The mothers, sister, brothers and people who together from Ella Baker's Book Not Bars got on a bus May 7th bound for Sacramento; they carried the message that youth given a sentence by a judge and or jury should not have time Add Ons made by the staff of the institution in which they were incarcerated. Unlike the judge and the jury, there is no accounting by staff as to the decision to ADD ON weeks or months which on record increase the time for up to 15 months longer on average. As well, AB999 challenges the use of solitary confinement as punishment for weeks and months. The real issue was represented by one young man who had successfully gotten past his term in jail, past his probation; he said he entered the system at 12 and returned to society at age 19, but he was still 12 in terms of education, ability to work and emotional maturity. The Need for youth to get education and job training to have a means to enter society is for the offenders, that's true. But who benefits really is the taxpayer upon whom the cost of $200,000 per offender per year lands. AB999 looks to have job training, education and the hope of a future. In comparison, in states where the prison system does provide education and training, there is a huge difference in what happens after the youth offender leaves prison. The ratio of return is a third of the Youth System in California. Throughout the country, the reality of the failure of the prison system in terms of the cost to everyone is unquestioned. In the case of the youth in prison, we have the possibility of providing the education and the job training with the taxpayer's dollar rather than paying for extended stays that cultivate waste and reduce the possibility of reentry. Van Jones is now in Washington working with the President on Green Jobs for the country, having started Green Jobs in Oakland with Ella Baker Center.
AB999, the bill resulting from Books Not Bars going to Sacramento on May 7th will soon reach the Assembly in California. The choice seems simple: the prisons are overcrowded, the economy is not job training friendly and the cost in dollars and lives is unforgiveable if we don't provide a change in policy now.