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Nationally, 1 in 3 Black and 1 in 6 Latino boys born in 2001 are at risk of imprisonment during their lifetime. While boys are five times as likely to be incarcerated as girls, there also is a significant number of girls in the juvenile justice system. This rate of incarceration is endangering children at younger and younger ages.
This is America's pipeline to prison — a trajectory that leads to marginalized lives, imprisonment and often premature death. Although the majority of fourth graders cannot read at grade level, states spend about three times as much money per prisoner as per public school pupil.
CDF's vision with it's Cradle to Prison Pipeline campaign, which is launched nationally in 2007, is to reduce incarceration by increasing preventive supports and services children need, such as access to quality early childhood development and education services and accessible, comprehensive health and mental health coverage. Emphasis must be shifted for the sake of our children and our nation's future.
In 2009, the CDF-CA office teamed up with our national office to host a conference in Sacramento to officially launch our statewide efforts to dismantle the pipeline to prison and replace it with a pipeline to career and college. The conference provided a comprehensive overview of the challenges young people are facing, from access to health care to failing schools to a harmful juvenile justice system, as well as showing the way forward by lifting up best practices. The conference was followed up by a number of coalition and planning meetings in Oakland and Los Angeles.
In California, CDF-CA has focused on dismantling the pipeline to prison by focusing on access to affordable health care reducing harsh and unjust school discipline policies pushing children and youth out of school, and to make it more rehabilitative. CDF-CA advocates for policy and systems change on a statewide and local level to ensure the right investments are made in young people. CDF-CA also works to dismantle the pipeline to prison through youth programs, including CDF Freedom Schools and the Beat the Odds scholarship program that work to level the playing field of opportunity for young people.