JLUSA leader Dieter Cantu speaks about empowering incarcerated youth

December 5, 2023

“Despite statistics showing that the number of juveniles in prison has decreased over the years, The Texas Tribune reports that there are still hundreds of juveniles locked away in state prisons.

“That large number once included community activist Dieter Cantu [Leading with Conviction™ 2020], who has made it his life mission to ensure that those youth behind bars are not forgotten.

“Back in 2005, Cantu was sentenced to serve 10 years for his first offense while his three adult counterparts received no time at all. Cantu has said that due to the lack of proper legal representation in court for his case, he went ahead and signed a plea bargain.

It takes a lot for somebody to advocate on their behalf when they’re not around.

“Since being released in 2009, Cantu developed his nonprofit organization, the Cantu’s Books for Incarcerated Youth Project, with the goal of sending books and other literature to those young people which can help them pass the time while giving them knowledge so that they are prepared upon their release. These books have the potential to overwhelmingly reduce the rate of recidivism for those youth who have the chance to get out.

“The organization has already donated more than 5,000 books to various Texas facilities and has also developed several partnerships including with the Houston Texans, The Larry Hoover Project, and others across the U.S.

“Cantu has been recognized for his work with imprisoned youth in front of the Texas Senate Advisory Commission, provided a Ted Talk speech entitled ‘The Child Who Believed He Could,’ and was most recently named the recipient of the 2022 Reebok Human Rights Award.

“When asked how those partnerships impact his program, Cantu said, ‘They definitely help kids amplify their stories. A lot of times, the youth that are housed in TJJD or any juvenile detention center, they’re going through the same thing that I went through, you know? It takes a lot for somebody to advocate on their behalf when they’re not around.’”

Read more from Click2Houston.com.

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