvestment
Issue(s): Ending Mass Incarceration

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 

October 22, 2020 

Media contact: 

Bilen Mesfin Packwood, bilen@change-llc.com 

Alameda County Voters Back Replacing Youth Incarceration with Health and Community Based Approaches, New Poll Shows 

(OAKLAND)—Two-thirds of Alameda County voters back replacing youth incarceration and investing in health and community based approaches to help young people, according to a poll released today by the Urban Peace Movement. 

Sixty-eight percent of voters support closing juvenile hall and Camp Sweeney, the county’s two juvenile detention centers, and redirecting funds to an existing Alameda County health and human services agency to promote youth justice through community and health based alternatives to incarceration, such as education, mental health, and job training programs that help youth thrive. Support for alternatives cuts across all five districts in Alameda County. A unique look at voter attitudes toward youth justice in the county, the poll also showed that residents view the Black Lives Matter movement positively (71 percent). 

“The findings show that residents from every corner of Alameda County believe strongly that our youth justice system needs an overhaul,” said Nicole Lee, executive director of Urban Peace Movement. “The time is now to reimagine youth justice in Alameda County and end the criminalization of Black and Brown youth. By investing in health and community based alternatives, we can make sure every young person in the county, particularly Black and Brown youth, have a chance to succeed.” 

The poll is being released on the day that a two-day forum on youth justice in Alameda County begins, hosted by Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle and Chief Probation officer Wendy Still. In September of this year, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 823, closing down the remaining three youth prisons under the DJJ and relegating the responsibility for young people to California counties. 

Additional findings from the poll: 

  • A majority view racial discrimination (65 percent), mass incarceration (64 percent) and police brutality (56 percent) as serious problems. 
  • By a two to one margin voters disapprove of the youth justice system (37% disapprove to 18% approve).
  • Latino (51 percent) and African-American (65 percent) voters are most likely to disapprove of the youth justice system.
  • Four in five say it is more important to invest in preventive services, such as education, job opportunities, and mental health and substance abuse counseling, than to incarcerate youth. 
  • Approximately four in five voters say they are “extremely” or “very” concerned about the cost of incarcerating youth in the County. Alameda County spends nearly $500,000 on each incarcerated young person. 
  • Voters are strongly supportive of a number of reforms to the youth justice system, particularly ones centered on increasing access to health and community based alternatives like after-school programs and mental health services. 
  • Three-quarters view racial disparities in youth incarceration to be concerning. Black youth make up 11 percent of the county’s overall youth population but 41 percent of Camp Sweeney’s population and 77 percent of the juvenile hall population. 

On Thursday, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights also will release a report examining the existing youth incarceration system in Alameda County and laying out a roadmap of alternative responses centered in racial equity, healing and empowerment. “Reimagining Youth Justice: A Blueprint for Alameda County,” is published in partnership with the Free Our Kids Coalition in Alameda County. 

The poll, done by FM3 Research, was conducted Oct. 2-9, consisting of 699 online interviews with county residents likely to cast ballots in the November election. There were at least 120 interviews done in each supervisorial district. The margin of error is +/- 4 percent. 

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About Urban Peace Movement: 

Urban Peace Movement (UPM) builds youth leadership in Oakland to transform the culture and social conditions that lead to community violence & mass incarceration in communities of color. UPM’s model of “Healing-Centered Youth Organizing” supports young people to feel self-confident & hopeful while empowering them to work for healing, social justice, and a brighter future for all. https://urbanpeacemovement.org