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Silicon Valley De-Bug gets funding boost to help jailed teens

The offices of Silicon Valley De-Bug are still buzzing after learning that they would receive a share of the $1.3 million grant to improve advocacy and treatment of jailed teens.

The grant comes from the Positive Youth Justice Initiative, a foundation that works with communities across California to transform juvenile justice practice and policies.

The group recently awarded funding to 11 groups including Bay Area social-justice groups De-Bug, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (Alameda County), RYSE Youth Center (Contra Costa County), and Young Women’s Freedom Center (San Francisco County).

The 11 nonprofit organizations focus on participatory defense, which revolves around community organizing to help people facing criminal charges, and to provide support for communities and families that are struggling alongside their youth.

According to PYJI, in 2015, Black youth in California were 7.7 times more likely than their white counterparts to be incarcerated. Latino youth were 2.6 times more likely than white youth to be incarcerated. In Santa Clara County, Black and Latino youth were 7.5 and four times more likely than white youth to be arrested, according to the group’s research.

De-bug was especially grateful for the grant because funding doesn’t come through their buildings every day. De-bug applied in February, and received confirmation of the grant in March.

“It’s pretty difficult. But our attitude was always, we are going to do this work whether or not we get resources. If we get grants, it just expands our scale,” said Raj Jayadev, director of De-Bug.

The organizations all have different goals for the grant, but De-bug has already planned out and even used some of the grant to their benefit.

“The grant has helped us travel, it has helped us to fund other hubs that decided to take on participatory defense work,” said Gail Noble, community organizer and advocate for De-Bug.

“We were excited because it’s not like a usual grant, we get to meet these groups and work with them, we have a call every month, we had a gathering in March where we got to bring a family who themselves had their son charged as an adult,” said Charisse Domingo, an organizer for De-bug.

De-bug recently had a five-day workshop in Los Angeles and invited organizations from places like Nashville, Baltimore, and Pennsylvania, areas that all struggle with youth incarceration in their communities. De-Bug provided a backpack full of supplies that would aid their participatory defense work.

With the grant money, De-Bug hopes to help other hubs and reduce youth incarcerations in zip codes that have the highest rates.

“Gilroy has one of the top five highest arrest rates for youth, in the county. Eastside San Jose is one and so we are partnering with CARAS, to empower families that are struggling with the same situations,” Domingo said, referring to a Latino advocacy group based at Gavilan College.

The grant will also help fund causes like Noble’s, who joined De-Bug after receiving help from the organization in 2008, when her son Kamir was arrested after an altercation over a bicycle that ended with a man’s finger being broken.

“De-Bug was amazing, they didn’t know me and the dedication they put into helping me with my son’s case. I couldn’t even form a sentence, that’s how broken I was,” said Noble. “Before we can help someone else we have problems in our communities that we need to fix.”

Jovette Cortes-Meza
The Mercury News

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