The Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) is working to build a youth, family and prisoner-led movement to challenge race, gender and class inequality in Los Angeles County’s and California’s juvenile and criminal injustice systems. The YJC is working to transform policies and institutions that have ensured the massive lock-up of people of color; widespread police violence, corruption and distrust between police and communities; disregard of youth and communities' Constitutional and human rights; the construction of the school-to-jail track; and the build-up of the world's largest network of juvenile halls, jails and prisons. The YJC uses direct action organizing, advocacy, political education and activist arts to mobilize youth and their allies – both in the community and within lock-ups – to bring about change.
From its start in 2003, the YJC made a commitment to building youth and community leadership by promoting a voice, vision and action plan for community justice that is developed, led and staffed at all levels by people who have experienced the justice system first-hand. The project represents one of the nation's few organizing projects led by young people who have been, or are currently under arrest, on probation, in detention, in prison or on parole or whose parents/guardians, brothers or sisters have been incarcerated for long periods of their lives. The YJC has worked to recruit youth countywide to join this effort, with a membership of more than 2,000 youth that have received leadership training, legal and political education, as well as an organizational base of youth development and violence prevention/intervention organizations. Over the past three years, the YJC has also built the leadership of parents whose children are incarcerated, particularly youth who are facing or serving Life sentences, and with liberated lifers who were sentenced as youth and young adults are now home helping other families to organize for change.
To see a list of the many victories YJC has had since 2003, click here.
The YJC successfully pushed the Mayor’s Office and the City Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on Gang Violence to add youth development to their department’s titles, wrote a definition of youth development that was adopted by the City Council, and is now working to pushing that Los Angeles City and County create a joint youth development department. In 2011, the YJC released a police budget report – Cross the Line – and the 1% Campaign began to get attention from the City Council and County Board of Supervisors, including several who used campaign data to question law enforcement budgets for the first time. The YJC called for the City and County to take 1% of the budget from law enforcement – (just 1% from LAPD, County Sheriffs, Courts, Probation, the District Attorney and the City Attorney equals $100 million a year) – to fund 500 full-time community intervention workers, 24 comprehensive youth centers open 3pm to midnight 365 days a year, and 25,000 jobs for youth –prioritizing youth on the gang database and/or youth returning home from lock-up. In 2012, the YJC invited additional organizations to build momentum and vision for the campaign. LA for Youth is now led by more than 60 youth development organizations and was successful in increasing summer jobs for youth from 0 to 2,000 in FY 2011-2012 and to more than 6,000 in FY 2012-2013.
In the fall of 2007, the YJC founded Free L.A. High School for youth ages 16 to 24. The school was developed to build stronger youth leadership, through a curriculum that trains young people in developing academic and life skills, direct action organizing, campaign research, media and communications, arts activism, public policy development and advocacy, and transformative justice to heal from violence and to prevent future violence. It also supports the youth development and educational needs of YJC members and other youth. The school serves as an alternative to detention and incarceration for youth who face confinement, an educational site for youth who have been suspended or expelled from schools or entire districts, a school for youth returning home from lock-ups, and a more respectful and smaller program for youth who have left traditional schools discouraged.