For Immediate Release
March 21, 2019
Press Contact: Jessica Nowlan, email@example.com
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