Juvenile Justice Settlement: $1.4M for Local Nonprofits
By Dianne Anderson
Finding Riverside nonprofits that want to get some of the $1.4 million coming each year for the next five years shouldn’t be as hard as it’s been for Corey Jackson as he continues the fight for juvenile justice.
Jackson took the lead last year in a major lawsuit to stop the county from referring youth to the probation program that criminalized students for minor offenses.
Now that the lawsuit is settled and approved by the judge, it’s all about getting the right people in line to implement oversight, and provide good diversion programs to remedy the problem.
He said the first goal is to make nonprofits aware that money is available to create new programs in Riverside County. The next is a push to get school districts to stop allowing children to be arrested.
As part of the settlement, the county must create a way to shift Black and Brown kids into diversion programming rather than voluntary probation, which has trapped so many kids into the school pipeline to prison.
“Instead of law enforcement or a school referring young people to the YAT (Youth Accountability Team) program, we want them to refer to community-based organizations in lieu of formal action by the justice systems,” said Jackson, founder and CEO for Sigma Beta Xi, Inc.
Sigma Beta Xi partnered with the ACLU in the lawsuit against Riverside County’s YAT program to restore constitutional rights to teens who were wrongly targeted.
At this point, the big problem is there are not enough diversion programs to refer young people to, he added. He is calling on nonprofits to come forward with their ideas and proposals. Too often, he said this sort of funding is left on the table because there are not enough organizations applying for it.
Nonprofits can contact SBX Youth and Family Services to learn how they can meet the criteria, and access funding.
“Our focus is finding people throughout the county who are willing to serve, and who look at juvenile justice through a social justice lens,” he said.
Another significant part of implementing the settlement is getting the right people appointed by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors to be on the county’s Juvenile Justice Coordinating Committee, which is staffed by the probation department
The coordinating committee is already in existence, established by law. Going forward, each member of the Board of Supervisors must appoint someone from their district to the committee.
“We have got to come up with a list of people who are willing to serve, and ask them to appoint those people,” Jackson said.
Because of the settlement, they must appoint five additional people that are more representational of the community. Right now, only four community-based organizations are represented on the committee, but bureaucratic representatives make up the majority of the committee.
Individuals who want to apply for to get a seat on the committee must be a resident of Riverside County within their particular district. They can not be an employee of a county agency or a law enforcement agency.
Jackson took up the charge after the ACLU contacted him to ask if he had any students in his programs that had been wrongly swept into the juvenile justice system. It turned out one of their students in the SBX Youth and Family Services mentoring program had been targeted and put into YAT.
From 2005 to 2016, the ACLU reports that over 3,000 youth were placed on probation for minor offenses in Riverside County, disproportionately African American and Latinx students.
Now that the settlement has reached its conclusion, the goal is structure and implementation. As part of the settlement, every young person in the program that never committed a crime will be removed from YAT. Their records will be destroyed.
Jackson’s program serves about 400 Riverside students with mentoring on individual school campuses. They have 20 part-time staff, and set up at 25 campuses, middle schools and high schools.
Along the way, one lesson Jackson says he’s learned through the process is that in many cases, the juvenile justice system is not grounded in research, rather a harmful tradition that criminalizes kids.
“Honestly, our criminal justice and juvenile justice system should be renamed because justice is not really a part of their mission,” he said.
Nonprofits interested in learning more can contact the Riverside Alliance of Boys and Men of Color, or call the offices of SBX Youth and Family Services at 951.247.1700.