On Thursday May 4th, Antioch University Los Angeles Undergraduate Department hosted a special and meaningful workshop on girls and women’s issues within California’s Juvenile Justice system, “Voices of Young Women and Girls in Transition: Where Do We Go From Here?”
Traditionally, the California Juvenile Justice System has operated from a gender specific assumption with a majority of their inmates being boys and young men. Since 1980 though, the female population has grown by a factor of 8, complicated by bias within the system as studies show girls and young women of color are 20% more likely to be remanded to court and jail or prison than other groups.
The workshop had four women panelists, three of which had spent time within the California Juvenile Justice System: Esche′ Jackson, Charity Cole, and Jaki Murillo. These women’s stories highlighted the double standards applied to women by our juvenile justice system, and how the current system ignores the needs of women when they are released.
Ashaki Jackson, the 4th panelists is a social psychologist who studies and works with at risk youth in Southern California and also received her MFA in Poetry at AULA.
The first part of the evening involved the panelists moving stories as girls put into the juvenile justice system for various reasons, one crime as minor as stealing name brand underwear at a pre-teen age, not because the underwear was fancy, but because she could not afford purchasing undergarments at all. Others shared of more serious offences and about their time in the halls, but more importantly, what was available to them as girls and young women for successful transition back into society when they were released, which was very little.
After the women told their stories highlighting the issues of transition, the room broke up into three sections to brain storm solutions for girls and young women’s transition out of juvenile justice systems. The topics addressed for successful transition were: Social Services, Health Services, and Mentorships.
Each table, headed by one of the panel members to facilitate the discussion, derived actionable items to move forward in an effort to assist other girls and young women as they exit the justice system. All tables engaged in rigorous and involved discussions about the best ways to develop and enact ideas and approaches for girls and young women exiting the system.
The evening, exceptional in its attendance, included AULA Undergraduate and graduate students who participated alongside members of InsideOut Writers (working with incarcerated writing students), the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, The Children’s Defense, Five Keys Charter Schools (serving the incarcerated), the LA LGBT Center, and others.
The evening ended with a call for a follow up session to discuss next steps for action.