Sunset Youth Services holds space for community listening of all kinds and this past month acted as host to the Juvenile Probation Commission, which took public comments about the Juvenile Hall Closure and discussed other topics of critical importance to young people in the justice system and the community-based organizations that support them.
Over 35 people attended and gave public comment, and the gathering was reported on by the SF Chronicle. Public sharing included comments by Public Defender Robert Dunlap, whose recent 14 Points article detailed the inhumane treatment of youth in Juvenile Hall, and by Commissioner Margaret Brodkin, who chronicled her experience to willingly undergo confinement at juvenile hall for 25 hours. “I felt it was my responsibility to try to figure out what it felt like to a young person,” she said. “I got scared, and I hated it.”
Additionally many members of our staff and youth community spoke about their personal experiences. One person spoke of wanting to visit her brother in jail but being told she "wasn't allowed as a sibling." Another spoke with anguish about a good friend who was sent to a jail many hours away, making it nearly impossible for him to see his child. Another shared the stress of being separated from a friend (and co-defendant) in jail and the isolation of each being restricted to half-time yard-access as a result. Another wept about her first time in jail at age 13 for refusing to snitch on a friend, and the bewildering 4 months she was confined without access to school.
Many others spoke out against a harm-producing juvenile-justice system and the urgency of a more restorative, rehabilitative model to help equip young people to heal and move on. When our young people engage in these kinds of empowering community events, they embrace their own agency and begin to see themselves not as victims but as advocates of positive change.