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In April, Supervisors Shamann Walton, Hillary Ronen, and Matt Haney introduced innovative legislation to close San Francisco’s juvenile hall by 2021 in favor of rehabilitative alternatives. This Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed the legislation with a 10 to 1 vote. The planned closure acknowledges that juvenile facilities, which traumatize youth by removing them from their homes and limiting contact with support systems, fail to provide the support our youth need for future success.

Panel discussion on closure of San Francisco’s juvenile hall at Manny’s.

The legislation followed an investigation by the San Francisco Chronicle, which exposed plummeting youth arrest rates coupled with skyrocketing costs of youth confinement across the state. San Francisco is no exception to the statewide trend. In December 2018, there were only 40 youth in the county’s juvenile hall, leaving over 70 percent of the beds vacant and the cost per youth nearing $266,000 annually.

CJCJ is a strong supporter of the legislation, which was developed with the input of community-based service providers. The community-based programs in San Francisco have a demonstrated record of success and could meet the needs of the few youth held at the juvenile hall.

During an evening at Manny’s, a local cafe committed to creating space for civic engagement, Supervisor Shamann Walton and CJCJ Executive Director Daniel Macallair discussed the proposed closure of juvenile hall. Walton went into detail about his legislation and shared his own experience being confined as a youth in Bay Area juvenile halls:

You learn how to tolerate being oppressed so you can prepare for the next level of incarceration,” he told the crowd.

Macallair unraveled the history of juvenile justice in San Francisco and the circumstances that led to modern initiatives surrounding juvenile justice:

This debate about who belongs in juvenile hall and who doesn’t belong in juvenile hall has been going on forever,” said Macallair. We’ve literally spent millions of dollars analyzing it and coming to all the same conclusions: if we simply expand the range of services outside of the juvenile hall and invest money in what kids actually need, they don’t have to put them in juvenile hall.”

During a Q&A portion of the event, Macallair and Walton were joined by Denise Coleman, Director of Youth Justice at Huckleberry Youth Services, and Patricia Lee, Managing Attorney for the Juvenile Division of the Public Defender’s Office. The juvenile justice reform leaders examined the inherently harmful nature of youth confinement, led a captivating discussion on alternatives, and highlighted the critical importance of diversion.

Watch the full live stream of the event here.

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