From Lock Up to Leaders: Formerly Incarcerated Youth Help Direct Juvenile Justice Policy in California
Date:  03-02-2017

Bringing to the table people who were or are closest to the issue of incarceration is a crucial step toward creating effective policies
This article originally appeared in The Chronicle of Social Change:

When Juan Gomez first arrived at a notorious California youth prison in rural Amador County at the age of 16, he remembers an acute sense of powerlessness.

Guards at the Preston Youth Correctional Facility patrolled the grounds with impunity, meting out beatings and macings to the youth locked up there.

Gomez, now 34, remembers cold, hungry nights in the dungeon-like Tamarack Hall, the high-security wing at Preston where many detainees spent 23 hours a day in solitary confinement or kept in metal cages. Grievances filed by youth at Preston went mostly unanswered.

The distance between Gomez and his captors felt vast. Guards monitored their young charges from atop a tower, hidden by a shield of dark Plexiglass. “You couldn’t really see inside,” Gomez said. “You had no idea what would happen because they had all the power.”

Although Preston was shuttered in 2011, California’s juvenile justice system is still in need of reform. Gomez is planning on making his voice Starting this year, he’ll be working at one of the highest levels of California state government, with a seat on the State Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (SACJJDP). Continue reading >>>