Let’s not play politics with our youth. The school to prison pipeline is a reality for many Black and Brown young people in Alameda County.
Supervisor Nate Miley (District 4) is positioning the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office to take over the REACH Ashland Youth Center from its current lead operator, Alameda County Health Care Services Agency.
The foundation of this proposed transfer to a law enforcement agency goes against the fundamental values, philosophy and approach to community and youth investment that promote racial and gender equity, community building and sustaining healthy communities.
Law enforcement’s position in society is to enforce the law, militarize communities, not to mention that the Sheriff’s Office oversees county jail facilities and has an incentive to keep those beds filled.
REACH Ashland Youth Center was, and still is, a dream of youth and community members in the unincorporated area of Ashland/Cherryland in Alameda County.
After numerous years of planning and design, led and operated by the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency (HCSA), REACH opened its doors in 2013.
HCSA and partners engaged in extensive community/youth input, facility design, strategic planning process and developing public-private partnerships. REACH AYC primarily serves the unincorporated area of Alameda County (Ashland, Cherryland, San Lorenzo) – a community made up of predominantly working-class families, African-American and Latino, immigrants, undocumented community members and recent refugees.
The concerning matter is that Supervisor Miley is positioning the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office to take over the lead operations and management of the youth center without an extensive youth and community process, until mandated by the board in March.
According to a memo released in December 2017, he announced the decision to transfer management to the Sheriff’s Office, effective July 1, 2018.
Many community members are concerned about this change as it does not appear there was robust engagement with community stakeholders about the change of management of REACH from a health focused agency to a law enforcement agency.
Supervisor Miley is now backtracking, and the Board of Supervisors is requiring community input through a series of “listening sessions” to be held in April and May.
We demand an open, transparent, community/youth involved process for any decisions that transfer oversight of the REACH Ashland Youth Center (AYC) from Alameda County Health Care Services Agency (HCSA) to any agency that best meets the strategic goals of the youth center.
The Alameda County Board of Supervisors has a major decision to make. REACH AYC was created with an open, community led strategic planning process.
We urge each of you to contact your supervisor regarding REACH AYC and request the following:
- Do Not Allow the transfer of REACH AYC to go from HCSA to the Sheriff’s Office and rescind the letter/memo that Supervisor Miley released;
- Mandate that, if there is to be a change in the lead operator (County agency or other), the decision must be based on a new 5-year strategic plan for REACH AYC, that then goes out to public bid;
- Ensure a fully engaged community and youth process is core to the strategic plan and that youth are in positions of decision making in the process/plan;
- Require the bid process to go through a non-biased review committee;
- Demand board oversight of transition, if it occurs.
Joe Brooks and Chris Iglesias are members of the African American Latino Action Alliance (AALAA).