“Youth of color are more likely to be targeted in the school-to-prison pipeline…”
Criminal justice reform has becomes a key issue in the 2020 presidential race, but some National Football League players say the candidates are not addressing the urgent need to transform the youth justice system.
“Our work with young people has made it clear that youth justice reform is critical to tackling mass incarceration and advancing equity,” Carl Davis and Anquan Boldin are quoted in the Des Moines Register in December of 2019.
Davis is a defensive tackle for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Boldin is a former wide receiver. As members of the player’s coalition, both men dedicate their time to working with youth and promoting both social and racial justice.
Davis and Boldin say the future of America requires someone with the vision and courage to transform the youth justice system.
Today more than 2,000,000 people are incarcerated in prison — a stark contrast to the less than 200,000 in the 1970s. According to a 2017 report by Vera Institute of Justice, the rise in the population was largely due to Criminologist John J. Dilulio’s 1995 prediction that there would be an explosion of juvenile super predators.
This prediction caused wide spread panic and caught the attention of then First Lady Hillary Clinton, ushering in a wave of intensified policing and harsher sentencing.
Over the past 20 years Dilulio’s prediction has been largely debunked as a myth. He retracted much of what he said, but a lot of damage was done. States like California locked up thousands of youth—mostly minorities.
“Youth of color are more likely to be targeted in the school-to-prison pipeline and to be punished more severely than their White peers, despite having the same rates of delinquent behavior,” Davis and Bolden wrote in the Register.
Too many youth are often sent to adult court and sentenced to prison where they face abuse, solitary confinement, and over use of restraints.
Davis and Boldin are of the opinion that presidential candidates should commit to reducing youth incarceration and closing youth prisons. They should also encourage, gubernatorial candidates, assembly persons and city councils to get involved.
Candidates should commit to removing young people from adult courts, jails and prisons which increase the likelihood they will re-offend. Federal authorities should also hold states accountable for using harmful practices like solitary confinement, say Davis and Bolden.
They say young people should be set-up for success upon re-entry. Their record should be sealed or expunged. They should be provided educational and employment opportunities, and youth voter registration should be encouraged. Young people and their families should have a seat at the table during policy decisions so they can use their personal experience to help others.
“In our work with children and youth, we have seen firsthand just how much they have to offer their families, their communities, and this nation,” Davis and Boldin are quoted. “It’s a win for all of us when we give them a real shot at success.”