Oakland Youth: Education, Employment, and Restorative Justice
The divide between the political elite and young people, particularly youth of color, is especially troubling for the citizens of Oakland. The political elite want to target our youth through gang injunctions, curfews, and “random” stops. They call for more police, more militarization of the police, and ever more repressive measures. The recent contract with Bill Bratton and Robert Wasserman makes this agenda clear. While these officials seem to believe that the only answer to crime and violence is repression, the Oakland Greens believe the city should take a different approach. This approach should be rooted in meeting human need, and helping those who have gotten off track. This approach should be based on a vision of social solidarity, in which the entire community takes responsibility for the welfare of all the children.
The Oakland Greens see a clear link between the current problem of youth crime and the limited educational and employment opportunities available in Oakland. We need schools that provide a good education for those going on to college, and a strong vocational program for those who do not want to, or cannot, go to college directly. Schools must teach conflict resolution and civic engagement. Schools must pay attention to the students who are having trouble learning, and provide an entry point for health and social services if necessary. Schools should provide childcare before and after school, so that children are not going home to empty houses. Our city must also provide opportunities for recreation and activities in a safe environment for all ages. Graduates need decent jobs at a living wage.
For those who have offended, we favor the concept of restorative justice, which requires offenders to make restitution to their victims as part of their rehabilitation. Restorative justice as an alternative to incarceration has the potential to offer a radical shift in the way youth who commit crime are perceived. The idea has arisen out of the frustration and pain experienced by those caught in the current dysfunctional criminal justice system. Many studies have found that the initiation of a restorative justice system results in significant declines of youth offenders having repeated contact with police, and an overall decline of youth crimes and violence. When offenders are released from jail, prison, or the Youth Authority, we should provide assistance to them in re-entering society, whether they need a job, a place to live, or health and social services. The widespread idea that Oakland does not have the financial resources to complete this task is a myth, when in truth it would be more financially responsible to incorporate this new system instead of fueling money into the current failing system.