Where would I be without Homefulness? That’s a question I have been asking of myself lately and I have begun to realize that there are so many people who have that question answered for them already. People who have been failed by every system in their life. A redlined neighborhood that forces young people to grow up at a young age, a school that shuffles them along, not having enough of a budget to care much about where they end up, and finally, a judicial system that takes none of that into account.
Especially because that very system is the one who put their ancestors into those neighborhoods, and who underfunded those schools, and finally, will be the one who will keep you in and out of their prisons for the rest of your life for crimes that it doesn’t care if you committed. It’s so formulaic and overtly planned that it has been likened to a pipeline, a stream of people rushed through and out into an ocean of nothing.
However because of Deecolonize Academy, a school for young people that have been failed by this system and are currently struggling through poverty and houselessness,, this pipeline has sprung a leak, and through the cracks have emerged remarkable and brilliant young men filled with potential, helping others who have been beat down by this system. But, Deecolonize Academy is not the only program that interrupts this pipeline. The Young Adult Court or YAC, is a program supervised by Superior Judge Bruce Chan, and it helps youth from the age of 18-24 overcome these obstacles that have been placed in front of them by that system that he works within.
“As I stand before you all today, I want to share with everyone this adventure, journey, our way of life, in a world with many uncertainties and obstacles, like mine of trying to survive the school to penitentiary system. Deecolonize Academy recognized the situation I was in, a brown youth of color surrounded by many distractions and traps.”, those were the words of Kimo, a youth scholar who graduated from Deecolonize Academy. Deecolonize Academy and the YAC are preventing those young men and women who would normally have no chance of extricating themselves, from traveling through this pipeline and ending up in a prison system that prioritizes punishment over rehabilitation. Most who are not fortunate enough to be helped by these organizations and others are shuttled to these massive, overfunded prisons. These prisons which up until now, have also held Death Row blocks and Protective Custody areas.
That all changed with new implementations instituted by Gov. Gavin Newsom and other CA government officials that bring all of these inmates together, removing/ restructuring Death Row and Protective Custody blocks.
“We are starting the process of closing Death Row to repurpose and transform the current housing units into something innovative and anchored in rehabilitation," California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman Vicky Waters told The Associated Press. While it is amazing that they are finally closing Death Row, something that has been used to get rid of many political prisoners including journalist and activist Mumia Abu-Jamal, as is common, there is more behind this decision than making prison a rehabilitative space.
The United States prison system as a whole does not rehabilitate. It is a punitive system that puts you through hell to force you into submission. This is proven to not work, as more than 50% of prisoners released from prison or jail have been reincarcerated. Most of the time, US prisons are used as a punishment for people that the US wants silenced, like Huey P. Newton, the leader of the Black Panther party, Leonard Peltier, a leader of the American Indian Movement, and Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was one of the only journalists telling the truth about the Black Panther Party in the 1970’s. These people and many more were incarcerated for their resistance to this government, not the crimes that have been pinned on them.
Prisons are given a massive budget. In fact, when compared to schools, CA prisons have more than a 53,000$ budget difference. However, due to the COVID-19 epidemic, that budget has been drained down to the point where they have been forced to release offenders who aren’t flight risks. Them mixing in all of these different cell blocks is not at all a rehabilitation issue, rather an issue of not having enough money to keep doing as they were.
This doesn’t change anything. These people are still in prison, and most likely will be for the rest of their lives. Because prisons make money from people being in jail. They need the pipeline that funnels young adults from bad to worse situations, because that is the only way the government is able to keep these prisons open and make a profit. My issue lies in them making this change and claiming that they are turning prisons into something that wants people to leave prisons rather than stay in them for as long as possible which is where their true intentions lie.
I am not in that pipeline because of Deecolonize Academy. My work here has helped others who are being funneled through, giving them a similar chance to what I have been given, a way through the crack in the pipe and a way out of that system.