As I was leaving juvenile hall after my first time there, I remember one of the guards saying to me with all the confidence in the world: “Trust me, I’ll see you again soon.”
He was right. I was sent to San Francisco’s juvenile hall, called the Youth Guidance Center, four times for sentences lasting anywhere from two weeks to two months. I was living without my parents at the time, so I did things to make money to survive. Instead of rehabilitating me, juvenile hall only made me feel less in control of my life.
It’s a system that shouldn’t exist, and it’s time to abolish it. Juvenile hall is a relic of the past: kids, mostly young people of color, ripped from their families and communities and put behind bars because the government can’t figure out what else to do with us. San Francisco alone is spending $300,000 every year for each young person locked up at juvenile hall, and for what? My experience in juvenile hall, and from working with others who spent time there, has taught me how wasteful it is to spend so much on incarcerating kids. It’s money that could be spent on programs and other efforts that actually help young people find a place and a voice in the world, instead of ruining their lives.