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By Isabel Coronado and Emily Kim 

Prison abolition is not a radical or new concept. Indigenous prison abolitionists have demanded an end to incarceration as early as 1492 when colonizers brought the practice of carceral punishment to the Americas. Although many people believe that prison abolition is impossible, Indigenous communities have deep experience with anti-carceral approaches to justice (please see the reading list at this link).

In California, the earliest incarceration systems were attached to the 18th- and 19th-century mission system, which included 21 prisons. Our federal government inflicted intergenerational trauma upon Native children during the Indian boarding school era when it ripped Native children from their homes and put them in residential schools to assimilate into European culture and customs. The violence did not end there. A recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs notes that “federal Indian boarding school rules were often enforced through punishment, including corporal punishment such as solitary confinement; flogging; withholding food; whipping; slapping; and cuffing.” 

Experts say trauma from the boarding school era has been passed through generations of Native families. They point to the lasting effects of historical trauma as causes of the high levels of PTSD, incarceration, violence, and poverty. These examples show that mass incarceration of Indigenous people has a deep historical context and impacts predating the War on Drugs that started in 1971.  

Currently, Indigenous abolitionists are discussing the link between prison abolition and the “land back” movement. Charles Sepulveda (Tongva and Acjachemen), an assistant professor at the University of Utah, writes that “to decolonize Indigenous lands, we must also abolish police and prisons.” Sepulveda explores how abolition and decolonization are intricately tied because they both imagine life outside of violence, land theft, and imprisonment–a life that may exist and move beyond white supremacy.  

Without prison abolition, the criminal legal system will continue to disproportionately harm Indigenous communities. The combined national and state rates of incarceration for Indigenous folks are 38 percent higher than the national average within carceral systems. Additionally, a report by the Lakota People’s Law Project finds that Indigenous men are incarcerated at four times the rate of white men, while Indigenous women are incarcerated at six times the rate of white women. Not only are Indigenous people incarcerated at disproportionately high rates, they are also, “sentenced to longer sentences than white people who commit the same crime.”  

The U.S. Sentencing Commission conducted a review over 10 years ago—but it resulted in few material changes. Native people made up 2.1 percent  of all federally incarcerated people in 2019, larger than their share of the total U.S. population, which was less than 1 percent. In South Dakota, the state with the fourth highest percentage of Native American residents, Native Americans comprise 60 percent of the federal caseload, but only 8.5 percent of the total population.  

In terms of young people, Native youth are over-represented in state and federal juvenile justice systems and are more likely to face harsher treatment in the most restrictive environments. A 2016 study found that American Indian and Alaska Native youth continue to have a 5-15 percent overrepresentation in states like Montana and North Dakota and more than 15 percent overrepresentation in Alaska and South Dakota. Native youth are 50 percent more likely than white youth to receive the most punitive measures. 

The prison system continues to perpetuate and inflict intergenerational harm on Native children today.  Twenty percent of Native children have experienced parental incarceration at some point in their lives. Parental incarceration impacts youth’s educational outcomes, physical/mental health, future financial earnings, and housing instability.  

As our criminal legal system has negatively impacted and targeted Indigenous communities across generations since its inception, it’s time to face the facts. The current U.S. prison system does not keep the public safe from “criminals” and “bad guys.” Public safety has not improved since the beginning of mass incarceration. In 2017, a review of “30 of the most rigorous experimental or quasi-experimental studies on the link between crime and imprisonment,” confirmed that there is no concrete evidence that prisons work.  

So, what is the solution to bringing crime rates down? Some research suggests community repair as the answer. A 2022 report states, “community repair calls for the use of publicly funded, community-led services to meet the economic, wellness, and social needs of systems-impacted families and their communities at-scale. [It] is a policy framework that not only seeks to meet the basic needs of systems-impacted families but is also a framework that calls for large-scale public investments to repair histories of systemic divestment and mass criminalization at the community level as well.”  

As Tynetta Muhammad from BYP100 said, “Indigenous resistance is created through wellness, community healing, liberation movements, and abolition of political prisons.” We demand that our policymakers and leaders abolish prisons and instead follow Indigenous anti-incarceration models that invest in communities, so that we may break the cycle of intergenerational trauma, give land back, and eliminate systemic barriers for Native communities to thrive. 

>> Read our indigenous abolition reading list with examples of indigenous anti-carceral approaches

By Kayla Tawa 

In recent years, we have seen a wave of state-level “culture war” debates that target young people, particularly Black and brown young people, LGBTQIA+ young people, and young people with disabilities. In 2023 specifically, state legislators have introduced a record number of bills targeting LGBTQIA+ rights, including some that ban gender-affirming care for minors and people insured by Medicaid, others that ban trans young people from participating in sports, and still others banning drag performances. Like bans on Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Social Emotional Learning (SEL), these bills are just the latest tactics to uphold white supremacy and systems of power like racism, homophobia, and transphobia by codifying the continued marginalization and erasure of trans people, Black and brown people, and people with disabilities. 

In passing these transphobic laws, many politicians are invoking the youth mental health crisis—justifying these cruel policies by hypocritically claiming they are protecting young people.  

On this Trans Day of Visibility, it’s important to remember that visibility isn’t just about being seen. It’s about being heard, respected, listened to, and valued. Policymakers who care about the youth mental health crisis should not propose their own solutions to the problem – they should ask young people, particularly those most impacted by the crisis, what solutions they support. Acting on the solutions that young people propose requires dismantling the systems of power fueling the youth mental health crisis and building a new mental health system versed in culturally responsive and gender-affirming practices.   

Bans on gender-affirming care do not protect young people. Rather, they signal to trans young people that their health and wellbeing don’t matter. Trans and nonbinary young people already experience extraordinarily high levels of anxiety and depression: In a July 2022 survey of young people, 98.2 percent reported feeling anxious or depressed. Gender-affirming care improves short- and long-term mental health outcomes for transgender and nonbinary young people, while denial of care worsens mental health outcomes, including by increasing rates of suicidality. Given the scientific and medical consensus on the benefits of gender-affirming care, politicians can’t claim to care about young people’s mental health while also proposing policies that will harm trans and nonbinary youth. These politicians are knowingly and willfully sacrificing trans and nonbinary young people to further their own political aims.  

Harming trans young people is not an unforeseen or unintended consequence of these policies – it is the sole purpose of them. Maintaining white supremacist systems requires violence against marginalized communities, violence these politicians are reframing as “protection.”   

Young people don’t need politicians “protecting” them, speaking for them, or acting on their behalf. They need politicians listening to them and acting in collaboration with them. Young people can and are speaking up and their messages are clear: they don’t want these policies and feel attacked by them. Young people are not asking for TikTok bans, drag bans, or book bans—all of which are being pursued in the name of protecting young people. Rather, young people recognize the root causes of the mental health crisis as systemic and are asking policymakers to take real action on the real problems they’re experiencing like gun violence, racial injustices, and climate disasters.    

Politicians banning gender-affirming care don’t care about young people’s mental health. They care about maintaining and strengthening white supremacy, and these transphobic policies are a tactic in a coordinated attack. On this Transgender Day of Visibility, we must stand in solidarity with trans and nonbinary young people and recognize that the liberation of trans young people is intrinsically tied to the liberation of all other people who have been subjected to violence for centuries under white supremacist systems.  

By Shira Small and Alejandra Londono Gomez 

While the process for finding child care is often difficult and daunting for families, the application for child care assistance doesn’t have to be. Families, especially those with low incomes—along with those who are Black, Latino/Hispanic, Indigenous, and immigrants—face significant challenges in finding care that is accessible and affordable. Once they find care, families must also navigate complex eligibility rules to find out if they qualify for assistance. The application process creates unnecessary administrative burdens not only for families but also for states.   

Obstacles to obtaining assistance vary by state since the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) law and its regulations and guidance give states flexibility in creating their own eligibility guidelines. Yet this flexibility, paired with limited resources that only serve a small portion of eligible children, has given rise to cumbersome processes requiring families to supply a long list of documents to be considered for assistance. It has also exacerbated racial and geographic inequities in families’ access to subsidies across states.  

The federal Office of Child Care (OCC) has created a new guide for state child care agencies on how to create family-friendly child care applications. This effort was informed by interviews with child care providers, regional child care assistance offices, families who applied for child care assistance, teams across the Department of Health and Human Services, and advocacy groups.  

In its guide, the OCC encourages states to simplify the content and format of child care assistance applications and makes the case that streamlining application and eligibility processes leads to better program integrity. Simplifying the application process is a key step in helping more families access subsidies and is just as important in broadening the eligibility criteria to serve the greatest number of eligible children possible. The guide includes suggestions such as:  

As we explain above, state child care agencies can simplify their application and eligibility criteria in meaningful ways. Code for America, a nonprofit civic technology organization, has released open-source Java code based on the OCC’s model application that states can use to make their child care assistance applications as user-friendly as possible. It is crucial for states to implement OCC’s suggestions to reduce administrative burdens on their agencies, make it easier for families to apply, expand access to care, and enable more parents to enter the workforce and support their families. For more information on how your state can create a family-friendly child care application and to see a sample application, visit the guide 

CLASP submitted a public comment in response to USCIS’s proposed changes to the immigration fee schedule. We applauded the agency in keeping important fee waivers and adding new fee exemptions for humanitarian programs but voiced our concern about the harmful impacts of immigration fee increases for low-income and other vulnerable immigrants.

Applicants for immigration benefits are not responsible for the backlogs or USCIS’ financial situation, and they should not carry the burden. Immigrants are not bottomless funding sources that USCIS can plunder to make up for the deficit caused by Congress’s unwillingness to appropriately fund this agency. Further, by financially burdening immigrants who require basic immigration services, USCIS undermines immigrants’ ability to move through the legal immigration process even as President Biden calls for a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, those on temporary status, farm workers, and essential workers. For these reasons, CLASP respectfully urges USCIS to withdraw the proposed rule increasing fees.

By Shira Small and Alyssa Fortner 

Child care costs are often one of the biggest expenses for families, especially those with lower incomes. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated already unaffordable child care prices. This is particularly challenging for families with infants and toddlers because the cost of their care is the highest compared to older children, while available care is the most limited. These expenses also come at a time when parents with infants and toddlers are often young or early in their careers. To advance equity in child care access for families with infants and toddlers, federal and state policymakers must boost funding dedicated to helping them afford it. 

Disparities in cost and federal support for care of America’s youngest children 

Across all types of care settings, infant and toddler care is more expensive than care for older children. Recent U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau data show that the annual median cost of infant care is roughly $5,000 more and the annual median costs for toddler care is roughly $2,000 more than for preschool age children. Infant and toddler care requires smaller classroom sizes and lower child-to-provider ratios, raising the price of care and limiting its availability. This applies to both home- and center-based providers. Center-based infant care is the costliest form of care, with the median price per child reaching $27,220 in 2022 dollars for one year of care. 

The Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) seeks to help families with low incomes afford care by subsidizing its cost for families with low incomes. But the resources are limited. Only 1 in 6 eligible children currently receive subsidies, leaving millions of children and families without affordable care. Children younger than three accounted for 27 percent of children who received a subsidy in 2020. Even with the support of CCDBG, families’ needs far exceed the availability of assistance due to higher provider costs, lower reimbursement rates, and fewer available slots for infants and toddlers. 

Research shows that infant care costs 49 percent more than care for a preschooler, on average. Yet, child care subsidy rates for CCDBG—or the subsidized rates parents pay to providers—were only 26 percent higher for infant care providers. The gap between the subsidy rates and the cost of licensed infant care exceeds $400 per month in almost half of states, according to a 2020 Center for American Progress report.  

Decades of underfunding harms families and communities 

Without sustained federal funding to the child care sector, states are forced to make hard choices about how to allocate money and who receives care—with infants, toddlers, and their families often paying a significant price. 

Infants and toddlers experience one of the most important phases of childhood development, making access to quality child care incredibly valuable. But the resources to afford this care are not divided among all families equally. Families of color and families with low incomes face the greatest barriers accessing affordable, high-quality child care that meets their scheduling, linguistic, and cultural and/or community needs due to systemic racial and economic inequities. 

A lack of investments in child care and early education over many decades has exacerbated longstanding equity challenges related to increasing access to care and making it affordable. Reduced access to child care also reduces parents’ workforce participation, further reinforcing a cycle of inequality. Underinvestment has also made it more difficult to ensure the child care workforce is valued, supported, and paid well.  

Increased and targeted investments can strengthen equity in access 

For too long, states have been forced to make significant tradeoffs in their child care subsidy systems due to limited resources. Every positive step forward comes at the expense of another needed investment. Without larger, intentionally allocated investments, states will always be forced to consider restrictive policies aimed at reducing costs. These decisions will continue to result in certain populations having greater access to child care than others, harming families of color and families with low incomes most. 

Increasing federal funding for child care will allow states to extend subsidies to more parents of infants and toddlers as well as help eliminate the harmful compromises demanded by insufficient funding. This is vital to increasing the supply of child care for infants and toddlers, making care more affordable for parents, and supporting the care workforce. 

By Maya Pottiger


Plus, now kids have to battle “algorithm bias,” — or human biases that are automated and amplified by technology. Clarence Okoh from the Center for Law and Social Policy talked about how the laws designed to protect student privacy don’t think about civil rights protection, and that this data is often used to discriminate against student populations.

Read the full article here.

By Maya Pottiger


Plus, now kids have to battle “algorithm bias,” — or human biases that are automated and amplified by technology. Clarence Okoh from the Center for Law and Social Policy talked about how the laws designed to protect student privacy don’t think about civil rights protection, and that this data is often used to discriminate against student populations.

Read the full article here

This statement can be attributed to Indivar Dutta-Gupta, President and Executive Director of the Center for Law and Social Policy

Washington, D.C., March 9, 2022—President Biden released his FY 2024 budget today, outlining his priorities for federal investments in the health, wellbeing, and economic security of children, working families, seniors, and communities. Over the past few years, the United States demonstrated that, with the political will, we can dramatically reduce child poverty, expand health coverage, and support workers and caregivers—all of which in turn expanded the economy and reduced racial inequities. The question now is whether we will continue to build on these investments and ensure that our economy works for all. In some instances, the administration is proposing bold and effective policies that advance equity and prosperity. In other areas, especially immigration and public safety, the president’s budget requests and policy priorities undermine these goals.

The president’s budget arrives at a politically charged and highly partisan moment in our national politics. The House majority is threatening default on the debt unless the President agrees to steep cuts to critical programs. It’s also a time when pandemic-era assistance programs are winding down, with millions of people receiving less food assistance and facing risks of losing health insurance coverage under Medicaid. Congress faces clear choices, between continued investments to strengthen our economy and promote opportunity, paid for with responsible tax policy, or a default or budget cuts that would likely send the U.S. into recession.


The budget makes clear that raising the revenue needed to fund these crucial investments requires corporations and wealthy individuals to pay their fair share—a more equitable approach to tax policy that is long overdue and one CLASP fully supports. We endorse President Biden’s commitment to bringing greater fairness to our tax system which currently favors corporate interests and the affluent. Through bold measures such as raising taxes on capital gains and stock buybacks, higher Medicare taxes on high-income earners, a 25 percent minimum tax for billionaires, and eliminating a host of tax subsidies, the president is reversing some of the damage caused by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 and raising the funds needed to invest in families and communities. In fact, the president’s plan reduces our overall debt by $3 trillion while also shoring up our social protection system.

Income and Economic Security

The United States saw historic reductions in child poverty, especially for Black and Hispanic children because of the Child Tax Credit in 2021, and we are glad to see a permanent, fully refundable version in the budget. The budget also supports expanding access to rental assistance and affordable housing programs. We also appreciate the continued investment in modernizing and strengthening the Unemployment Insurance (UI) system, as well as principles to reform UI to make it more robust, responsive, and equitable.

Nutrition Assistance

The budget proposed a significant increase in funding for nutrition assistance programs such as school meals and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The budget also to aims to reduce barriers to access in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the nation’s number one tool at fighting hunger and food insecurity. The budget calls out many of the restrictions on SNAP access, such as the time limits, the denial of full benefits to residents of the territories, college students, and people with previous convictions, that we and other advocates have identified as amplifying racial and other existing inequities. Removing these barriers is an opportunity to make progress on a key policy priority to ensure that all people have access to healthy and affordable food.

Care Economy

It’s encouraging to see President Biden renew his commitment to strengthening the nation’s care infrastructure, which is essential to strengthening our economy and connecting people to economic opportunity and mobility.

We applaud the budget’s historic, proposed $600 billion investment over ten years in child care and early education programs. This investment will expand access to child care for 16 million more children–more than eight times the number of children who currently receive assistance for child care. Equally important is the president’s proposal to expand pre-K education, which will provide access to four million four-year-olds and eventually to 3-year-olds as well. All young children deserve equitable access to high-quality child care and early education and this proposal supports this goal.

The Biden administration also renewed its support and commitment to a national paid family and medical leave program with a proposed investment of $325 billion. This program would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave for individuals to take time away from work to care for a newborn, sick child or family member, or to deal with their own illness. For more than 30 years, advocates have been fighting for paid leave, and in states where it’s been implemented, we know paid leave works, improving women’s earnings and workforce participation, maternal health outcomes, and children’s development. The budget also includes funding to support the creation of additional state-paid leave programs and for enforcement of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which provides job-protected, unpaid leave. Among additional proposals supporting the care economy, the budget includes guaranteed paid sick days and a $150 billion investment in home-based community services for seniors and people with disabilities.

Health Care and Mental Health

The budget fulfills the president’s commitment to make Medicare solvent and would make permanent the improved Affordable Care Act subsidies that were temporarily extended last year. We applaud efforts to close Medicaid coverage gaps in non-expansion states, and to make 12 months of postpartum coverage available in all states. These are important steps towards reducing health disparities, including by race. We are glad to see continued investments in mental health that will strengthen networks of the behavioral health workforce, increase parity between physical and mental health care, and expand coverage for providers.

Supporting Young Adults

While the Biden’s student debt relief program is on hold as the U.S. Supreme Court considers challenges to the plan, there is still a need for additional investments to support the aspirations of young adults to pursue postsecondary education and training. The administration’s budget proposal doubles the maximum Pell grant award by 2029 and provides $500 million to partially fund free community college, both positive steps toward expanding access to postsecondary education for young adults in low- and moderate-income families. We are pleased that the president calls for expanding eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit for adults without children raised at home to young adults ages 19-24. Finally, the budget acknowledges that the country’s youth are experiencing a mental health crisis, and notes the importance of allocating resources towards treatment, although CLASP would like to see a stronger emphasis on prevention that engages young people with positive messaging around well-being.

Workforce Development

The increased investment in Registered Apprenticeships with an emphasis on the inclusion of women and people of color is encouraging. Registered Apprenticeships are proven, high-quality training programs that provide pathways to quality jobs. The Biden budget reflects the administration’s strong commitment to fighting climate change by establishing a Civilian Climate Corps and other job training programs in emerging, green industries. We’re pleased to see an increased investment in community college capacity to deliver high-quality training programs and investments in workforce development programs. Robust workforce development funding is essential to ensure that workers of color, women, youth, and individuals with barriers to employment are able to access the millions of jobs created by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act.


The president’s budget once again requests funding to support cities in hiring 100,000 new police officers nationwide. This is an outdated and racially inequitable approach to public safety. This proposal would endanger the lives of Black, Brown and Indigenous people whose communities continue to bear the brunt of this country’s police violence epidemic. The budget rightly invests in upstream and community-based safety strategies, but these investments cannot undo the harm from over-policing. The United States leads wealthy democracies in police killings per capita, and research suggests that police spending does disappointingly little to ensure public safety, while greater training does even less to prevent police violence. We encourage the administration to follow the evidence toward community safety strategies that invest in youth economic opportunities and well-being such as youth mobile crisis response models and quality jobs for young people.


There is little we can endorse about the proposals in the president’s budget on immigration. We disagree that many of the steps the administration has taken or proposed are contributing to a “safe, orderly, and humane immigration system.” The budget does include essential and important investments to support refugee services and immigration processing, including resources for the Office of Refugee Resettlement for legal counsel and post-release services for unaccompanied children. But those resources are dwarfed by the outsized increases in Customs and Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement as well as $4.7 billion in a contingency fund to respond to migrants arriving at the Southwest border that we oppose. Coupled with recent announcements such as the proposed asylum ban and reports about possible reinstitution of family detention, we are deeply concerned that the administration continues to uphold and expand nearly all of the problematic and harmful policies that arose during the Trump Administration. They fly in the face of President Biden’s previous commitments, harm children and families, and undermine the standing of the United States in the global fight for democracy.


By Jace Peterkin

With the passage in December of the Consolidated Appropriations Act—also known as the fiscal year 2023 omnibus spending package-—Congress made headway in increasing funding for mental health resources. But policymakers have more work to do. In particular, the package failed to make major reforms in our mental health system that Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) need.

The law includes funding to expand and develop programs for virtual peer support, behavioral and substance use health support, and maternal mental health care. Following are ten critical mental health investments included in the bill. Despite these increases, lawmakers have a long way to go before we can truly change our mental health system to serve everyone.

The omnibus package includes the following provisions related to mental health:

Funding Amount



$1.01 billion Mental Health Block Grant To develop, expand, and enhance national, statewide, or community-focused programs, including virtual peer-support services and technology-related capabilities.
$501.6 million Suicide Prevention Lifeline To transition to the new 988 crisis line, which aims to provide suicide prevention and mental health support nationwide.
$385 million Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics To support individuals who need behavioral and substance abuse health support.
$130 million Children’s mental health services To identify the best clinical practices for children in need of behavioral support.
$111 million U.S. Department of Education To mental health programs dedicated to increasing the accessibility of mental health services in schools.
$94 million National Child Traumatic Stress Network To improve access and raise the standard of care for children, families, and communities that have experienced trauma.
$24 million Into the Light for Maternal Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders program To provide screening and treatment for maternal mental health to birthing persons across the country. In addition, the package includes $10 million for the Maternal Mental Health Hotline to provide mental health support for expecting persons.
$10 million Children exposed to violence (through the U.S. Department of Justice) To support children and families exposed to violence.
$10 million TRIUMPH Act Requires the development of a task force on maternal mental health to research, support, and develop a national strategy around maternal mental health.
$5 million Maternal mental health and crisis care needs TO research and support maternal mental health programs.

As lawmakers propose changes to the mental health system for fiscal year 2024, CLASP recommends the following:

1. To tighten equitable mental health resources, we must redefine what we currently see as “treatable” in mental health. Often policies are reactive rather than proactive. We can avoid some mental health crises by focusing investments on preventative measures.

2. Congress should use lessons learned from the Medicaid continuous coverage period over the past three years, including incentivizing or requiring states to provide at least 12 months of continuous Medicaid coverage for those enrolled. The omnibus bill does require all states to adopt 12-month continuous eligibility for children beginning in 2024. And the law made permanent the state option to extend Medicaid postpartum coverage to 12 months. However, people need continuous coverage at all points in life, not just at certain times. To support people’s mental health effectively, we must expand Medicaid, and ultimately provide universal healthcare for all.

3. To make an inclusive mental health system, we must acknowledge and take action to remove systemically racist practices in prevention, care, and treatment. For instance, the system’s current structure heavily relies on Western treatment practices that are based on a white-centric approach. This system often does not recognize practices like peer support specialists that have been proven effective with people in Black and brown communities. By investing where the need is greatest, lawmakers will help bolster and expand community-based solutions, which are proven to reduce trauma and stress.

The role of the legislative branch is to create laws for the benefit of everyone. Increasing funding for mental health services is a step in the right direction. Still, the current spending package did not have the needs of people of color in mind. Policymakers must restructure the mental health system to ensure Black and brown young people and adults can access support services where they live, work, and play.

By Lauraine Langreo 


“We need to understand that these technologies are showing up within a long-standing historical continuum of racial injustice and racial hierarchy within our communities,” said Clarence Okoh, a senior policy counsel for Center for Law and Social Policy, a nonprofit that advocates for policies aimed at improving the lives of people with low-incomes.

Read the full article here.