Claudine Constant, director of public policy advocacy for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, said she wears earrings whenever she is in a public space for work.
A pair says, “No one wants to be poor.”
“Why do we live in a society that continues to criminalize poverty? Constant asked during a Connecticut Justice Alliance press briefing this week. “Why do we live in a society that continues to criminalize situations that no one wants to be in? »
This week’s briefing was part of the alliance’s relaunch of its “Invest In Me” campaign, which aims to reduce the number of young people involved in the criminal justice system by tackling the root causes of the criminalization of young people, in parallel with the week of June 19.
The alliance works to end the criminalization of young people, who are often disproportionately young people of color.
CTJA staff spoke about the results uncovered by examining the past few years of economic impact on communities during their previous Vision sessions, as well as the release of the addendum to their 2020 report, “Ending the Criminalization of young people: one investment at a time”.
Legal counsel Tenille Bonilla said the new findings include three themes that continued to come to light during their Vision sessions. Findings showed that the legislature and the media have created a narrative that young people are the cause of increased crime since the COVID-19 pandemic in the state, a societal disconnect between what young people of color need and what motivates their actions, and an overreliance on the police to maintain order, especially in black and brown communities. Tying the three themes together is that they are rooted in a systemically racist system that young people of color are forced to navigate on a daily basis, Bonilla said.
“We have noticed the importance of everyone needing to acknowledge and address the racial inequity evident in our system. (This) very inequity can be helped with the right people placed in appropriate community spaces, in order to away from over-reliance on the police and inappropriate circumstances,” she said.
Facilitated by CTJA’s team of Justice Advisors, Vision Sessions held with youth, families, communities and stakeholders are raw and transparent conversations about a variety of topics that they believe contribute to the criminalization of youth. These conversations help the organization determine how to do its work to achieve its mission of ending the criminalization of youth by addressing contributing root causes, such as communities struggling with life instabilities (financial or housing) , single-parent homes, incarcerated parents, trauma, generational trauma, and lack of role models and service referrals. Many pointed out that these children often have special educational needs, according to their report.
Five things you need to know
We provide the latest coronavirus coverage in Connecticut every weekday morning.
Jordan Wilson, associate of CTJA Community Connections, said it’s important to have these critical conversations about the factors that steer young people, often of color, into the justice system.
“As an organization, we recognize that having conversations … with the very entities that lead (youth to the justice system) there, as well as the very people who have been in these difficult situations, is so important when it comes to transforming politics here in Connecticut. We believe youth, families and communities deserve a place at the table in conversations about youth legal reform, nothing about us without us,” Wilson said.
“We need people to dig deep into our societies and make a connection between what young people need and what drives them to take certain actions,” she said. “(We need to) make the connection between young people who need a place to sleep and the choice of cars to be that place. We need to address the connection we have with trauma.
CTJA said in its report during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the needs of young people and the community were not met, unrest was the result. The pandemic has increased the needs that already existed in marginalized communities.
CTJA Executive Director Christina Quaranta said when the state enters another legislative session, the focus should not be on investing in the police, incarceration or the prison state that causes more trauma and damage to marginalized communities, but about why certain things happen.
“We want economic security, healed communities. We want to build trust, we want credible messengers, we want housing security. We want hope, we want equal opportunity, and we demand that Connecticut and the state legislature get to the root (the causes of youth behavior),” Quaranta said. “If we don’t invest in young people, if we don’t invest in families, if we don’t invest in communities, we are doing the wrong thing. We are making the wrong choice.