Don’t buy into the Hype, closing Juvenile Hall isn’t Right

Three members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors vowed to close San Francisco’s Juvenile Justice Center “Hours” after reading, a San Francisco Chronicle series titled, “Vanishing Violence.”

The Chronicle’s two-part series should have simply celebrated the fact, young people are committing a lot less violence. But the report twisted state data into a disingenuous and distorted excuse for non-experts at City Hall to magically turn into juvenile justice reform experts.

As slow as governments operate in general, how and why, did San Francisco lawmakers act so quickly (2 months) to pass legislation to close The City’s juvenile hall by the end of 2021?

Photo: SF Chronicle — SF Board of Supervisors Matt Haney, Shamann Walton, Hillary Ronen

Answer: 1. They used the ole White puppeteers’ political playbook that historically has treated Blacks as, inanimate objects. 2. Best described in a Letters to the Editor dated March 31, 2019, where someone acting quicker than the supervisors, has already measured drapes for the facility turned into a “Homeless shelter.”

I support alternatives to incarceration, mainly because it is never a good idea to have juveniles who commit lower level crimes to be housed with violent juveniles who might need longer to turn from evil. But I have witnessed rival gang members share a Bible. And I’ve witnessed a teenage murderer help a teenage drug dealer learn how to read.

I describe the actions of the supervisors vote to shut down the juvenile hall as a skydiving stunt where the skydiver tosses his/her parachute out of the plane first, and then jumps out after it.

Photo: SF Chronicle — SF City Hall rally to close down the SF Juvenile Justice Center

And the promise, of promising something better for our troubled youth is laughable, in an I’m not buying that sort of way. What Black San Franciscan, other than the one co-sponsors of this legislation, is gullible enough to fall for that San Francisco trick again? Most of the juvenile delinquents affected by this knee-jerk legislation will be young Black teenagers.

Part 1 of the SF Chronicle’s Vanishing Violence series highlighted the fact, violence perpetrated by juveniles has drastically reduced in recent years throughout the state of California, to the surprise of all experts who follow juvenile justice.

Part 2 revealed that the effect of this less crime by juveniles has caused cost to skyrocket.

I admit to having my own knee-jerk response to reading the series. I even demanded the SF Chronicle correct the figures to reflect my equally bad math. Silly me.

But then I got a little direction from one of the authors of the Vanishing Violence report. Subsequently, I called the state agency, which did verify the figures. But I also received more helpful direction in getting to the bottom of what I saw as deliberate effort to sway the public’s opinion.

It appears, investigating journalism reporters working for the Chronicle manipulated data that easily tricked some naïve, gullible and self-serving San Francisco elected officials.

San Francisco Juvenile Probation Chief Allen Nance encouraged me to look at the annual report and provided the link.

According to Mr. Nance, “…the county’s investment in juvenile justice goes beyond the Juvenile Probation Department. This analysis should include the Police, District Attorney, Public Defender, Conflicts Attorney’s, Judiciary, Public Health, School District, and Community agencies.” All these services cost approximately, $41,000,000. in the year 2018.

So, instead of singling out the cost to house one individual at juvenile hall, per year, we should consider what the entire $41 million budget was designed to do: prevent juveniles from touching the doors of our Juvenile Justice Center in the first place. Common sense says some will fall through the crack and wind up at the hall.

Dividing the $41 million total budget by the number 5,000 (the number of 10 to 18-year-olds reached through all county youth government services) equals $8,200.00 per youth per year. BUT… the direct $12 million(Page 15) divided by the 5000 served youths equals $2,400.00 per youth per year. If we on average, have 40 youth per day housed at the facility, the cost of “$374,000” per year per youth who happened to fall through the crack, if you will, seems high. But who are those youth who are most likely to be housed at juvenile hall (fall through the crack)?

Ask Supervisor Hillary Ronen, the lead sponsor of this legislation, where she would place a teenager who runs over a police officer with a stolen car?

Ask Supervisor Matt Haney a co-sponsor on the legislation where he would place a teenager who robs and shoots a tourist in the back?

Ask Supervisor Shamann Walton where he would house a teenager who murdered his adoptive parents by beating them to death with a baseball bat?

Or ask the other supervisors who voted to close juvenile hall where they would place a 17-year-old who shot his sister in the face 5 times in an honor killing that received approval from his parents?

I can’t say where these; now men, are today, but as teens they did show juvenile hall staff and volunteers’ appreciation when they were at the hall.

One statement made by Supervisor Hillary Ronen read in part, “… the rising cost of juvenile incarceration is unacceptable. If the same math used in the Vanishing Violence series was applied to the net being built on the Golden Gate Bridge, we would be spending $5,275,000 per person, per year to prevent some from jumping off the bridge. Is that cost “Unacceptable”? The Juvenile Justice Center should be viewed as our Golden Gate Bridge net. But this net does have a hole that needs repairing.

In February of 2018, the San Francisco Juvenile Justice Center had a Black History program for ten Black girls housed at the facility at the time. Nineteen women from outside of the facility came up to help and participate in the program. Of the 19, eighteen of the women were White. How did this happen? The program director for the facility is White, and all the programs for the mostly minority youth are conducted by White people.

Earlier this year, there were two teens held at the hall charged with manufacturing firearms. But the most challenging programs at the facility for these sophisticated youth is making papier-mache. What are the chances these two young men got together and said something like, “When I get out of here, no more gun making for me”?

I recall members of the 2018 SF Board of Supervisors crying in chambers over a recent shooting that they had denounced. This was followed up a few months later by San Francisco receiving a $185 million windfall. While members of the board went back and forth on how best to spend the funds, they even added another $52 million to satisfy all 11 members priorities. But not one dollar was added to a gun buyback program.

Deandre Lejon Gantt was released from the San Francisco Juvenile Justice Center with his diploma in March 2019. He was re-arrested July 2019 as the shooter in a Tanforan Shopping Mall shooting. It should be noted, 18-year-old Gantt had a 14-year-old with him, during his arrest and the shooting resulted in a total of 4 San Francisco teens once housed at San Francisco’s juvenile hall are now sitting in the San Mateo County youth detention center.

Gantt is facing an “Attempted murder” charge. Suppose young Mr. Gantt knew he could sale his guns in a gun buyback program, giving him a real reason to go to Tanforan Shopping Mall?

July 8, 2019, a Black 15-year-old named Day’von Hann was gunned down on 24th and Capp Street in the Mission. A year ago, he handed out hundreds of flyers as a youth outreach worker for the annual United Playaz’ gun buy-back program.

Photo: Krystal Morales — Day’von Hann during a field trip with United Playaz.

In reading of Hann’s death, I recall, the Chronicle’s Vanishing Violence series told an inspiring story of someone who currently works for the organization, United Playaz’. He too was worked at this organization.

Then I did a little math: I took the Gantt story and added the Hann story and it equals a new piece of legislation for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to act on.

If the San Francisco Board of Supervisors are tired of gun violence, instead of looking to Congress for stronger gun laws, pass a law that prohibits the filming of any Hollywood type gun scenes in the City and County of San Francisco, and name the legislation after Day’von Hann. If the Board of Supervisors thinks that this idea might be too costly because movie crews will just go elsewhere to film their gun movies, then we will know just how much, is too much to spend on our young people.

Regardless of what the SF Board of Supervisors promise on housing our most troubled youth after 2021, the great Stevie Wonder has already warned us all about promises by politicians: “You Haven’t Done Nothin’.”

1983 to 1993 Bible Study teacher at SF juvenile hall. Currently prison reform activist and author of Case Game - Activating the Activist; an autobiography.

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