For Youth Offenders, Newsom Wants to Shift from Incarceration to Education

California Connection
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STOCKTON — Gov. Gavin Newsom says he wants to end how the state currently incarcerates young people.

Newsom visited a youth correctional facility Tuesday in Stockton and visiting youth inmates participating in a job training program.

“I made a mistake and I’m in here for attempted murder,” student Derrick McDougal said.

Now out of their troubled neighborhoods, the students face computer screens to learn how to code.

“I’m trying to basically start, build my own future, you know what I’m saying?” McDougal said. “I gotta have a job and like something positive to do when I get home.”

And those students have a new ally by their side — Gov. Newsom.

“If we’re gonna get serious about changing the trajectory of the lives of these young children, I think we need to do it through a different lens and not the traditional corrections lens,” Newsom said.

In his budget proposal, the governor is suggesting the state shift the Division of Juvenile Justice out from Adult Services to under Health and Human Services.

“And a focus on getting under the hood of what trauma these young children had in the first place that triggered some of the activities, actions and bad decisions that led them here,” Newsom said.

Newsom knows the proposal will be challenged.

“Dogs don’t bark at parked cars,” he said. “I’m not suggesting anything there, I’m just suggesting that change has its enemies.”

The governor did not have an exact figure of how much the change would cost but believes the move could save the state some money. If the legislature approves it, Newsom hopes to begin the transition in July.

“For every child in this system, we’re spending over $300,000 a year,” Newsom said. “I mean, that’s not annual tuition at Harvard.”

Newsom hopes more teens will be rehabilitated with programs like The Last Mile, the program teaching these young people to code.

“Right now, we have zero-percent recidivism on our return citizen graduates,” The Last Mile co-founder Chris Redlitz said.

Jason Jones, a graduate of the program, said learning to code led him to a better path. He’s now a software engineer.

“The world is so much bigger than the struggles that you’re going through right now,” Jones told the kids.

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