Young Women’s Freedom Center Applauds Plans to Shut Down San Francisco’s Juvenile Hall by 2021

For Immediate Release
March 21, 2019
Press Contact:  Jessica Nowlan,
Young  Women’s Freedom Center Applauds Plans to Shut Down San Francisco’s  Juvenile Hall by 2021
SAN FRANCISCO – The Young Women’s Freedom Center applauds and  supports San Francisco Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Shamann  Walton’s plans to draft legislation to mandate the closure of San  Francisco’s Juvenile Hall by December 2021. The legislation comes after years  of advocate demands for San Francisco to invest in community-based support  for young people and closure of the youth jail.  Supervisors plan to  introduce the legislation in April, with Supervisor Matt Haney as a  co-sponsor.
For over 20 years, the Young Women’s Freedom Center  has been working with young women, girls, and transgender or gender  non-conforming (TGNC) youth in San Francisco who have been  incarcerated in Juvenile Hall and leading community organizing efforts to  demand alternatives to incarceration for youth.   Most of the  organization’s staff were once themselves incarcerated in San Francisco’s  youth jail and know firsthand how this system is failing our young  people. 
Over the last decade, youth crime has steadily decreased, reaching record  lows across the country, including in San Francisco. This has led to a sharp  decline in the number of young people in juvenile hall in San Francisco. “San  Francisco is spending nearly $300k per youth to keep them locked in  cages; can you imagine how we could support youth with those funds?”  says Jessica Nowlan, Executive Director at the Young Women’s Freedom  Center. “California can lead on this issue by no longer caging  kids–and we can start right here in San Francisco.”
“I was incarcerated countless times and spent the majority of my adolescence  in San Francisco’s juvenile hall, largely for probation violations and  awaiting placements. It all started with a shoplifting charge I got at  13.  I was a young woman that had already experienced significant trauma  in my life and what I needed was opportunities, support, and love – which is  was not what I received,” said Nowlan.  “It was finally at a  community-based organization, the Young Women’s Freedom Center, where I found  community and support.  It was the first place where I was told I was  powerful and that I was more than my trauma.  My experience at the  Center transformed my life.  As the Executive Director at Young Women’s  Freedom Center now, I see my own story replayed hundreds of times in the  lives of the young women, girls and TGNC young people that we work with.  Young women with significant trauma and limited opportunities are being  incarcerated- often for excessive amounts of time and for simply trying to  survive.  These young women need our support. It’s time to end this  cycle of incarceration.”
This legislation by the Supervisors would make San Francisco at the forefront  of a statewide effort to transform youth justice systems. “San Francisco has  the chance to become a leader in juvenile justice reform by ending the  practicing of jailing our most low-income and vulnerable children. What our  legislation will do is create a mandate, a timeline, and a real sense of  urgency, so we can achieve this important vision,” said Ronen.
Julia Arroyo, the Youth Detention and Reentry Director at the Young Women’s  Freedom Center said “There are kids sitting in San Francisco’s Juvenile hall  who are awaiting placements or for someone to take custody of them.   This is what happened to me when I was a young person in San Francisco’s  Juvenile hall, and I see the same thing today.”
In December 2018, for example, there were 40 children detained in the Hall,  filling only 27% of its 150 beds. 30 percent of these children were held on a  misdemeanor offense. In YWFC’s own research on  justice-involved young people in San Francisco which was released last month,  young people entered the juvenile justice system from 3 central pathways –  school, foster care, or survival crimes.  

Throughout the last decade, even as the number of young people in Juvenile  Hall has shrunk, the budget for juvenile hall has remained steady.
The proposed legislation would:
 1)    Mandate that the Board of Supervisors close Juvenile  Hall at 375 Woodside by December 2021, and instead develop a) an expanded  array of alternatives to incarceration and b) create a small, rehabilitative  non-institutional center for the small minority of young people who cannot  safely be released into the community.
 2)    Create a working group made up city agencies and  community representatives that will meet regularly to increase existing  community-based services, design a new model for youth who must be detained  per state law, and reassign the workforce that currently staffs the juvenile  hall.
 3)    Report regularly to the Board of Supervisors and the  Mayor on progress towards meeting the December 2021 closure mandate.

 See the article in the San Francisco Chronicle to Learn  More