The NEN welcomes David Onek’s Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast back to empowersf.
In this podcast, David speaks with James Bell, Executive Director of the W. Haywood Burns Institute, about his work to reduce the overrepresentation of youth of color in the juvenile justice system, the involvement of community members in the reform process, and more.
Bell on Involving the Community in the Reform Process
“Involving the community in a meaningful way is a core value that we have. We believe that you canâ€™t address the overrepresentation of young people of color without engaging people from their communities. What we want to do is bring people from the impacted communities to the table to help folks problem solve. However, we understand why most people donâ€™t do it. Because first you have to have community people, when theyâ€™re invited to the table, to be able to modulate their anger, modulate the fact that they have not been participating, they donâ€™t get much money from the system, and to become a part of the team. That takes a tremendous amount of coaching, of bringing them up to speed on the alphabet soup that stakeholders have, and it is very time and labor intensive. But it is essential for these changes to occur.”
Bell on How a Safe Space is Created for Difficult Discussions About Race
“Thatâ€™s exactly what is needed: a safe space. The first thing that we do, is we make sure that people understand that we are not about finger pointing and that we need a collaboration of people, who have authority and can make decisions about young people of color, to be at the table to cooperate. And, then, the next thing we do is we donâ€™t lead with race; we actually get data and we try to see where it is that kids of color are impacted the most and ask them what policies and procedures do they believe contribute to this impact.”
Bell on Rationally Examining the Juvenile Justice System
“All weâ€™re doing is an examination. Weâ€™re like an internist. You go to the doctor to say, â€˜I think I got a scratchy throat, somethingâ€™s wrong, Iâ€™m not feeling right,â€™ and the doctor goes through a series of questions and looks and asks you about things and measures things to say, â€˜well, this might be happening.â€™ Thatâ€™s what our process is. But what might be happening is the overrepresentation of young people of color, which brings in race, which gets a lot of people irrational. And so what we try to do is be data-based and as rational as possible as we examine, for use of this metaphor, this patient.”
About The Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast
The Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast, a co-production of the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice and the Berkeley School of Journalism, features in-depth, thirty-minute interviews with a wide range of criminal justice leaders: law enforcement officials, policymakers, advocates, service providers, academics and others.
The weekly Podcast, hosted by criminal justice expert David Onek, gets behind the sound bites that far too often dominate the public dialogue about criminal justice, to have detailed, nuanced conversations about criminal justice policy.