A 2014 report by the National Institute of Justice, part of the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, highlighted the counterproductive nature of punitive policies in the juvenile justice system. They simply don’t work. It would be more effective to provide incarcerated youth with educational opportunities so they don’t fall behind their peers, ensuring they have a fair shot at integrating back into society. California has an opportunity to accomplish exactly this by providing the state’s juvenile offenders with access to quality education resources though the Internet.

Juvenile facilities and state-run foster care programs across California don’t have to provide youth with Internet access for educational purposes. Assemblymember Mike Gipson introduced a bill, A.B. 2448, that aims to fix this problem. The bill ensures that juvenile detention facilities provide youth with access to Internet and computer technology for educational purposes. It also encourages those facilities to provide Internet access for youth to remain in contact with family members. Additionally, youth in foster homes will be given access to the Internet for age-appropriate enrichment and social activities.

EFF fully supports this bill to give youth access to the connecting and educational power of the Internet. Our support letter states:

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. In the modern era, computer literacy and skills are crucial, particularly when it comes to gaining employment, and thus being a contributing member of society. Additionally, since many juvenile facilities are located in remote areas, placing youth far from their homes, the state should use modern technology to allow detainees to maintain meaningful relationships with their families to form and enhance the necessary support structure for a successful rehabilitation. Isolating the youth will adversely affect the State’s goal to integrate them back into society.

Similarly, youth in foster care must also have access to computer technology and Internet on par with what most children receive through their schools, libraries, and homes. Since foster youth are much more likely to have experienced violence and other forms of trauma, it is imperative that the state of California do all that it can, to the extent possible, to ensure that they have an experience similar to their peers outside the foster care system for better behavioral and emotional development.

We supported a previous version of the bill that Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed. The new version addresses the concerns raised in the veto message, and we hope will garner Gov. Brown’s signature to become law.

Over the years, California has implemented many innovative programs to rehabilitate California’s youth within its care, including teaching them how to code. The passage of A.B. 2448 will further help the state ensure that its youth have a chance to become productive members of society.

The bill is currently pending in the California Assembly Appropriations Committee, and we hope that lawmakers advance this bill swiftly.