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Letters to the Editor: Youth prisons are closing. Now, their victims should lead reform efforts

Juvenile inmates stand in line.
Inmates stand in line at the O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility in Stockton.
(Steve Yeater / Associated Press)

To the editor: It is not difficult to see that the California youth justice system does not work as well as it could; some would argue it doesn’t work at all. I have seen firsthand the infectiveness and consequences of the current system and the damage it inflicts on our youth — because I was one of those youth. (“California plans to close troubled youth prisons after 80 years. But what comes next?” Feb. 15)

More difficult than acknowledging a problem, especially in this area, is figuring out what to do about it.

Our goal right now should be to amplify the voices of the people most impacted, and to position them as reform leaders to fix an outdated, unfair and bloated criminal justice system that drains resources and disrupts communities.

James Anderson, Los Angeles

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The writer is co-founder of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition.

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To the editor: As a community organizer who focuses on issues important to Native Americans, I believe that the time has come to close down youth prisons once and for all.

Stories from directly impacted Native American youth have shown that separating minors from their families, and emphasizing punishment and retribution, harms them and their communities. For Native youth, incarceration perpetuates the state’s and country’s enduring history of genocide and oppression, often magnifying the cumulative disadvantages experienced by Native American communities, where poverty and violence affect far too many of our people.

In many instances, youth justice systems — and especially correctional facilities — have become the default response to those whose needs would be more effectively served by the community.

Chrissie Castro, Los Angeles


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