Philly is the most incarcerated big city in the United States. While we have made big strides in reducing Philly's jail population, thousands of our neighbors are held in our jails on State Road, on bails as small as hundreds of dollars or as big as millions, every single day.
Pretrial incarceration causes brutal harm to incarcerated people and their families, and it’s a driver of violence. Independent studies have shown that we can bring accused people home pretrial without a rise in new arrests or failures to come to court.
On MLK Day, YASP, the Philadelphia Bail Fund, the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund, the #No215Jail Coalition, POWER Interfaith, Live Free, and many others joined together to hear directly from people who have suffered harm when locked up pretrial, but who have built stories of resilience and success once released from incarceration. The event space was full as the result of a fantastic turnout, with legislators and council members in attendance. Several people, such as YASP organizer William Bentley, shared their powerful personal stories about the criminal justice system and its impact.
In the Philly Inquirer, YASP organizer William Bentley shared his story and highlighted the importance of YASP's work with the Philly Community Bail Fund to get young people out of adult jails to fight for their freedom from home. Read the full oped here: https://www.inquirer.com/opinion/commentary/community-bail-fund-youth-sentencing-20200103.html
The Philadelphia Community Bail Fund and YASP are advocating for Philadelphia to end cash bail and pretrial detention for both adults and children. During the holidays, we worked to raise at least $50,000 to bring Philadelphia children imprisoned pre-trial home for the holidays during the 2nd annual “Presents not Prisons” holiday campaign.
Presently, there are around 20 children being held in an adult jail on State Road in Philadelphia. Most of the young people are held on exorbitant and unaffordable bail amounts, ranging from $100,000 to $2 million dollars. As such, most parents and guardians for the children are unable to pay for their children’s release. Being held in adult jails pretrial increases pressure on young people to accept coercive plea deals, which in turn furthers incarceration and other devastating effects on them and their families.
From December 3rd, 2019 to January 3rd, 2020 an incredible $81,200 was raised, allowing bail to be posted for three young people.
On October 23rd, the YASP team joined others at the capitol in Harrisburg with the Coalition to Abolish Death By Incarceration to call for healing, redemption and an end to death by incarceration, and lift up the voices of people impacted by violence and the harms of mass incarceration.
On October 17th, in honor of Youth Action Justice Month, YASP held a screening of When They See Us, the Netflix series telling the story of the exonerated Central Park Five. The screening was followed by a powerful panel about the legacy of the Central Park Five case and its impacts on youth in Pennsylvania, which featured YASP leaders William Bentley and David Harrington, Youth Sentencing and Reentry Project co-director Joanna Visser-Adjoian, Abolitionist Law Center organizer Saleem Holbrook, and Philadelphia public defender Michelle Mason.
YASP organizer My Le wrote a powerful and insightful oped that is featured on the PennLive website. The whole YASP team stands behind My in calling Governor Tom Wold to remove all young people from adult courts, jails and prisons. "No one benefits from sending children to adult jails and prisons. The only way that Governor Wold and his Council on Reform can truly protect young people in the justice system is by not only improving conditions in juvenile facilities, but by taking action to ensure that no young person is held in adult jails and prisons." Read more at https://www.pennlive.com/opinion/2019/10/children-should-not-be-sent-to-adult-prisons-opinion.html?fbclid=IwAR1HorfZOHjI8PSb8tWKdlPtCmQESVKdKX47qrakWpt7JByVg8oNotgNBK8
The YASP team facilitated a workshop at Eastern State Penitentiary as a part of the Hidden Lives Illuminated exhibit, inviting participants to imagine how we can create a world without police and prisons, where we respond to violence and harm with healing and growth.
The YASP team facilitated two workshops at the Asian Arts Initiative as a part of their ABOLITION NOW! workshop, with campers and other folks from Philly, creating beautiful visions of how we can build safe and thriving communities without prisons and police.
The YASP had a great trip to Washington, DC. We had a powerful and inspiring visit to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, and attended the annual National Juvenile Justice Network forum, where YASP organizer William Bentley performed his song, and the YASP team shared about YASP's unique youth organizing model, and why youth justice movements must ground all their work in the leadership of young people impacted and targeted by the system.
Check out what YASP has been doing!