420 BEDS…

root - Posted on 31 December 1969

Youth organizers protest the creation of a new juvenile hall facility with 420 beds in Pleasanton

by Dae-Han Song/PoorNewsNetwork

As I climbed up the stairs from the Lake Merrit Bart Station I saw a giant paper head. It was the head of a life-sized puppet. In front of me was a multi-racial coalition of community and youth activists.

On Thursday, Nov 1st, I had come to join a multi-racial coalition of community activists (Book not Bars, Ella Baker Center, Youth Force Coalition, Asian Pacific Islander Youth Promoting Advocacy and Leadership) many of them high school students, to demand that the policy-makers listen to us, the people their decisions would affect. We demanded that the decision makers listen to our dissent of Sup. Alice Lai Bitker’s decision to recast her vote for the creation of a new Juvenile Hall facility with 420 beds to be located in Pleasanton

Much of the opposition against the expansion of a juvenile facility of 420 beds in Pleasanton is that creating such a large Juvenile Hall would drain a lot of the money that could otherwise go into youth crime intervention programs. Even now there is still not enough funding that goes into at-risk youth programs. The proposed Juvenile Hall Facility would make the number of beds three to four times larger then similarly sized counties to Alameda. Secondly the location in Dublin would make it more difficult for families of those detained in Juvenile Hall, most of them living in Oakland to visit their sons and daughters.

To attain these goals, the rally was specifically addressed to Sup. Alice Lai Bitker to persuade her to vote with the people and create a much smaller Super-Jail one that would also fit inside of Oakland. As the rally moved to the County Administration Building, people’s right to enter public facilities were violated as a police officer in charge stood silently in front of the metal detector entrance, preventing us from going inside on the premise that we did not have an appointment.

After much chanting, Shawn Wilson a heavily built man and Chief of Staff to Alice Lai Bitker finally came out to appease us. He came out and tried to explain to us that we needed this new Juvenile Hall facility in Dublin-Pleasanton because "we can’t have people [youth] sleeping in cots" in reference to the overcrowded state of the Juvenile Hall Facilities. However, the logic in his response was turned in its head as Ying-Sun Ho one of the protestors responded "I know you put too many kids into Juvenile Hall…let’s put less people in there" in reference to the fact that "22% of the youth in juvenile hall should not be there at all." Many times youth may have been sentenced to community programs…. "but [since] there’s no room in the programs because they are under-funded" judges are forced to detain them inside of juvenile hall facilities. Much of this exchange between those in the rally and the Supervisor’s staff remained a contest between problem solving (the staff) versus prevention of the problem (the protestors).

The rally ended as the delegation sent in to talk with Supervisor Alice Lai Bitker, came back with the revelation that she had not met with them, but instead had left the building through a back door. However, by the end we had shown those making the decisions that we were not willing to let this issue go without a fight. As the dark blue evening sky settled over the sun, those present discussed coming back on Monday to protest again, reaffirming the conviction that "the solution is not to build new jails."


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