July 29 2015

President Obama recently shone the national spotlight on our criminal justice system; a system which has historically and disproportionately impacted communities of color, is costing taxpayers too much money, and hasn’t been smart or efficient enough in addressing the factors that push people to come in contact with the system in the first place.

It was a watershed moment, one that has raised the following questions: What does public safety really look like in our nation? And how do we build a system which reinforces that notion of safety and justice?

During his speech to the NAACP’s national convention, President Obama offered the following as a way to begin thinking about our justice system: “Justice is not only the absence of oppression; it is the presence of opportunity.”

The reality is that for far too long our criminal justice system has prioritized punishment and done very little to focus on prevention and expanding opportunities.

The result?

Prisons are overflowing due to harsh and automatic sentencing, school suspensions have become commonplace across our nation, and children as young as 12 are sentenced to life in prison without parole.

As a health foundation that is working to build healthy, safe and thriving communities across California; we have worked with youth, community and system leaders to ensure our justice system in California prioritizes prevention and opportunity. We know it’ll make us a healthier nation.

We worked with young leaders to address the fact that, for many of our young people, their criminalization begins as early as elementary school. Rather than asking why our students are acting out, they are being pushed out of school and police are being called in to deal with things such as talking back to teachers.

Click here to continue reading the piece in its entirety on Huffington Post.