The World’s Children’s Prize (WCP) is awarded annually to a children’s rights hero. Phymean Noun, Kailash Satyarthi, and Javier Stauring are up for a $50,000 grant given to the winner. Stauring is based in the U.S. and advocates for imprisoned children.

Stauring’s work is primarily based in California, which has a “zero tolerance” policy against children committing crimes. As a result of this “zero tolerance” policy, children are imprisoned for small crimes or for being an assistant to the crime, even if they weren’t physically involved.

Half of children imprisoned for life were not physically involved in a crime and children receive longer sentences than an adult if the two committed a crime together.

Every night, ten thousand children spend the night in adult jail. Some children are kept in a special isolation unit made just for children; they receive three hours per week of time outside of the cell.

Others in maximum security jails spend their lives enclosed by bulletproof glass, heavy gates and barbed wire sensors. They are tried as adults and their imprisonment reflects that.

However, the imprisonment of children, as with adults, reflects a system of racism and inequality. 85 percent of imprisoned children are black or Latino. Black children are nine times more likely to be imprisoned than white children; Latino children are four times more likely to be imprisoned than white children. This is correlative with poverty rates in California; persons of color are more likely to be living in poverty.

250,000 children are tried annually as adults, including children as young as eight. This is countered with various arguments, including how children’s brains aren’t fully developed until age 25, and how costly it is to keep children in jail.

California spends $45,000 per year on an inmate and only around $8,000 per year on a student. However, with the implementation and enforcement of this “zero tolerance” policy, the state has invested significant funds into the construction and upkeep of prisons; the state also receives income from fines from people committing minor crimes.

Javier Stauring, who spent time growing up in the U.S. and Mexico, works as an advocate and mentor for imprisoned children. He spends much of his time visiting children in jail; he had been doing so since he was a young adult. From the start, Stauring has been shocked at the treatment of children in jail.

He advocates for their rights while in jail, such as being able to get an education, play sports, and call their families. He protests against life sentencing, the use of solitary confinement and inhumane treatment for children in jail. He also fights for children who are victims of violent crime in adult prisons.

Stauring works on the ground and also through partnerships. Stauring works for the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles as the Co-Director of Restorative Justice; through this, he promotes dialogue, education, and community service as a form of justice rather than outright punishment through imprisonment. He works with religious leaders, politicians, educational institutions, and nonprofits to increase the impact of his work.

What is increasingly troubling is the lack of transparency for the juvenile justice system. At one point, Stauring was banned from prisons until he sued. Furthermore, it is difficult to find statistics on the exact number of children in jail.

Statistics on children are vaguely categorized in the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ report on prison populations; they are grouped under “other offenses.” Little of this receives significant press.

In addition, in a state such as California whose population is 10 percent immigrants, it raises questions on how the U.S. handles children of immigrant families in the legal system.

Immigrants make up 19 percent of the prison population in California, double their rate in the general population; this incarceration rate does not match that of who is actually committing violent crimes. Therefore, Stauring’s work for restorative justice for all, regardless of citizenship or ethnicity, holds critical weight in the fight for children’s rights in jail.

Ultimately, as immigration, the movement for racial equality and how to handle illegal immigrants become increasingly politicized with the upcoming 2016 presidential election, it also becomes important to consider children’s rights, particularly those of children in jail.

The U.S. remains one of only two countries in the world to have not ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which has powerful implications for how the U.S. approaches foreign policy and helps children in poverty around the world. As we continue to support legislation for foreign aid, it is important to think about the example we set and the rights we support at home, too.

Priscilla McCelvey

Sources: Bureau of Justice Services, Center for Immigrant Studies, CNN, Equal Justice Initiative, Huffington Post, Public Policy Institute of California, World’s Children’s Prize
Photo: Human Rights Watch

Getting a blood test is never pleasant. But what if I told you there is a new way of getting blood tests that does not involve big needles, just a prick on your finger? Well, that is exactly what Theranos has done.

Theranos is a private health-technology and medical-laboratory services company in Palo Alto California, founded in 2003 by Elizabeth Holmes. Earlier this year, Elizabeth Holmes was inducted into the newest class of Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship. She is the youngest female self-made billionaire.

Holmes and her team have reduced blood tests from many vials of blood to just a few drops. Theranos focused on reducing the blood sample size, making it inexpensive, and transparent about its prices.

Why is so much blood drawn? Holmes explains, “The entire system was designed around that, when clinical lab infrastructure began to develop similar to mainframe computing, where you have large highly centralized systems that require that much blood.”

The company’s goal is to have patients test their blood more often so doctors will be able to see any indicators for a condition, disease or something much earlier than when the physical symptoms appear. According to Holmes, “40-60 percent of Americans do not go get their lab test when their doctor has told them to.”

Holmes also adds that “doctors do not usually order lab tests unless patients report systems for a given condition because, in order for them to have the insurance pay for it, they have to justify it on the lab form with a code that describes a patient’s symptoms. By the time a test is ordered, you are probably at risk.” Holmes seeks to make the process better, to engage people, so that data can be used as a preventative measure as opposed to a reactive measure.

Holmes argues that these small samples are more accurate than the larger ones. Theranos has worked in eliminating the error in variability that is associated with the human processing of samples, which according to Holmes is the cause of 93 percent of the errors in today’s lab industry. Theranos has used advances in technology to automate many of the processes and decentralize and distribute the infrastructure to reduce the errors of human processing.

Theranos has also made the tests cheaper through advancements in technology, by redeveloping the chemistry, hardware and software that is used in the traditional infrastructure. The prices compared to medical reimbursement rates start at 50 percent off Medicare reimbursement rates and go to 90 percent off Medicare reimbursement rates.

Some are skeptical about Theranos’ technology and wonder how it is able to offer tests for less with a faster turnaround time than lab giants such as Laboratory Corp. of America and Quest Diagnostics.

Theranos’ partners include Walgreens, Capital Blue Cross Pennsylvania, the Carlos Slim Foundation and AmeriHealth Caritas.

Capital Blue Cross Pennsylvania has been very thorough in vetting the Theranos technology. The Senior Vice-President of the company, Aji Abraham, had his blood tested with Theranos and then compared the results to a recent traditional blood test, and no significant differences were discovered.

The Carlos Slim Foundation is using Theranos technology in clinics across Mexico, in an attempt to provide blood tests for cholesterol, kidney proteins and other lab results to 1 million people to fight health problems caused by obesity.

To date, Theranos has raised $92 million in VC funding from investors such as Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Larry Ellison. Its locations include Theranos wellness centers in Walgreens and other locations in Arizona and California with new locations coming soon.

Paula Acevedo

Sources: Business Insider, CNN Videos,
Photo: USA Today

California Residents in PovertyCalifornia has always been seen as the place to turn dreams into reality. It seems like Hollywood can take anyone and make them into a movie star. The state’s picturesque valleys, world-famous cities and year-round warm weather draw thousands of new residents every year. While these residents may come to the West Coast full of hope, living there long enough may turn all those dreams and hopes into nightmares.

An article published by the Sacramento Bee reported that about one-third of all Californian residents live at or below the U.S. poverty line. An immediate answer to this staggering statistic is the high cost of living one experiences as a Californian resident. A study by the United Ways of California “identified housing costs as the major factor in poverty, with struggling families spending over half of their incomes for shelter, with rents of two-bedroom housing units ranging from $584 a month in Modoc County to $1,905 in Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties.” In the simplest of terms, California isn’t cheap.

The percentage of Californians in poverty is composed of various demographics. For example, a little over 50% of all Latino families and 40% of African-American families reside under the poverty line, compared to 20% of all white families. Poverty levels spike within urban areas, with inner-city Los Angeles accounting for an astonishing 80% of all Californian residents in poverty.

At times, Californians are crippled with unrealistic housing costs. An article by AlJazeera America explored the alarming costs of owning property in California. An excerpt from the article reads, “In some California counties, the ‘real cost of living’ can exceed the federal poverty level by 300 percent. In San Diego County, for example, the household budget for two adults with one infant and one school-age child is $57,759 or 248 percent above the federal poverty line.” People in California spend more than half of their income just trying to pay their rent.

Times are vastly different in California now than they ever have been. Gone is the image of the original “Golden State.” The West Coast now offers a cruel glimpse into global poverty right here in our United States.

Diego Catala

Sources: Sacbee, Al Jazeera
Photo: The Huffington Post

pacific garbage patch
Lying about a thousand miles off the coast of California is a vast collection of marine debris, called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This problematic heap of floating artificial waste is continually exacerbated by photodegradation, the process by which the sun corrodes plastic into smaller units of the same material. These smaller pieces make the trash pool much more difficult to collect and contaminate marine animals’ food supply.

Fish, sea turtles and birds are consuming these small pieces of plastic in massive numbers. Since plastic is known to absorb toxins from the oceans, scientists have attributed the decline of numerous species’ populations to these tiny, poisonous particles. BBC reported that “about one-third of all albatross chicks die on Midway, many as the result of being mistakenly fed plastic by their parents.”

Yet, animal rights activists are not the only groups that should be incensed by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Boating and submarine equipment has been reportedly damaged by run-ins with this Texas-sized reservoir of trash. In addition, lovers of seafood are now exposed to the harmful toxins harbored by fish caught near the area, as the polluted region is a common stop for commercial fisherman. Finally, currents are transporting the trash from the gyre to the once pristine beaches of Hawaii, burying vacation destinations in multiple feet of plastic.

Any large-scale cleanup effort appears to be difficult to attain at any reasonable cost. The most basic method would involve using gigantic nets to collect the trash and convert it into oil. However, such an ill-fated strategy would inadvertently catch and kill an unreasonable number of commercial fish, turtles, sharks and other vital members of the marine animal kingdom.

However, 19-year-old Boyan Slat has provided some hope for the future. He proposed an innovated technique that has been endorsed by marine biologists and engineers alike. Slat believes that a collection of floating buoys and platforms on the ocean’s surface can separate the waste without capturing innocent wildlife. Learn more about the project at Boyan Slat’s website.

Although Slat’s project is years away from any potential implementation, it would be in the best interest of both man and animal if this theory can successfully be put into practice.

— Sam Preston

Sources: National Geographic, US Department of Commerce, BBC, How Stuff Works
Photo: Global Energy Profs