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In this issue:

California allies convene to keep youth out of the adult system

Town hall” brings changemakers from across state to dismantle Prop 21

Community organizers discuss their efforts to reform Proposition 21

On March 4, community leaders and advocates from around the state convened to begin building a movement to dismantle Proposition 21, an initiative passed by California voters in 2000 that significantly expanded the number of youth prosecuted in adult criminal court. The town hall, hosted in Oakland by Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ) and the California Alliance for Youth and Community Justice, featured a diverse and inspirational array of speakers, including panels focused on community organizing, crimmigration,” data and research, and moving hearts and minds.

Community organizers, many of whom have been fighting Proposition 21 since it first appeared on the ballot, spoke of the need to have youth at the forefront of the movement. They talked about cycles of violence — through which hurt people hurt people — and the importance of creating community spaces where our children can heal, instead of locking them away.

Representatives from CJCJ, the National Center on Youth Law, and W. Haywood Burns Institute participated on a panel addressing policy and research on youth transferred to adult court. Panelists presented statistics on racial disparities and justice by geography,” and discussed current legislative efforts to expand data collection and reduce the transfer of youth to adult courts. 

Read more about the consequences of Proposition 21 »

CJCJ testifies on the consequences of a felony conviction

Proposed legislation would help defendants make more informed decisions

CJCJ’s Lizzie Buchen giving testimony on AB 267

CJCJ clients who receive criminal justice services know first-hand the serious consequences associated with a felony record, including difficulties finding employment and housing, loss of professional licenses, consequences for child custody, and many more. 

At least, they understand those consequences now. Many of our clients accepted a plea deal, waiving their right to a trial and pleading guilty in exchange for reduced direct punishments. Unfortunately, it’s safe to say that the vast majority of them did not fully understand the severity of the consequences that would flow from that guilty plea, and that will follow them for the rest of their lives.

On March 24, CJCJ’s Policy and Communications Analyst Lizzie Buchen testified before the Assembly Committee on Public Safety in support of AB 267 (Jones-Sawyer), which would require the court to inform defendants of the consequences of a felony conviction before they accept a plea bargain. 

Many of our clients plead guilty simply to get out of jail. Too poor to post bail, they are held pre-trial and are eager to reunite with their families and return to their jobs. When offered a plea deal that will allow them to do so and are uninformed of the lifelong consequences, it can seem like a reasonable decision — but unfortunately, it’s usually a very poorly informed one.

While many people would have still plead guilty even if they had fully appreciated the consequences of the conviction, some of them may not have taken the plea, and would have chosen to have their day in court. Others may have worked to secure a different plea offer that avoided certain consequences. People charged with crimes need to understand the full picture of what may occur as a result of any guilty plea so they can weigh the costs and benefits when making this significant decision. 

CJCJ program pairs college students with youth in Juvenile Hall 

Students at San Francisco State train to mentor and support detained youth

San Francisco State University students participating in CJCJ’s Youth Justice Mentoring Program

CJCJ’s Youth Justice Mentoring Program connects volunteer mentors with detained youth who do not typically receive visits during visiting hours. Mentors help youth gain new life skills, teach them how to set and achieve goals, and and support them in gaining insight into their current life situations.

On March 23, 17 new mentors from San Francisco State University, many who are interested in careers supporting youth, began their three-day orientation with CJCJ staff, where they learned to facilitate validated needs/​strengths assessments, develop treatment plans, and provide support during detention and upon release.