Oct. 11, 2017 update: Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed A.B. 811. Read our statement here.
Sept. 29, 2017 update: A.B. 811 has been amended in a number of ways. State-level juvenile facilities must provide reasonable access to computers and the Internet for educational purposes and to allow youth to stay in touch with their families. County-level juvenile facilities, however, need only provide access for educational purposes. Youth in foster care also will have access to technology for educational purposes, but they also will have access for social and extracurricular purposes.
It’s 2017, and climbers can tweet from Mount Everest, astronauts can post YouTube videos from the International Space Station, and ocean explorers can live stream from the Mariana Trench. Considering the ability for technology to overcome those harsh environments, we see no reason that California can’t develop a way to ensure that youth in our state have secure and supervised access to the internet in juvenile detention and foster care programs.
EFF is throwing its support behind A.B. 811, a California bill sponsored by Assemblymember Mike Gipson and the Youth Law Center, that would establish that youth in custody have a right to “reasonable access to computer technology and the internet for the purposes of education and maintaining contact with family and supportive adults.” The bill would also establish the right of youth in foster care to have access to computers and the internet.
As EFF writes in its letter:
When youth are incarcerated, it is the government’s duty to ensure that they receive the necessary services for rehabilitation and successful integration back into the free world. Computer literacy and computer skills are crucial to development in the modern era, particularly when it comes to finding jobs. In addition, since many facilities are located in remote areas, placing youth far from their homes, accommodations should be made using modern technology to allow detainees to maintain meaningful relationships with their families to enhance the support structure for successful rehabilitation.
Similarly, youth in foster care must also have access to the same resources that most children receive through their schools, libraries, and homes.
Nearly 56,000 youth were in foster care in 2015, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation. In addition, the California Department of Justice data [.pdf] reports that more than 23,000 youth were detained in secure facilities in 2014, with Hispanic youth representing more than half and Black youth representing roughly a quarter of youth in secure custody. We applaud Assemblymember Gipson for his efforts to ensure this significant at-risk population is provided with the tools they need to succeed.