Alumni Spotlight

Frankie Guzman '12

Frankie GuzmanFrankie Guzman is a staff attorney at National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) where he works to eliminate the practice of prosecuting and incarcerating children in California’s adult criminal justice system. At UCLA School of Law, Frankie was enrolled in the David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy. He was awarded a Paul and Daisy Fellowship for New Americans and later a Soros Justice Fellowship to fund his postgraduate work at the NCYL.

Frankie’s commitment to helping children in trouble with the law is very personal. He was raised in a poor, mostly immigrant community plagued by crime and violence. As a child, Frankie experienced his parents' divorce and the family's subsequent homelessness, the life-imprisonment of his 16-year-old brother, and the loss of numerous friends to violence. As a young teen, Frankie fell into despair and delinquency. At age 15, he was arrested for armed robbery and was sentenced to serve 15 years in the California Youth Authority. However, after serving six years, Frankie was released on parole and, unlike many youth today, given a second chance.

Frankie is proof positive that children who commit crimes, even serious crimes, are redeemable. Frankie has done much educate the public about the harms caused by prosecuting children as adults, including lengthy and life sentences in adult prisons with few education or rehabilitative services. He advocates for a more sensible approach to addressing juvenile crime by sharing his experiences, insights, and example through frequent speaking appearances at national conferences, law schools and universities, and inside youth and adult prisons.

In California, Frankie works with lawmakers to promote legislation that ensures children in trouble with the law are treated fairly and appropriately for their age and level of culpability. He advocates improving data collection and analysis to better understand the impact that transfer laws have on children, for evidence based treatment that promotes rehabilitation and public safety, and increased state investments in local education and mentorship efforts for youth.

At the county level, Frankie works with courts, prosecutors, and law enforcement agencies to reduce transfers, develop alternatives to adult prosecutions of children, and create evidence-based treatment options within local juvenile justice systems.

Additionally, Frankie works with community groups in under-served and disadvantaged communities across the state. Frankie provides legal education, advocacy training, and technical assistance to increase community leaders’ ability to mobilize resources and influence policy decisions affecting them, and to improve their effectiveness in delivering services to at-risk and system-involved youth. Frankie is focused on building a coalition that includes the communities most affected by adult prosecutions of children to create a movement for change.

Frankie is honored to have played a key role in developing the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016, a ballot initiative to reform the state’s juvenile transfer laws and recognize the differences between children and adults who are charged with serious offenses.