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If Kids Ran Juvie

Originally posted on The Marshall Project

The Marshall Project highlights the work of CJCJ and advocacy organizations to prioritize the voices of justice-involved youth in efforts to improve California’s local juvenile facilities. In partnership with The California Endowment, Children’s Defense Fund-California, Pacific Juvenile Defenders Center and the Youth Justice Center, CJCJ created educational materials and a youth survey to increase public participation in improving California’s juvenile halls, camps, and ranches. Learn more about this process and get involved » 

From the article:

In January, at least 75 previously-incarcerated children and their families responded to an online survey asking what they would improve about juvenile detention. The Youth Justice Coalition, an advocacy organization, also organized a focus group of nine youths and submitted their answers.

I would have like[d] to have access to classes that challenged me more. Not all students are struggling academically, but for those who are not, that does not mean that we should not remain stimulated while incarcerated.”

They need socks and to remove the huge gate that they have that closes behind you. It seemed like a real prison. It didn’t seem like what I thought Juvie would be like. I also would like a clock so I could know what time it was.”

I wish there was people that their only job was to help me transfer from the juvenile facility to the outside world like for example school and finding job[s] because I was lost and did not know what to do exactly.”

I would have loved to be able to showcase my poetry at open mic nights or maybe have had us be able to describe our passions and have a moment in the day that was dedicated to researching different avenues to be productive in that field once returned back to the community.”

Culturally rooted programs, critical thinking and life skills offered by formerly incarcerated folks who knew the struggle.”

Place cameras all throughout so they can have proof.”

The hardest part about being locked up was not knowing when I would go home. I didn’t understand the court process and it felt like I could be in there forever and I had no control.”

Anytime I needed anything I had to put my request through a chain of command system which was intended to help me learn delayed gratification. This system unintentionally served to communicate my physical needs were not worthy of being met. This experience served to damage my capacity for self worth. I was denied medication for a skin condition for weeks[.] I was often denied Tylenol for menstrual cramps until an hour after I requested it for severe pain.”

I would change the way young people get access to things. A lot of young people who come from poverty and don’t have a support system outside[,] they go crazy trying to get a cup of noodles. This is the root of a lot of conflict and problems inside.”

Lack of access to the library and [in]ability to take writing materials and books into cells is extreme. Worst part of lock-up to endure for me and many was the boredom and inability to read and write… Made me crazy quickly — within hours my mind would unravel.”

If my home looked like this it would have been ruled unfit for me to return home.”