On September 22nd Represent Justice convened a powerhouse of individuals and organizations dedicated to changing the narrative surrounding incarcerated youth. Kingmakers media staff, Brenden Anderson and Johnathan Piper, joined the full-day youth justice braintrust in Hollywood California.
“It was a moment to think critically about the imagery and stories of incarcerated youth that pervade the media landscape and its community impact,” Anderson explained.
Thought provoking questions were raised such as, how do stories of incarcerated youth affect our mindset about them? And does the media program us to see them as criminals, not people?
Represent Justice addresses those midsets by turning stories into action that change the justice system. CEO Daniel Forkkio set the tone with a warm welcome and message along with activity that fostered increased awareness around alternatives to youth incarceration. Participants learned the importance of the message testing process, which is often overlooked. Message testing measures the impact stories have on people’s current misperceptions which can lead to changed mindsets.
Dr. Elisha Hines from UCLA Center for Scholars and Storytellers shared their findings of how media impacts us as individuals and the community as a whole. They analyzed media content related to youth and crime to assess its impact on us. Their data proves how people of color are more negatively portrayed in the media, which recklessly skews the perspective of people of color.
One of the biggest impacts of the braintrust was watching the Million Dollar Cage documentary and meeting the filmmaker and lead character Kent Mendoza. Hearing his story and learning how the correctional system is complicit in creating criminal mindsets within the jail system was highly enlightening and equally disturbing.
This was a powerful convening that united organizations to strategically work towards changing the narrative around incarcerated youth. The correctional system’s disenfranchisement of youth is criminal and must be acknowledged. The system keeps youth perpetually incarcerated without true rehabilitation, and absent of love and decency. Represent Justice is forging partnerships with organizations who can also use their efforts and voice to disrupt the school to prison pipeline, and eradicate youth incarceration.