The End Of Juvenile Prison With Nell Bernstein

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In the book Burning Down the House, author and journalist Nell Bernstein discusses the unfairness and harm done by childhood incarceration. Throughout the book, she talks with young people involved in system, exploring how it has impacted their development; and that’s what she did in-person at Youth Radio earlier this month.

In her first book signing in the Bay Area, Bernstein sat down with Youth Radio’s Brett Myers and two teens who shared their experiences in juvenile detention.

De’Markus grew up in East Oakland, an area associated with high levels of incarceration. “I grew up in an environment where either someone is either in jail or going to jail,” he said. Bernstein says that although 90% of all Americans have committed a crime, African Americans are more likely to get caught.

Jason, who deejays at Youth Radio, shared how he struggled to adapt to solitary confinement. Eventually, someone helped him transfer to Camp Sweeney, a less restrictive juvenile facility. “I appreciate people who were willing to help me through that,” Jason said.

Some of the types of people he was talking about were in the room and we got to hear from them when the panel discussion opened to the audience. We heard from juvenile justice activists, a child psychiatrist, and the Juvenile Advisory Council in San Francisco. Throughout the conversation we heard different experiences and opinions on youth, racial profiling and the “archaic” state of our prison system, with many on stage and in the audience arguing for reforms and even doing away with juvenile incarceration all together.

This event was part of Youth Radio’s ongoing juvenile justice coverage. Earlier this year, Youth Radio Juvenile Justice Desk released, “Double Charged: The True Cost of Juvenile Justice”, a four part investigation into the costs incurred by families and youth involved in the juvenile justice system.

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