JUVENILE LIFE INCARCERATION- smallasaGIANT

smallasaGIANT.jpgOver the last 9 years in writing about the purposeful failure to educate predominantly Latino and African American children in our yet segregated public school districts like the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), one of the greatest casualties I have documented that often goes unappreciated, when these predominantly minority children are turned loose on society without even rudimentary educational formation, is the clearly resulting reality that "every year across the country, an estimated 200,000 youth are tried, sentenced or incarcerated as adults," which more often then not leads to a life buried in the criminal justice system.

What award-winning conceptual artist Ise Lyfe and the smallasaGIANT organization he started seek to do is make the public more aware of facts like, "For every 1 White youth there are 4.5 Latino youth and 11.6 Black youth facing prosecution as adults in our courts." Why? Because in 46 of our 50 States, judges have the power to waive juvenile offenders into adult court, so you wind up with all too typical criminal cases like that of Joseph Davidson, who was sentenced at 14 years of age to a sentence of 19 years to life.

"More than 6500 youth in California prisons were under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes; some as young as 14." But what makes this dystopian juvenile justice system all the more outrageous is the fact that of the 76 thousand juveniles in adult courts, 83% of them are in court for non-violent offenses. So why not develop a more timely and much less expensive and pragmatic series of truly juvenile justice programs based on an education model they never received in school? Or other skill additive diversions at a fraction of the lifetime cost of incarceration. Routinely convicted youth rather wind up initially jailed in juvenile facilities only to be transferred to adult prisons, where they are abused and further isolated from any chance of becoming productive member of society.

On Thursday, July 26th smallasagiant made a presentation and photo exhibit that will travel to 7 different locations in California throughout 2019 showing the photographs of 30-50 young people sentenced to 20 or more years in prison when they were under the age of 18. While one would hope that this would humanize and personalize the unjust plight of these predominantly minority youth, left to rapidly age in the criminal justice system, I think something more has to be done.

When Dr. King wanted to address a segregated public bus system requiring African Americans to go to the back of the bus in 1955-56 in Selma and Montgomery, Alabama, he found that a boycott that would have bankrupted the bus system was the most effective way to do it. Bankruptcy trumped racism.

If African American, Latino, and White churches, mosques, and synagogues want to cut off the supply of minority children to the prison industrial complex that Ava DuVernay so aptly describes in her recent film 13th, the purposefully inferior and yet segregated public schools like LAUSD that continue unabated to feed the prisons must be boycotted until they actual start to educate all students in a timely and appropriate manner. No educated students, no money from the state and federal government- now you've got their attention.

There are thousands of retired teachers who would gladly work to reconstitute classes in these churches, mosques, and synagogues until the main purpose of public education was finally shifted back to education of all students from its present undisclosed sole purpose of obscene vendor profits to the exclusion of any real educational function, while "preparing" the next generation of the incarcerated for our corporate- for profit- run prison system that will always need a fresh supply of slave labor.

Once smallasaGIANT hits a brick wall in advocating on behalf of unjustly incarcerated youth that is making a whole lot of corporations rich at these kids expense, one can only hope that they will learn Dr. King's history lesson from the Montgomery-Selma Bus Boycott and apply it to the schools and prisons.

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