Monday, February 4, 2013

Get Tough or Get Smart? Guest Post by Felix Lucero

On February 2nd a panel explored the theme of juvenile justice, from a brief history of reform schools to the over 10,000 adolescents incarcerated in the California Youth Authority by the mid-90’s.  The theme, Get Tough or Get Smart, explored child brain development, socioeconomic background, environmental stressors along with factors that increase the possibilities for rehabilitation and detour future criminal conduct by young offenders.  What stood out was the possibility of change by both youth offenders and the institutions that incarcerate them.  Today, less than 900 youth are incarcerated in CYA and more counties are using restorative justice models to address youth crime.  Innovative programs like the Huckleberry Community Assessment and Referral Center in San Francisco evaluate individual needs of youth offenders and offer solutions that reduce recidivism rates and strengthen the ties between the child and the community.  As a former youth offender and one of the panelists, I can say that I made a rational decision in an irrational situation.  Youth crime and poverty are parallel functions of society; it doesn’t excuse criminal conduct but at the very least we should recognize the transitory qualities of youth and make every effort to correct mal behavior rather than just punish.


Felix Lucero is an activist working in numerous self-help and community service programs, and a former youth offender.

Dan Macallair, mentioned in the panel, will also speak at our upcoming California Correctional Crisis: Realignment and Reform conference, March 21-22, at the State Building.

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