I’m seated with Alton Pitre.
Alton was raised by his grandmother in what he calls “The Jungles,” a neighborhood in South Central, LA. In high school he was arrested for a robbery and attempted murder he did not commit. Despite a proven alibi, the juvenile justice system failed to let him go. Because of his innocence, Alton declined a plea bargain that would have meant a felony conviction but imminent freedom from jail. As a result, he was immediately sent to adult court, and faced a possible sentence of 46yrs to life. This was a courageous choice, a risk many innocent people are inclined not to take. Fortunately, when he got to adult court, his charges dropped.
Alton’s story and all its details give testimony to a broken juvenile justice system, a system that, as Bryan Stevenson says, treats you better if you are rich and guilty than poor and innocent.
It should be troubling to all the way our justice system treated him with long incarceration before his release. What’s particularly heartbreaking is that Alton’s experience is not rare. Nearly 60,000 children are incarcerated in juvenile facilities on any given day often for weeks or months often for minor nonviolent accusations, before getting a dispensation — not to mention black youth are incarcerated in state-run youth prisons at five times the rate of white youth.
We must do better by our children.
That’s why I have been pursuing criminal and juvenile justice reform in the Senate. I’m working to pass the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, a solid step forward for criminal justice reform. The bill helps youth offenders who live a crime-free life seek employment despite earlier errors; requires state plans to include community-based alternatives to putting juveniles in correctional facilities; enhances mental health & substance abuse screening; and increases accountability for funds used to help juveniles successfully reenter communities after release.
The road to a brighter future for criminal and juvenile justice is a long one and there is a lot of work to be done, but I feel inspired and challenged to work harder when I meet a resilient young man like Alton. #criminaljusticereform.
Shared by corybooker (Cory Booker) and selected for Featured.