March 3, 2014
Eric Olson-Getty


YO:Durham's Response to the False Arrest and Detention of Lewis Little

Durham, NC - March 3, 2014 - Lewis Little was the president of the YO:Durham class of 2010 and one of our brightest alumni. Our program strives to teach our youth to take responsibility for their lives and their community, and we believe Lewis acted admirably when he called the police when he found Michael Lee dead in the street on June 21, 2013. We are outraged that Lewis' conscientious action was met with such unjust treatment at the hands of the Durham police and judicial system.

In response to this incident, and to recent evidence of racial disparities in policing presented to the Durham Human Relations Commission, YO:Durham will no longer track the arrest incidents of our students and alumni as a program metric. As long as our young people are subject to racial profiling and arbitrary treatment at the hands of law enforcement, we cannot look to arrests records as an indicator of the responsibility of their choices or the impact of our program on their lives.


YO:Durham is a youth workforce development program with a mission to make a difference in the lives of our students through intensive job training, paid internships, and mentoring. We have measured the arrest rates of our students because we recognize that involvement in the criminal justice system is one of the largest drivers of youth disconnection from economic opportunities. Lewis Little's false arrest and detention is just one example of racialized policing practices that have targeted young African-American men at a rate vastly out of proportion with their percentage of the Durham population. Such practices undermine the social and economic fabric of our neighborhoods, and the longer they continue, the more our work to help our youth become productive, positive contributors to our city becomes an upstream swim against a strengthening current.


As a program of Durham Congregations in Action, YO:Durham is party to the FADE coalition and therefore endorses its proposals for policing reform. FADE, which stands for Fostering Alternatives to Drug Enforcement, recommends that police undergo racial equity training and be subject to meaningful public review of stops, searches, and arrests. We believe that such provisions may have prevented the injustice that befell Lewis Little. We furthermore ask the City of Durham to assume the cost and responsibility of expunging public records of Little's arrest and charges, and take steps to rectify the damage to his reputation that he incurred as a result of this incident.  


While YO:Durham can only reach a few students every year, we are committed to partnering with every stakeholder in Durham to make our community a place where all of our youth and young adults can thrive. We hope that policymakers and law enforcement will respond to Little's arrest as an opportunity for self-reflection and change. 

The mission of YO:Durham (Year of Opportunity for Durham Teens) is to give Durham youth a year of opportunity to make a difference in their lives through a six-week Summer Career Academy, paid school-year internships, mentoring, and service learning.

YO:Durham is currently merging with Partners for Youth to become Partners for Youth Opportunity. The mission of the merged organization is to partner with the community to provide Durham youth with opportunities to connect, develop, and contribute through mentoring, employment, and educational support.


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