The Berkeley City Council passed two resolutions opposing a new Alameda county juvenile facility planned for construction in Dublin. Opponents of the facility say there is no need for a larger facility and that the proposed Dublin location will be inaccessible to most Alameda county families.
The first resolution was a unanimous vote in opposition to the location of the facility. The Council voted 6 to 2 with one abstention on the second resolution which opposed both the new location and the expanded size of the juvenile hall from 299 beds to 420.
"With this resolution we are saying to the county take another look at this issue," said Shirley Dean, Mayor of Berkeley.
Both opponents and supporters of the Dublin facility agree that a new juvenile hall must be built, citing the dilapidated condition of the present San Leandro facility built nearly 50 years ago.
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Opponents maintain, however, that alternative programs for youth offenders should be studied instead of building expanded juvenile facilities.
"Incarceration doesn't have to be the first thing we think of when a juvenile breaks the law," said Keith Carson, a Supervisor for Alameda County and an opponent of the proposed hall.
Councilmembers Miriam Hawley and Betty Olds decided to vote no on the resolution opposing the facility. Neither Hawley nor Olds favor the location of the proposed facility but Hawley says an expanded hall may be needed in the future.
"They have compromised. We're building for the future, 30, 40 years down the line," said Hawley.
Hawley says that the current overcrowded and run down San Leandro facility warrants a new and expanded facility and that the additional space in the new hall can be used for specialized programs and services.
Many concerned members of the community feel that the current facility is not overcrowded and that the proposal for this new facility lacks the data to prove such a need.
"One must ask the question what is behind this proposal. It can't be justified by the existing data," said Maris Arnold, a Berkeley resident against the overpolicing of the state.
Opponents say that transportation costs to the new facility will weigh heavily on many working-class families in Alameda County. A round-trip BART ticket to Dublin ranges from $2 to $8.80. Opponents also fear that families will have to miss a full day's work to travel to the facility.
According to Councilmember Kriss Worthington, the City Council has a responsibility to oppose this new facility given that spending on prisons already outnumbers spending on education.
"We have to take a stand and be willing to take the heat for this decision," said Worthington.
Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steele believes that the issue is more complex than simply passing resolutions and that the kids are the ones suffering while leaders disagree on a new home for the facility.
"The children are living in an unsafe facility on an earthquake fault and we need to get them out but there's nobody that wants to help," said Steele.
According to Steele, neither Oakland nor Berkeley want the facility but each complains that the Dublin facility is too far away.
"This is a very complex issue, one that can't be solved in sound bites," said Steele.
"There should have been a study for deterrents to incarceration. That wasn't a part of the study," said Carson.
Alternate programs including a new ankle bracelet monitoring system have shown signs of progress for juvenile offenders previously incarcerated for non-violent acts such as truancy and behavioral care problems according to Carson.
"We were very pleased to see that the council passed the resolution because we're looking to Berkeley to raise concern about this issue," said Rachel Jackson, State Field Director of Books Not Bars, a coalition in partnership with Youth Force against the over-incarceration of youth.
Jackson says that it is important to raise discussion and debate on this issue and that much of the work opposition to the facility has come from the leadership of local youth.
BNB and the Youth Force Coalition, a group of youth organizations fighting against the oppressive attacks on community, took part in a demonstration at the Alameda County Administration Building April 17. Dozens of students and organizers carried signs and chanted slogans opposing the expanded hall.
Next up for the proposed facility is a series of environmental impact reports. Construction is expected to start after the reports are assessed.
Contact Chris Nichols at: email@example.com