The United States imprisons more of its population than any other country, and California leads the nation in the number of juveniles kept behind bars. While juvenile incarceration in California has been trending down for decades, the grossly disproportionate rate of African American juveniles in our detention centers has persisted.

African American youth are nine times more likely to be incarcerated than whites in California.  

California has more than double the rate of incarcerations than many democratic countries, including France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and others. 

The situation is more than a shameful stain on our so-called progressive state; it is the failure of a system that should be training its youth to be the leaders of tomorrow.  The incarceration of our youth robs them of their potential future, a waste of potential talent, to the detriment of the incarcerated individuals and our state’s and country’s future. 

How did we get here, and how can we change? The answer starts with the investments in our schools and access to resources and opportunities that demonstrate to our youth the genuine and sustainable avenues to economic prosperity.  Our moral obligation is to do better locally and nationally to push our children towards better futures. 

Our youth represent the hope and promise of tomorrow, and we should do all that we can to ensure that. This past July, Senate Bill 823 stopped the process of sending our youth to state youth prisons, with all state youth prisons set to shut down by June 30, 2023. While this is one of many other necessary steps, we know there is still so much to do.  

Through youth programs like Biz Camp and Project Ready, the Los Angeles Urban League is committed to inspiring the youth in our community to become engaged, active, and progressive members of our society. Through your continued funding of such programs, we can continue to do this great work to change the statistics or status quo of what has become the norm for far too long in our communities. We are helping to create the leaders of tomorrow and invite you to join us in paving their way.