“Juvenile [justice] is a big dark hole that no one’s really paying attention to, particularly as we talk about issues of mass incarceration. The juvenile justice system is the feeder system to the prison system. So, to encourage community folks who really care about issues of mass incarceration, to realize that there’s a whole little sub-system working under your nose called the juvenile justice system that’s sending kids to prison, and it needs advocates.”
Reverend Dietra Wise Baker is an organizer with Metropolitan Congregations United working on the break the school-to-prison pipeline campaign in Missouri. The Break the Pipeline campaign is a multi-system campaign seeking to reduce criminalization of black youth, develop a coordinated system of care for black youth, and call for public accountability of those in positions of power driving these institutions. MCU seeks reforms in the school, policing, and juvenile justice systems.
“I’d say to anyone who’s in the system who’s working on these issues: Don’t be hopeless. Be creative. I get that you’ve done your job a certain way for a long time. Get with your colleagues. Some of them are doing some really cool stuff. Maybe you should try it, and see what happens. And some of them with good, evidence-based practice and results. We’re not asking you to chase a dream in the sky. But it’s gonna require some cultural change, and generally, for it to be effective, some folks in our area are gonna have to become thought leaders. And it feels like they’re resistant to that.”