Netflix’s highly anticipated limited series, Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us” is now out. It chronicles the story of the infamous Central Park Five case: how five teenage boys of color from Harlem were wrongly convicted of the rape of a white woman in 1989 and their 25-year fight for justice.
Over the last several years, the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court (JDRDC) of Fairfax County, Va., has been working on transformative efforts around juvenile justice in an effort to keep low-risk youth from entering the system and address disparities for youth of color. One large area targeted by these efforts was the diversion programming and Juvenile Intake Office.
Is it possible to educate youth in the adult criminal justice system? As Marshall Project reporter Eli Hager recently observed, “In the U.S., there is adult jail and there is school, and the two rarely go together.”
For eight years, from 2007 to 2015, I worked as a case analyst at the Innocence Project, an organization dedicated to freeing people who have been wrongfully convicted. My job was to review requests for help from those seeking representation. For cases that I determined warranted an in-depth investigation, I read trial transcripts, police reports and lab reports, and I corresponded extensively with the person seeking help.
Last month, a group of girls at a juvenile detention center in the Bronx sat in a discussion circle with a teaching artist and a social worker. After a series of circle meetings, the girls at Horizon Juvenile Center in New York City had created vision boards, collages in which they envisioned their life five years from now.
Panelists at a discussion on race spoke mostly about collective response to a president they fear will roll back the rights of people of color, as well as other groups.
“Start where you are,” said DeRay McKesson, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter. “I didn’t get a call from Harriet Tubman to be an activist.”