October 15, 2006
Ben Wadinsky 215-888-1006 c.
Jakada Imani, 510-435-3256 c.
Expanding Movement To Reform California’s Youth Prisons Nails Governor For Failing To Deliver
“Books Not Bars” Southern CA Conference And Protest
Mobilizes Families In Calling Schwarzenegger To Task
Los Angeles, CA - As campaign gears turn, families of incarcerated youth statewide are outraged at Gov. Schwarzenegger’s abandoning their children, letting them down with broken promises as “the action Governor” for reforming juvenile prisons; a wildly costly, mismanaged and abusive system.
Books Not Bars, the state’s leading advocacy group for juvenile jail reform, is coming to Los Angeles this weekend to unite families from north and southern California in a well-attended conference Sunday and passionate protest rally asking the Governor to step up Monday. It will be capped by a well-informed press conference. “21 months ago, Governor Schwarzenegger declared himself ‘The Action Governor’ on juvenile justice,” said Jakada Imani, Director of the Books Not Bars campaign, “Here we stand, almost two years later – more deaths, no action, and a system that is still broken. The action Governor is missing in action.”
Books Not Bars supports the work of State Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero who authored 3 bills spearheading reform, which the Gov vetoed in September. Her challenge to the Governor, “I just left a committee hearing on education – and how much funding it will get. We need to get back to worrying about education and not about incarceration. We need to fix this system.”
Parents pointedly criticize the Governor for his failure to call or reach out to any parents whose children have died in the system. Mother Hilda Rodriguez’s son attempted suicide in jail on Mother’s Day. “They called to tell me he’d tried, but they wouldn’t let me visit. They wouldn’t let me speak to him. His own mother – and they shut me out.” The average parent drives three hours to visit their kids.
Books Not Bars’ goal is for complete overhaul resembling rehabilitation models undertaken successfully in other states; California is lagging behind, and the cost to the children is great. Taxpayers feel the cost, too. The California Department of Juvenile Justice is one of the nation’s most expensive, least effective systems:
- 75% recidivism rate.
- 9,000 per child per year.
- Rampant abuse, including a notorious beating of several youth by DJJ guards.
- Heads of the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation resigned in February 2006, citing the lack of political will for reform as their reason for stepping down.
WHAT: Rally, Protest and Press Conference
WHERE: Gov. Schwarzenegger Campaign Office, 3314 Livonia Avenue, Los Angeles 90034
WHEN: Sunday, Oct. 15 ALL DAY Panel and Conference; call to schedule interviews
Monday, Oct. 16 10:30 am Rally and Protest, 11 am PRESS CONFERENCE
WHO: Families of Incarcerated Youth, Representative of Congresswoman Maxine Water’s office, Advocates
Books Not Bars is caravanning from Oakland, CA with Bay Area families of incarcerated youth for a panel-format conference with prison reform leaders from around the United States. Books Not Bars family memberships are doubling annually, with more than half of new members from Los Angeles.
“The Governor told us that ‘this would not just be dialogue, this would be action,” says Imani. “Now we’re here, at the Governor’s door, demanding change. Its time.”
Books Not Bars staff, as well as “Families for Books Not Bars” members with kids in the system will be available for interviews. ###