The Frontline Impact Digest

Liberation Fund: A beacon of hope and advocacy

By Lisa Small, Liberty Hill Director of Youth & Transformative Justice

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Imagine if the entire student population of an elite private middle or high school reported sexual abuse at the hands of teachers and administrators? Widespread outrage would lead to immediate intervention. No student would ever attend that school again.

However, when the Los Angeles Times reported that 1,500 individuals — equivalent to the entire student body of the California Institute for the Arts — had endured child sexual abuse within youth prisons, the reaction was surprisingly subdued. These were children who were behind lock and key with their abusers for years.

There are expected to be billions of dollars in anticipated lawsuit settlements for these survivors by the county and state. What if we invested this money upfront to support the well-being and success of these young people? What if youth prisons, which have been deemed unsuitable for the care of young people when held to even the minimum standards, were instead replaced with youth centers, where youth had access to care, safety, resources, and opportunities?

This was the foundation of the Liberation Fund, a beacon of hope and advocacy, to respond to these appalling injustices, and to unlock new strategies that have never been tried before. Comprised of 10 dedicated organizations, the Liberation Fund stands united in its mission to address systemic issues and ensure that girls and gender expansive youth are served within the community, not within the confines of youth jails who have failed and harmed them for three generations.

As one Liberation Fund grantee put it, “We don’t do systems change for only one population.” A gender-based approach, led by survivors, has the potential to be a key driver for a larger movement for change in the field of youth justice.

The Liberation Fund also recognizes that true liberation requires holistic solutions that address the root causes of systemic injustice. By focusing on gender justice, the Liberation Fund envisions a Los Angeles County where women, girls, gender-expansive youth have self-determination, safety, and equity. By investing in community-based alternatives to incarceration and advocating for policies that prioritize rehabilitation over punishment, family reunification, student success and achievement, economic stability, and an end to gender-based violence the fund aims to center the voices of directly impacted youth and adult survivors to get to zero girls and gender expansive youth incarcerated today, and to keep it that way.

Through advocacy, litigation support, and grassroots organizing, the Liberation Fund works tirelessly to secure justice for survivors, pave the way to dismantle these oppressive structures, and build a future where every youth can thrive in safety and dignity.

As we confront the horrors uncovered by the litigation, let us stand in solidarity with survivors and commit ourselves to building a future free from violence and oppression.

When we support organizations through investing in collective funds, like Liberty Hill's Liberation Fund, we can ensure that the voices of survivors are heard, they have the infrastructure and collaboration to win, and that justice prevails for all.

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Liberation Fund