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 Think not forever of yourselves, O Chiefs, not of your own generation.  Think of continuing generations of our families, think of our grandchildren and of those yet unborn, whose faces are coming from beneath the ground.

-Peacemaker, founder of the Iroquois Confederacy



Youth First -- Turn the Light of Hope Back On

"The gang members in this neighborhood share one thing in common," says East L.A.'s Father Greg Boyle, "The pilot light of hope has gone out, or nearly gone out. You have to give them something so they will plan for their futures and not their funerals." (Little Hoover Commission report) 

Children and young people in California and around the world are faced daily with the trauma of violence in their homes, schools, and communities. Every day, on average, 10 children and young people are killed by gunfire in the U.S. Teenagers are nearly five times more likely to be victims of crime than adults over age 35. In addition, they face a hostile environment of adults who are afraid of young people, particularly young people of color, and who believe that incarceration is the answer to violence. 

On December 5th, the California Supreme Court heard oral arguments about Proposition 21. Proposition 21 is an example of bad policy. Right now the California Supreme Court has a chance to right this wrong. Proposition 21 runs counter to real violence prevention. Among other things, it increases the prosecution of juveniles in adult court and creates harsher sentencing standards. One of the key arguments against the law is the fact that prosecutors are given discretion to charge some juveniles in adult court. Prior to Proposition 21, that decision was made by a judge after a hearing in which both sides presented evidence of the youth's potential for rehabilitation. 

Prosecutors should not decide whether juveniles are tried as adults; they are biased toward harsh prosecution, and they do not have the appropriate professional training to assess youthful offenders' psychological status or ability to reform. 

A decision is due in the next 90 days, and it promises to be a tight vote. We hope the Justices will do the right thing and strike down the law. The Trauma Foundation contributed to a "friend of the court" brief on this matter. Click here to read this brief. 

Violence prevention advocates know that real prevention is not about locking young people up, but rather, it is based in public health and entails investing in children and young people and their families; it is about seeking community-based solutions and providing opportunities that enrich and support the lives of young people. Prevention is about turning the light of hope back on.

 The Little Hoover Commission Report, "Never Too Early, Never Too Late... To Prevent Youth Crime and Violence" points out that it is crucial for us to "improve and fortify community-based and state supported efforts to prevent violence." California needs to be proactive and invest in children and young people from the start. Prevention should be the primary policy for reducing youth crime and violence. 

A real commitment to prevention requires funding and a coordinated and long term involvement in the lives of young people. CA SB 939, which must be moved out of the Senate Appropriations Committee by the end of January, requires the Department of Health Services (DHS) to establish a coordinated violence prevention authority with the following components: 

  • Grant program for community collaborative programs 
  • Fellowship program for community leaders 
  • Academic fellowship program 
  • Public information program 
  • Administer a policy center 
  • Establish the California Youth Leadership Institute 
  • Technical assistance and training 

This bill also creates the Safe Children and Communities Advisory Board. Now more than ever, it is time to put young people and our hope for a peaceful future, first!