Date of Graduation

Spring 5-21-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Urban Affairs


College of Arts and Sciences


Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good

First Advisor

Sarah Burgess

Second Advisor

David Donahue


Significant research has demonstrated that juvenile prisons are obsolete for the following reasons: they fail to rehabilitate children and prevent future crime, they perpetuate pervasive abuse and trauma, they disproportionately target and further marginalize children of color, and the cost of youth incarceration has skyrocketed to unimaginable amounts. In light of all of these findings, in 2019, San Francisco became the first city in the nation to pass legislation to close its juvenile hall. In order to understand how this was possible and to understand its implications for other cities looking to engage in similar work, I asked the following question: What strategies and techniques did San Francisco activists engage in to successfully pass the legislation to close its juvenile hall and what can be learned from the process of its implementation? In this thesis, I argue that the passing of this legislation was made possible by a cooperative effort during a unique political window of opportunity. However, drawing on Savannah Shange’s ideas of a progressive dystopia and carceral progressivism, I demonstrate that the process of implementation has revealed a series of tensions between stakeholders expressed shared values and their actualization. This project is important because it demonstrates the difficulties of not perpetuating carceral practices even in a place as progressive as San Francisco. This project highlights the need to go beyond the appearance of progressive politics and to actually do the work of defining values in practical terms that can bring about transformative justice.