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 to18% 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 theexisting youth incarceration system in Alameda County and laying out a roadmap of alternativeresponses centered in racial equity, healing and empowerment. “Reimagining Youth Justice: ABlueprint for Alameda County,” is published in partnership with the Free Our Kids Coalition inAlameda 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.
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
Community Groups, Families Urge Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley toPublicly Oppose Proposition 20
OAKLAND, CA – Community groups and families with the Justice Reinvestment Coalition ofAlameda County are urging Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley to publiclyoppose a law enforcement measure on the November ballot that would harm Blackcommunities and communities of color and reverse criminal justice reform in the state. The DAstated that she does not support the measure in a meeting with community groups (SEE LINK)but would not yet commit to publicly opposing this ballot measure.
“At a time in this country where our racial divide has grown wider and criminal justice reform isa top concern, communities must hold elected law enforcement officials accountable so all ourfamilies are protected and see justice,” said Zay Coleman, Organizer, with Urban PeaceMovement and the Justice Reinvestment Coalition. “To move forward on racial justice, we can’tgo back on the important progress we have made to end mass incarceration.”
During a meeting with community groups and impacted families on September 15, 2020, DAO’Malley agreed not to publicly support Prop 20, a measure that would roll back effectivecriminal justice reform measures, waste tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on prisons, andharm Black communities and communities of color. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst saysProp 20 will cost “tens of millions of dollars” every year, which could force draconian cuts torehabilitation in prison for people getting out, mental health programs, schools, healthcare,housing, and support for survivors. Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen and ContraCosta County District Attorney Diana Becton have publicly opposed the measure.
O’Malley also said she would publicly support Prop 17, which will amend the CaliforniaConstitution so that Californians who have completed their prison term can fully participate inour democracy by restoring their right to vote. Nearly 50,000 Californians who have returnedhome from prison are barred from voting even though they are raising families, holding jobs,paying taxes, and contributing to society in every other way.
“We urge DA O’Malley to speak up against Prop 20, which unfairly punishes Black and Latinxpeople, and that other DAs will follow O’Malley’s lead,” said Ali Birts, organizer with All of Us orNone and the Justice Reinvestment Coalition said. “Her support of Prop 17 signals herwillingness to make sure people are not shut out of our democracy.”
The Justice Reinvestment Coalition of Alameda County is committed to creating a fair and justpublic safety system based on effective practices that invest in our communities, our families,and our people.
Responding to calls from advocates, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley changes internal immigration policy that put immigrant communities at risk of double punishment
Policy encouraged prosecutors to seek longer jail or probation time in exchange for an immigration neutral plea deal
OAKLAND, CA – Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley has agreed to immediately suspend her office’s current immigration policy that allowed prosecutors to seek longer jail or probation time in exchange for an immigration neutral plea deal. DA O’Malley agreed to do so
in a meeting with representatives from more than half a dozen social justice and civil rights organizations on Friday, March 27.
“As the gatekeepers to the criminal legal system, prosecutors have tremendous influence overwho enters, who leaves, and how long they stay,” said E.J. Pavia, lead organizer at Urban PeaceMovement. “During this COVID-19 crisis, it’s critical that District Attorneys do everything intheir power to stop the spread of this virus and protect people inside, staff and ourcommunities.”
In the criminal legal system, immigrant communities suffer the double punishment of immigration detention and deportation following the completion of a jail sentence. In the midst of the COVID-19 public health crisis, advocates met with DA O’Malley to push for the release of people in jails, prisons, and immigrant detention centers as a public health response to avoid the disastrous consequences of massive, uncontained spread to people who are incarcerated. Advocates pointed out the unjustness of her policy, which required immigrants to serve additional time in jails in prisons.
The policy, which was last updated on July 26, 2017 stated (emphasis added):
“If the consideration of collateral consequences is deemed appropriate and some mitigating modification of an offered plea agreement is suggested, it is also appropriate to require some form of concession by the defendant (to make the resolution roughly equivalent to an offer made to a U.S citizen). Examples would include more custody time or a longer period of probation. Given the complexity and evolving nature of immigration law, it is difficult for any individual prosecutor to determine the truth of defense assertions regarding potential collateral consequences. It can be assumed, however, that if a defendant is willing to endure a more onerous sentence in return for a modification of the offered plea agreement, then the feared consequences are authentic.”
“Even in the midst of these difficult times, this change reflects what is possible when organizers come together with a shared commitment to public health and safety in our communities,” said Sandy Valenciano, campaign strategist with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.
Organizations working on this issue are: Urban Peace Movement, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Justice Reinvestment Coalition Alameda County, Ella Baker Center, Causa Justa Just Cause, ACLU of Northern California, East Bay Community Law Center, Restore Oakland, Human Impact Partners and Faith in Action – East Bay.
Urban Peace Movement led the charge this summer in a “participatory defense“ case supporting a young man named DaJon Ford, a former high school football start from Oakland, who was being held at Santa Rita Jail where he had languished for nearly 4 years awaiting trial in a case where he was charged as an adult for an incident which occurred when he was only 17-years old. DaJon is the cousin of one of UPM’s youth leaders from the Determination Young Black Men’s group.
In June we formed a community support committee and a campaign to urge the DA’s Office that DaJon should be released or returned to the juvenile court system in light of the passage of Prop 57. The practice of transferring youth into adult court disproportionately impacts Black and Brown youth and exposes them to much harsher sentences than they would face in juvenile court.
In November 2016, California’s Prop 57 passed with 77% support for the measure in Alameda County. The proposition prohibits prosecutors from directly filing youth into adult court without having to go through a judge. However, DaJon and 17 other youth currently being held were filed into the adult system before the measure passed. The last offer that DaJon was given almost 3 years ago was a 14-year prison sentence. And, even though he had no prior criminal justice contact, the maximum exposure he had in adult court was upwards of 60 years.
As part of the campaign effort, UPM youth leaders conducted outreach every weekend this summer, and they spoke in churches to inform people about Dajon’s case and about ending the treatment of youth as adults in the criminal justice system. They collected over 1200 signatures on a petition that was submitted to the DA’s office. And, 40 letters of support were submitted to the Judge in the case. And, we held rallies on the steps of the Alameda County courthouse.
After our organizing effort, the DA’s Office came back with an offer to DaJon that allowed for his release and which will give him a pathway to an eventual clean record once he successfully completes probation. He was released just days ago, and now instead of spending 10 more years behind bars he is home and he has the opportunity to be in his little son’s life! DaJon attended the Determination Black Men’s Group last week, and we look forward to supporting him in his transition!!
This effort was made possible by UPM’s youth leaders and by the support of our allies and partners. The campaign followed the methodology of “Participatory Defense” pioneered by our allies in Santa Clara, Silicon Valley De-Bug (who have supported us in this effort). Community pressure made all the difference in this case!! This is an unbelievable first victory that has set the stage for our continued work to stop the practice of treating youth as adults in the criminal justice system!!
It is not enough to just change policies to improve the lives of Oakland’s most vulnerable community members. We must also work to build a culture of peace in the face of violence and structural inequality.
Members of Peace in Action and DetermiNation design and implement projects each year to improve the way that community members relate to one another and to change the cultural norms that govern our communities – including the impact of trauma on our communities.
Past projects have included community events, youth summits, and media messaging campaigns.
“Determined To” was developed by the 2014 DetermiNation cohort to shift the negative stereotypes of young black men. This campaign included a poster series, biographical documentary shorts, and full size ads at popular bus stops throughout Oakland. To learn more, visit: “www.determinationmedia.org”.
“Stop the Killing, Start the Healing” was a messaging campaign created by the 2011-2012 Peace in Action cohort to highlight the impact of gun violence on the young people of Oakland. This poster series depicted UPM youth members holding portraits of loved ones lost to gun violence. The campaign caught the attention of Oakland city staff, who then spread the message of healing throughout Oakland via billboards. To learn more visit: http://bit.ly/1ZORsYP.
UPM youth members worked as part of the Revive Oakland Coalition’s Campaign for Quality Jobs with the redevelopment of the former Oakland Army Base (the coalition is led by EBASE and UPM was a member of the coalition’s Steering Committee).
As background, in summer 2012, our coalition won a landmark Community Jobs Agreement that governs the City of Oakland’s half of the redevelopment project. The Agreement includes local hire, living wage, protections against discrimination for formerly incarcerated job applicants, and the creation of a community based job center. UPM’s youth testified numerous times before City Council about the need for quality jobs and they organized a youth rally called “Swag’n For Justice,” attended by over 300 young people. UPM’s Executive Director served as Chief Spokesperson in negotiations with the City and the developers.
UPM’s participation in the Revive Oakland Coalition allowed youth to assert their voices into the development project. This is especially important because development often happens in a way that fails to consider the impact on young people.
With any new development in Oakland, it is important to pay attention to employment, housing, and environmental issues and how young adults are implicated. We believe that quality jobs equal more opportunities and less violence.
In the fall of 2014, UPM youth members joined the Lift Up Oakland Coalition to help pass Measure FF and raise Oakland’s minimum wage from $9 an hour to $12.25. Measure FF passed with a resounding 81.7% of the vote demonstrating overwhelming support for a fair wage that better reflects the rising cost of living in Oakland. UPM members helped gather signatures, knocked on doors, and hosted their own public awareness rally in the heart of the busy Fruitvale district.
Measure FF gave 48,000 workers a raise and provided paid sick days for an estimated 56,700 workers. While Oakland is becoming a much more attractive destination for tourists and the bourgeoning tech industry, the unequal income gap between newcomers and long time residents is growing. When jobs fail to provide a livable wage, the underground street economy ends up being the only choice to survive. This creates a situation where our city’s most vulnerable residents are exposed to higher rates of violence. Raising the wage for low-income families and increasing economic opportunity is a step toward a more peaceful Oakland community.
Urban Peace Movement (UPM) is on the Steering Committee of a newly formed coalition called the Alameda County Justice Reinvestment Coalition (this newly formed coalition was created when we merged an existing coalition called AC3JR, that worked on AB109 implementation, with a more recently formed Prop 47 implementation table) to advocate for effective local implementation of Prop 47 reclassification and for a Justice Reinvestment Fund for the cost savings from Prop 47, as well as to advocate for changes to the Alameda County juvenile and criminal justice system that move us away from punishment and mass incarceration and toward prevention, investment, and rehabilitation. UPM and other members of the Ala. Co. Justice Reinvestment Coalition have been hosting monthly Prop 47 Service Fairs and have reached 1000 Alameda County Residents so far. The Coalition is also planning a “Justice Reinvestment Summit” to take place in late February to launch our regional policy advocacy strategy.
In spring 2015, UPM joined a coalition of local students, organizers, community members, and faith-based leaders to ensure that local officials use funds from County Measure BB (passed Nov. 2014) to implement a Free Youth Bus program in neighborhoods and schools that are in most need.
UPM youth members helped the coalition win four important demands:
A FREE youth bus pass pilot program,
School-based distribution centers,
Emphasis on low-income students who qualify for free or reduced lunch, and
Universal bus pass usage for school, after school programs, internships, etc.
UPM youth met with members of the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC), made outreach calls to community members, wrote and performed a skit that highlighted the importance of a free youth bus pass program, marched to demand that their voices as students be heard, and helped apply heavy pressure at ACTC meetings.
As the free youth bus pass pilot program moves into the implementation stage, our coalition has a new set of demands for the ACTC:
Utilize remaining $13 million Measure BB funds to expand the free pilot program
Include elementary school children
Oppose using bus pass funds for other projects
Prioritize safety by selecting pilot schools in neglected neighborhoods
Safe routes to school, internships, jobs, and after-school programs are essential for any student to thrive. Expanding free youth bus pass programs to neighborhoods hit hardest by urban violence means increased safety and opportunities for Oakland’s youth.
UPM youth members have been involved in an effort to secure community benefits from a large-scale development currently being proposed in East Oakland. The city, sports teams, and various developers have been in talks to attempt to secure a deal to redevelop the Oakland Coliseum Complex. The location of the Coliseum runs along San Leandro Street between 66th and 73rd Avenues in the heart of East Oakland. A broad based coalition has formed to advocate for community needs such as affordable housing, job quality and access, workers rights, youth services, transit supports, environmental protections, etc. in and around the proposed development.
Urban Peace Movement is the only youth organization currently participating at the coalition strategy table. Some of the other organizations involved include, ACCE, OCO, EBASE, CBE, EBHO, Ala. Co. Building Trades Council, Unite/HERE 2850, SEIU USWW, and others. UPM youth members met with staff from the City of Oakland’s Planning Department and they have testified before Members of the Oakland Planning Commission and the Oakland City Council and worked to inform their peers about the issue. They successfully pushed Planning Department Staff to include language about Community Benefits in the Specific Area Plan which was passed by the Planning Commission and that outlines the parameters for future development on the site. UPM youth pushed for the inclusions of language on a host of issues including but not limited to job access and job quality for local residents, worker retention, ban the box, the inclusion of youth services and youth recreational space, and environmental protections.
UPM is a member of a statewide network led by the Alliance for Boys & Men of Color that is dedicated to improving education, safety, and health outcomes for boys and men of color in California.
For the past four years, UPM staff members have held leadership roles both at the Sons & Brothers Summer Leadership Camp and the Sisters & Brothers at the Capitol policy advocacy days.
Sons & Brothers Camp brings together close to 100 teenage boys and 50 adult allies from 14 cities across California for a weeklong summer camp experience at Sierra Nevada Journeys in Portola, CA.
Youth go through a series of workshops that support their personal growth, leadership, and social, emotional, and physical health and well-being. UPM staff members served on the planning committee, facilitated social justice workshops, and mentored youth in small groups.
Additionally, this coming May, UPM will be hosting a three-day healing and social justice leadership retreat for high opportunity/system involved transitioning-aged young men of color from various organizations in our network through out the State.
The bonds and learning developed at these camps and retreats prepare youth to take action at the state capitol and to become advocates for social justice.