The philanthropic arm of Google and the San Francisco 49ers football club are giving $2.35 million to the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) to support the California Youth Justice Initiative, a comprehensive juvenile justice reform effort in Santa Clara County, California.
According to Frankie Guzman, director of the California Youth Justice Initiative at NCYL, the four-year effort will allow the Oakland-based organization to work with more than 300 youth a year in Santa Clara County who are either arrested or placed on probation.
“We’re doing a comprehensive approach of deep-end and shallow-end reform, and then we’re also working with probation-involved youth to make sure they graduate, get a job or get on a good career track,” said Guzman in an interview with The Chronicle of Social Change.
The grant includes $2.1 million from Google and $250,000 from the 49ers, and will help fund seven staff members at NYCL.
The money from the 49ers is part of a new National Football League (NFL) initiative designed to direct money toward “efforts and programs combating social inequality” after many NFL players protested against racial inequality.
Richard Sherman, a defensive back with 49ers who helped decide how the team would spend the money, said he hopes that the initiative will help address racial disproportionality in the juvenile justice system, noting that African American and Latin youth are 7.5 and four times more likely, respectively, to be arrested than white youth.
“Once you get in the system it’s very difficult to make it out,” said Sherman. “It’s very difficult to learn what you need to do to be in the workforce, to be a great person because you spend so much time trying to survive the situations you’re put in.”
Guzman said that the youth justice reform effort will revolve around three goals: preventing all young people from being transferred to the adult justice system, reducing the number of youth incarcerated in the county’s juvenile justice system and expanding the use of community-based alternatives to incarceration.
“We want to make sure that a cop is trained up enough to know not just to arrest [youth] but to take them to the local nonprofit that’s in business for this,” Guzman said. “As more resources become available at the state level, we want to implement different types of policies and practices in Santa Clara County and hold them there for a while, so it becomes a culture of not arresting kids, taking them to community placements, having enough resources to work with them and change the way we respond to kids.”
Google.org, the tech giant’s grant-making organization, has set aside more than $32 million for criminal justice in recent years. The philanthropy has become a pipeline for several organizations active in juvenile justice space, including Impact Justice, W. Haywood Burns Institute and Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative.