‘Recipe for failure’: Santa Clara County called on to end youth incarceration
Advocates rally outside the juvenile hall in San Jose calling for it to no longer be used to incarcerate youth. Photo by Julia Forrest.

    Raymond Goins spent four years as a teenager inside Santa Clara County Juvenile Hall, where he said he faced conditions that were damaging to his well-being. Goins, along with more than 50 others, rallied in front of that same juvenile hall on Thursday demanding the center no longer be used to incarcerate youth.

    Organizers at the rally claim the facility’s conditions violate a state law passed in 2020 that forced counties to restructure juvenile halls by easing restrictions, addressing racism and working to reduce recidivism rates once they were released. Counties were also tasked with utilizing early intervention strategies to stop youth from becoming incarcerated to begin with—but advocates say Santa Clara County is failing this population.

    Goins, now 42 and a community organizer for Silicon Valley De-Bug, a group that advocates for criminal justice reform, shared his story of being in the system as a teen and how the conditions haven’t improved much since he was incarcerated decades ago.

    “I know how messed up this situation is, and I know my outcome could have been prevented had the system actually worked the way it was designed to work,” Goins told San José Spotlight.

    The law, which went into effect in 2021, closed down California’s state youth prison and transferred responsibility onto counties to manage incarcerated youth.

    Reymundo Armendáriz, executive director of Community Agency for Resources Advocacy and Services in Gilroy, said he worries children who spend their formative years in juvenile hall will only be more susceptible to falling back into the criminal justice system throughout their lives.

    “It’s limited your ability to rehabilitate,” Armendáriz told San José Spotlight.  “We don’t want them conditioned to going back to prison and being a part of that revolving door.”

    Supervisor Otto Lee said he recognizes the need for conditions at juvenile hall to change and that alternative rehabilitation spaces might be a better option to reduce recidivism rates.

    “The stories being shared about the conditions at juvenile hall continue to highlight the need to improve our custodial facilities,” Lee told San José Spotlight. “The William F. James Ranch with its open space, classrooms and recreational facilities, is a far better place for our youth.”

    Analisa Ruiz, policy director for the Young Women’s Freedom Center, said she hopes the county’s juvenile justice subcommittee works to become more inclusive by reaching out to formerly incarcerated individuals to learn how to better serve the vulnerable youth population.

    Goins said unless children receive rehabilitative services, specifically those that deal with trauma, then children who spend time in places like juvenile hall will continue end up back in the system.

    “How do you expect to have kids in the juvenile hall with no rehabilitation efforts… and expect to let them out and have positive results?” Goins said. “It’s a recipe for failure.”

    Contact Julia Forrest at [email protected] or follow @juliaforrest35 on Twitter.

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