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Each year, they serve about 50 young men in the transitions program from Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties. In their entire program, they serve 400 youth a year.

Scales is a college student now, and began taking courses at Contra Costa College in the fall after participating in a 36-week program at the Omega Boys Club in San Francisco.

He says he's earned a B-average in five classes this semester, including psychology, math, English and humanities.

While Muhammad was being interviewed for this story, he was in the midst of taking a young man, who was recently released from prison, shopping at Ross. The young man left the system with almost nothing, and they were getting clothes for him for a job interview.

"So often, these young people are called savage, unredeemable, super-predators, criminals and delinquents, as if that is their identity," says Muhammad, who has worked with juvenile offenders for the last nine years. "Maybe they've exhibited that behavior, but that's not who they are."

"I can talk to him about anything without being judged," says Scales about Muhammad. "I've changed my whole outlook on life. I've learned to appreciate my life, instead of taking it for granted."

Foster youth in prison

Scales' past shows a story of a child who was transferred from one person, or institution's, custody to another.

He goes through a timeline, listing places where he's stayed, the number of foster families he lived with, the times he was sent to a group home, the number of times he was locked up in Solano County's juvenile jail, and the names of four CYA prisons he's been in.

"There's a strong link between kids in the child welfare system and the criminal justice system," says Krisberg. "And yet these are two systems that barely talk to each other."

Youth who end up in places like Chad are often funneled through a pipeline of systems.

Many have been written up multiple times by staff schools, jails, and prisons for "defiance," "assault" (fighting), cussing, and other types of behavior that are not always criminal. They have been kicked out of foster care, group homes, institutions, county jails, and other youth prisons time and time again. In that sense, they are "repeat offenders."

Scales' trajectory from being a foster youth to the prison system is, unfortunately, too common a story, say juvenile justice experts.

When asked about his biological parents, Scales is painfully candid. He says he didn't know his father. "I think he was killed," he says.

At 2-years old, he says he was "taken away" from his mother, who died of pneumonia when he was 7. "But I don't even know the whole story. That's just what I've been told."

Scales still regularly checks in with his former foster parents, Deidre and Bryan Myles. They say they are proud of him for continuing to better himself.

"He's always trying to prove that he can he can live in society, as a black male, as a foster child," says

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