Central to our initiatives in LA is our participation in the larger national #MeTooBehindBars campaign, a coalition of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners. In this coalition, YWFC and a number of current and formerly incarcerated trans, queer and gender-expansive individuals that engages cultural transformation, research, strategic litigation and policy change to address the gender-based and sexual violence against transgender and gender-expansive people in California prisons. The coalition is undertaking a campaign to end CDCR’s use of confidential informants, incarcerated individuals whose testimony is confidentially obtained for the purposes of being used against other incarcerated people. In partnership with YWFC’s SWFC Prison In-Reach Coordinator, the LA team is building with coalition members both inside and outside the California prison system to pursue this work in a number of ways, including acquiring Public Records Act legal training to more effectively obtain access to documents which can highlight the patterns of confidential informants targeting trans and gender-nonconforming folks and policy work building on last year’s work on SB1064, a bill which sought to ban the use of confidential informant testimony without corroborating evidence.
As a part of this work, YWFC LA has developed #MeTooBehindBarsLA to centralize the work we are doing in LA County to understand the depth and impact of gender-based violence on youth navigating multiple systems. Along with YWFC staff, interns, and LA Sister Warriors Freedom Coalition (SWFC) members we’re working on our #MeTooBehindBarsLA Storytelling Project to uncover the stories of youth, and lift up their voices as we work to transform violent systems. Additionally, our team will conduct surveys to gather information on ways youth in LA County have experienced gender-based violence in fostercare and juvenile detention facilities, and facilitate conversations to develop recommendations to addressing the harm and violence faced by cis and trans young women and girls, trans men and boys and gender expansive youth in various systems. These stories and gathered data will inform our organizing initiatives led by our SWFC base and the survivors that share their stories to further build power and create recommendations towards the decarceration and decriminalization of cis and trans young women and girls, trans men and boys and gender expansive people of all ages.
Participatory Defense Hub LA
Alongside our strategy to build power and reinvest in directly impacted people in LA County is our Participatory Defense program, which organizes young people and adults with active court cases and their families to organize court support and advocacy to reduce sentences. YWFC’s Participatory Defense builds a horizontal model in which our base, SWFC, interns, and communities come together with families to share their experiences and expertise to support them advocate on behalf of their loved ones alongside our organizers. Our dedication to building collective power through our internship, SWFC and PD, is all part of our vision that investment of leadership of those most impacted is central to our collective effort to transform systems and institutions. It is through this work that we hope to build a campaign around Governor Gascon’s resentencing directives and further advocate for the early release of eligible cases through our SWFC base on the inside. Through our Participatory Defense strategy, we will be best suited to support family reunification and re-entry.
Shut Down DJJ
YWFC is a part of the call to Shut Down DJJ the right way. We are a part of the Implement SB 823 the Right Way and Transform Youth Justice in CA Strategy workgroup, and we are closely keeping up with any developments from the Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council’s SB 823 subcommittee which is supporting the development of a long-term realignment plan to serve youth at a local level.
This work is a part of our Freedom 2030 goal to end the criminalization and incarceration of cis and trans young women and girls, trans young men and boys, and gender-expansive youth in California by 2030.
It is important to YWFC that DJJ is not replaced by system substitutions that continue the harm of the juvenile delinquency system. We know from our work and our latest report, Through their Eyes, that it is important that these institutions are replaced by community-based alternatives that prioritize the knowledge and expertise of youth who are directly impacted by systems, who know best how to lead us to a safer and freer world.
Ending youth incarceration in Santa Clara County
Launched in November of 2019 in line with our Freedom 2030 goal, this work is focused on ending the incarceration cis and trans young women and girls, trans young men and boys, and gender-expansive youth in Santa Clara. Our diversion methodology closes the doors to each point of entry into the system: initial police interaction, juvenile hall, courts, and through the DA’s office. We are building relationships with these institutions to ensure that young folks are diverted from the system and referred to YWFC to receive the support they need to grow their power, reach self-determination, and liberation.
We know from our work, our Through their Eyes report, and research conducted during the pandemic that crime does not increase when people are released from prison, and a harm-reductive framework is necessary for healing, resilience, and true, radical freedom. We are working with youth to disrupt the juvenile hall to prison pipeline, and provide folks opportunities to thrive and heal.
When Young Moms Thrive and Young Moms United
Parenting while young is hard. System-impacted young moms have even more barriers to accessing resources and support that would enable them to thrive. Our work with When Young Moms Thrive in Santa Clara County and Young Moms United in San Francisco provides advocacy and support for pregnant and parenting moms to gain knowledge and support to interrupt the cycle of violence and trauma they have experienced and to heal in order to create healthier habits and routines as parents. When Young Moms Thrive also provides access to income through an internship that offers competitive pay to support young parents provide for their children.
We believe that in supporting systems-impacted young moms, we also interrupt the cycle of system involvement so that their children have different experiences and opportunities to thrive.