Youth detention center,San Francisco Chronicle,San Leandro, California,Prison

If Kids Ran Juvie

February 13, 2017
in Kids

Teenagers spent free time on computers at the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center's Camp Wilmont Sweeney in San Leandro, Calif., in 2011. Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle, via Polaris Suggestions from the people who know juvenile detention best. Every couple of years, California takes a close look at its rules governing juvenile detention centers. In determined bureaucratic fashion, officials convene, debate and ultimately agree on updates to the state regulations covering the facilities that house children. This year, the California Board of State and Community Corrections tried something different: They asked dozens of juveniles who have actually spent time in detention what they thought. 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. The young people’s suggestions ranged from the childishly predictable — I didn’t get the bunk I wanted; the staff always picked on the same kids; they punished us all as a group — to the less expected: more vegetables, more dental care, more programs about drugs and alcohol. Others offered detailed proposals: locking the boxes where they submit grievances; lessons on examples of successful people to emulate; more light and more color in the facilities; more frequent haircuts; driver’s ed; an easier system for sending academic transcripts from school to jail and back; more razors for girls or at least disinfectant to clean them; more group visitation so that entire families can see...

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