Recap: Justice for Juniors forum at UMD

Last night’s forum on Juvenile Justice at the University of Maryland was incredible. Discussion centered around how Hip-Hop is being

used as a tool of expression and a form of relationship building. The panelist for the evening included

Crystal White, Parent Liaison with Girls Rock Camp DC; Yvonne Robinson, Prince George’s assistant state’s attorney in charge of juvenile cases; Dr. Jason Nichols, African American Studies Lecturer at the University of Maryland; Rev. Todd Yeary, a senior pastor at the Douglas Memorial Community Church; a representative from Prince Georges County Police Department and Unitarian Church.

My takeaways from the panel discussion:

  1. Prince George’s County has an estimated 35-40% juvenile recidivism rate. Meaning at least 1 and 3 juvenile respondents (offenders) whose cases are referred to juvenile prosecutors are repeaters.
  2. The new youth jail that Maryland Governor Larry Hogan “approved” had actually been planned during Martin O’Malley’s administration. The “state of the art education” facility is estimated to cost $30 million and was planned (and will be built) at a time when the state’s population of youth offenders was declining. Go figure – let’s build a jail for children, even when we aren’t children to jail.
  3. Corrections Corporations of America and the GEO Group are the two largest corporations that operate detention centers in America. Vanguard Group is an investment company and the world’s largest mutual bond fund. Vanguard Group is the largest shareholder of Corrections Corporations of America and the GEO Group (see their shareholder list). They also are the top shareholders of Viacom and Time Warner. The people that bring you Love and Hip Hop Atlanta also bring you Dawson State Jail.
  4. With the emergence of new technology, artists have the ability to control all aspects of their music. From conception to preservation. There needs to be reemergence (and in some instances establishment) of a hyper-local music scene where artists can authentically speak about conditions in their community. Mainstream artists are restricted by financial interest and may not have the freedom to articulate the plight in certain communities.
  5. Yes, Ben Carson’s rap ad was horrible, but his emergence as a presidential hopeful speaks to the complexity of the black identity in America. (Booker T. Washington v. W.E.B.Dubois or Jay-Z v. Nas anyone?) His idea that people of color who have been systematically disenfranchised in all aspects of life (education, justice system, workplace, banking you name it) can merely “pull themselves up by the bootstraps” is insane. Without reformative policy, conditions of poor people of color will not improve.  We will continue to see this vicious preschool to prison cycle that steals the potential of so many. In the end, everyone cannot be the exception.Freebie: Ben Carson’s business manager, Armstrong Williams, is the largest black owner of television stations. It’s safe to say he’s a media machine, which makes it no surprise that Ben Carson is surging.
  6. #BlackLivesMatters, but the hashtag probably isn’t going to save you.

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