Our $75 Million Question and Youth Uprising’s Better Vision for Serving Justice Involved Youth

If you had $75 million to spend on the people in your community, how would you spend it? What type of services would help the youth thrive? How could our people benefit?

Would you spend $75 million on a shiny new juvenile probation camp with 100 or so beds for young people, when the place is pretty much empty now, with only 15 beds? Is that really the best way for the community to benefit from that money? A budget is a statement of what you value. What does a $75 million juvenile hall line item say about our values in Alameda County? Why don’t we have more alternatives to incarceration?

On last Thursday night, Urban Peace Movement and a coalition of advocacy organizations called the Justice Reinvestment Coalition of Alameda County held a town hall to talk about Camp Sweeney and how to oppose its $75 million retrofit of Camp Sweeney that organizers said has been in the works for 15 years. 

We heard from incarcerated youth about what it was like to live there, and how it keeps the school-to-prison pipeline moving. We talked about our local county elected officials, and who the county sheriff’s office and district attorney answer to. 

After a moment of silence and acknowledgement that we are on Ohlone land, the more than 100 people in the room were divided into three groups for an activity called “All About the Benjamins.” Each group was given $25 million to spend how they saw fit — what did the community need, what should be prioritized instead of a new juvenile incarceration facility?

Pieces of butcher paper were hung around the room with sections to add money like “mental health,” “therapy/behavior services,” “recreation” and “family supports.” 

Our group was a mix of young people of color and older community supporters, about 20 people in total. They had some great and interesting ideas on how to spend that $25 mil. Here are a few: 

  • Housing, especially for transitioning youth
  • Street Soldiers and other services where providers are from the community and understand the situation and trauma
  • Village resource center with health, food and other services
  • Instead of counting prison beds for 3rd graders who can’t read, directing resources to their families

What do you think? Village resource center for the community to benefit; or a brand spanking new juvenile incarceration camp. The choice really is ours. 

And that Choice says a lot about us.

Take a look at this interview with Robert Paige of Urban Peace Movement describing the work ahead.

What do you think?

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