Home News Center Care, Not Control: The Album Gives Youth Hope and Brings Message of Change

Care, Not Control: The Album Gives Youth Hope and Brings Message of Change

November 29, 2022
Courtney M. McSwain

Youth advocates in Pennsylvania are bringing music and activism together through Care, Not Control: The Album. The Care, Not Control campaign launched in 2020 by NJJN members Youth Art & Self-empowerment Project (YASP), The Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project and Juvenile Law Center, in partnership with The Village of Arts and Humanities, to end youth incarceration in Pennsylvania. NJJN was fortunate to contribute to the Care, Not Control campaign with a grant from our COVID-19 rapid response fund that supported the campaign’s decarceration efforts in the wake of the global pandemic. Since 2020, advocates have coalesced around public demands to:  

  1. End the carceral state in Pennsylvania;
  2. Divest from youth incarceration and reinvest in communities;
  3. Always treat children as children;
  4. Provide holistic supports to young people as they await release;
  5. Transform probation and eliminate fines and fees;
  6. Provide holistic support to young people returning home;
  7. Release youth in light of the heightened dangerousness of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Youth advocates working on the campaign have undertaken multiple forms of action including holding public demonstrations in front of the Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Services Center, hosting town hall meetings with youth testimony before state leaders and producing poster and graffiti art campaigns to increase public awareness of the cause to end youth incarceration. For instance, one of the biggest issues advocates are tackling right now is the issue of overcrowding in youth correctional facilities, which has led to proposals to send youth to out-of-state facilities hours away from their families - a move that harms youth and doesn’t improve public safety. To bring attention to the issue and educate community members, including lawmakers, on better alternatives to incarceration, Care, Not Control is planning an upcoming virtual town hall on December 14th.  

Raising awareness and reaching the community with their message is a staple of the Care, Not Control campaign strategy, highlighted in its most recent creative project - Care, Not Control: The Album. In November, the coalition released a youth-led and produced album of original music with advocates sharing their stories and perspectives being impacted by youth incarceration in hopes to “shift the narrative surrounding youth incarceration and promote investing in community-based alternatives,” the campaign stated. Bre (Briannah) Stoves, a youth advocate with the Juvenile Law Center and youth organizer with The Village of Arts and Humanities wrote and performed multiple songs on the album, including the first single release entitled, “Untold Story.” The song, written while Bre experienced incarceration, share’s Bre’s emotional and personal story while offering comfort and inspiration to other youth who may experience similar situations.  

“I originally wrote my music when I was incarcerated and it was just like you know, pen and paper. All I had was like time on my hands, but then it turned into, you know, doing something with that. You know what I'm writing and making it into something for young people to hear my story - hear my voice and feel like they have a voice too,” Bre shared.  

The album was a collective effort originally conceptualized by two Care, Not Control youth organizers, Jahir and Will, and inspired to connect with other young people and community members through music, the campaign stated. Additional young artists featured on the album worked with acclaimed musicians and producers, including Jordan McCree, Dan “Dilemma” Thomas, Elle Morris, Simon Martinez, HeemFuQuan, and Emyne. Additionally, they will release an educational toolkit to help listeners discuss the album’s themes and facilitate difficult conversations about youth incarceration, violence, harm and power. 
Creating the album took over a year, and working with fellow artists created a bond between the artists, Bre shared. “[The album] created an opportunity to bond more with the young people that I was making the songs with. Being able to hear their music, their different stories and just get a better understanding, I learned the similarities of [our stories]…how we've all been incarcerated but dealt with similar situations.” 
Bre’s hope for Care, Not Control: The Album, is that the music resonates with youth experiencing incarceration, while also helping legislators gain a better understanding of the injustices youth face within the legal system. “I hope the album helps young people feel like they have a voice and that they can speak up about things that [are] going on,” Bre said. “For lawmakers and legislators, I want the album to [help bring about] more understanding of the young people - hearing their voices and different stories. We need to change what's going on within this corrupted system so that youth don't have to go through these things in the next generations.”

Care, Not Control: The Album is available to stream and download on the album website and on Bandcamp. You can also stay connected to the Care, Not Control campaign on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  

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