What I Learned in Prison
When I joined the Ella Baker Center family in the spring of 2007, my biggest learning curve was related to our youth prison reform work. I certainly agreed academically with our Books Not Bars platform, but I had very limited knowledge of just how badly broken our juvenile justice system really was. I became educated—and outraged—quickly. California, it seemed, was doing just about everything wrong when it came to helping kids who’ve made mistakes.
Just about. There are a few shining examples of programs, in California and beyond, that truly put rehabilitation first. I’m honored to have had the opportunity to talk to some folks at the forefront of restorative juvenile justice while working on the new film Learning From Our Mistakes: Transforming Juvenile Justice.
Our small crew toured both high-security facilities and completely open campuses in California, Victoria (British Columbia, Canada), and Washington, DC. I had never been inside a prison of any sort, and wasn’t really sure what to expect before our first day of filming.
Once inside, I was surprised (and pleased) to feel more like I was observing a school than a prison, and each youth I talked to
was truly hungry to learn and grow. We sat in on a group session geared toward conflict resolution at one site, and I was struck by the honest, mature and respectful exchange I witnessed. In fact, I recall thinking at the time that most adults are much less skilled at resolving conflict. We could all learn a thing or two from these kids.
And that’s the whole point, really. It’s time to start thinking about how to position our kids—ALL of our kids—to be better, more evolved versions of ourselves. When they make mistakes, it’s our responsibility to help them right those wrongs. Learning From Our Mistakes shines a light on the methods that do so most effectively. (Added bonus: these programs are much more cost effective than punitive measures, too. Go figure.) I hope you’ll take 20 minutes to watch the film, and that you’ll share it with everyone you know who cares about our future.
California messed up big time in its approach to juvenile justice, and in doing so, failed those who are most vulnerable. But a road map for correcting our course exists. Will we—activists, parents, politicians, law enforcement, and fellow villagers—work as hard as the youth featured in the film to learn from our mistakes?
Kristin relocated to New Orleans from Oakland in March, and she now works as a freelance producer with her husband. Their mini-documentary on the affects of the BP oil spill on a small fishing community in southern Louisiana is an official selection for the nation’s only cause-based film festival and will be screened in Austin, TX at the end of July.
Nov 27, 2013
Nov 07, 2013
Oct 07, 2013
Aug 20, 2013