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Invest in Youth Justice Day

Tuesday, 09 July 2013 Posted in Federal Update


Today is Invest in Youth Justice Day! Time to tell Senate and House Appropriators to protect juvenile justice funding.

The Senate and the House Appropriations Committees will begin consideration of their respective versions of the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill in the next few weeks. The CJS appropriations bill provides federal funding to support state juvenile justice systems and reforms.

This funding is critical to implementing policies and practices that keep youth out of the justice system and help states decrease the number of youth incarcerated. We must protect it!

Juvenile justice dollars are at risk for FY14 and we must act now to preserve these important funding streams.

Act4JJ is asking all allies to participate in Invest in Youth Justice Day today to promote safe communities and improve outcomes for youth!    

What You Can Do Today:

  1. Sign the petition to protect funding for juvenile justice programs.
  2. Share this action alert with your Facebook and Twitter networks by clicking on the facebook and twitter links below.

Let’s make sure week keep our communities safe for our children tomorrow by investing in them today.

Happy Birthday to the Campaign for Youth Justice!

Monday, 01 July 2013 Posted in Voices

 
CFYJ's new office space.

Today, the Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) turns 8! We would like to thank all of the individuals and organizations who have contributed their time, energy and dedication to supporting the campaign's mission to the end the practice of trying, sentencing and incarcerating youth in the adult criminal justice system. Thanks especially to the Campaign's staff, board, advisory council, spokespersons, donors, funders, fellows, volunteers, supporters and allies throughout the country who have championed juvenile justice reforms to improve the outcomes for youth and their families!

As we celebrate the Campaign's birthday, CFYJ has just relocated to a new office space! We are so thrilled to be in our new home. Come visit us at: 1220 L Street, Suite 605, Washington, DC, 20005.

On this 8th birthday, we are celebrating our collective work to advance the rights and status of young people prosecuted in adult criminal court.  Together with our allies, we will continue to campaign for youth justice, because the consequences aren't minor.



Investing Smarter: Why We Cannot Afford to Shortchange Juvenile Justice

Thursday, 27 June 2013 Posted in Federal Update

By Leah Robertson

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) provides funds to states that follow a series of federal protections, commonly known as the “core protections,” to address the care and treatment of youth in the justice system.  It is a modest, targeted investment that not only helps children but also saves money.  Unfortunately, funding for this law has drastically declined over the last decade and continues to be threatened by spending cuts.

 

This is why a wide array of organizations have been sending letters three days a week for the last eight weeks as part of a Letter-A-Day campaign to urge Senate and House Appropriations Committees to maintain funding for key JJDPA and and related juvenile justice programs.  More than XX letters have been sent so far, and other organizations will continue to send their letters throughout the summer. The diversity and number of organizations dedicated to advocating for this funding demonstrates just how far these monies go and their importance to so many communities.

What do these critical federal dollars support?  The funding being advocated for helps states  protect children at risk of unnecessary damage by the justice system, and save money by reducing crime and keeping youth from entering the far more costly justice system. The value added by investing in our youth for tomorrow is far greater than the price tag today. Meanwhile, the cost of inaction is high. According to a Vera Institute study of 4/5 of states’, taxpayers gave $39 billion to corrections in FY2010, and that number continues to climb nonsensically every year. By supporting a modest federal investment through programs like those supported by the JJPDA monies, we will save money both now by reducing the cost of corrections and in the future by reducing incarceration rates.

Diverting children with little risk of future delinquent behavior to community-based programs where they can participate with their peers in positive behavioral model is right and makes sense. We commend all of the groups that have taken action and those that will take action in the coming weeks to maintain this funding and invest in a smarter and brighter tomorrow.

If you are affiliated with an organization interested in participating in the Letter-A-Day campaign, please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

If you are an individual who would like to get involved, please sign the House and Senate petitions and share these with your family and friends.

We will continue to update you on this critical effort.

Voices of Youth: A discussion on Resilience, Homelessness, and Hope

Thursday, 27 June 2013 Posted in Voices

By Brighton Haslett
 
 
13 formerly homeless youth, ages 19 and 20, gathered in downtown Washington on the morning of June 17th to discuss their experiences with homelessness and their successes in the face of adversity at “Voices of Youth: A Discussion on Resilience, Homelessness, and Hope,” presented by the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) in conjunction with the Congressional Homelessness Caucus. The discussion opened with introductions, and a question: How did you become homeless? The answers ranged from destructive fire to drug addicted parents, but each story shared a common thread: “it’s not our fault.” Among the difficulties these teens have overcome, and some that they are still struggling with, are siblings left behind, working multiple jobs, taking care of family members, and striving for excellence in the classroom. Impressively, all 13 are currently enrolled in college. Their majors include Civil Engineering, Pre-Med, Business Administration, Biology, Mathematics, English, Psychology, Anthropology, and Social Work. Succeeding in school was not easy, and several of the teens mentioned specific instances when their homelessness and family life interfered with their success. 19 year-old Tia mentioned needing parent’s signature on a report card, or an offer for 10 points extra credit for a parent’s signature on some other document. For her, this was not possible. More troubling, to receive free and reduced price lunches, a student needs a parent’s signature.
 
A lack of parental support was not the only hurdle the teens encountered in high school; many have struggled without money for most of their lives, and still do today. Raven, 20, recalls that in high school, financial aid was not available. While the students are scholarship recipients, this money does not cover all of their expenses, and those who live in dorms still struggle to afford housing during Christmas and summer breaks. In college many of the teens pay their own rent and work full time. Several express that this is overwhelming, and that working often interferes with school work, but must take priority for the teens to maintain housing. Heather pointed out “full time working and full time college is almost impossible.” Because of the struggle to make ends meet, homelessness is not a thing of the past.
 
Despite feeling let down by parents, teachers, and the system itself, the teens want to be successful, and want teens like themselves to receive encouragement. When asked what they wanted people to understand about homelessness, overwhelmingly the response was empathy and encouragement.
 
NAEHCY, among other organizations, works to educate homeless youth. The McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act is a federal law that ensures education for homeless youth. Through education and the assistance of these and similar organizations, we can reduce the number of homeless youth entering the juvenile justice system and work toward long term successes of the kind that these 13 formerly homeless youth have achieved.

CFYJ Summer Fellow Happy Hour

Monday, 24 June 2013 Posted in Voices

 
 

By Thaddaeus Gregory

Last week, the Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) fellows hosted a networking happy hour at Busboys and Poets on 5th & K. The event was a great success, attracting over forty fellows and interns around the Washington, D.C. area from such organizations as the Peace Alliance, the Vera Institute of Justice, the Public Defender Service, and many more. Interns and fellows hailed from all different parts of the United States, reaching from California, to Minnesota, to New York, to Florida, and embodied a rich and diverse collection of ideas regarding juvenile justice. The networking happy hour, which also featured delicious food and beverages, allowed a venue for the various interns and fellows to meet others that share a passion for juvenile justice, and receive information about upcoming events hosted by CFYJ,  including the New Beginnings trip and the Summer Institute opportunities.

CFYJ will host several other event opportunities throughout the summer. These include the aforementioned New Beginnings trip on June 25th, in which CFYJ will travel to Laurel, MD to tour the new youth correctional facility, and also the weekly Summer Institute opportunities in which CFYJ will host a brown bag luncheon featuring key players in the juvenile justice field.


Meet CFYJ’s 2013 Summer Fellows

Monday, 24 June 2013 Posted in Voices

 

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Meet CFYJ's Summer Fellows, pictured left to right: Haylea Workman,
Brighton Haslett, Thaddaeus Gregory, Eric Welch, and Vanessa Willemssen.
 

The Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) is pleased to introduce our 2013 Summer Fellows.

Haylea Workman- Appalachian State University

Haylea is currently a student at Appalachian State University (ASU).  Originally from Connelly Springs , NC, she currently has her A.A. in Arts and Political Science. In Spring 2014, she will graduate from ASU with her B.A. in American Politics and Criminology with a minor in Criminal Justice. She has a passion for changing the criminal justice system, specifically working for prison reform. Her career goal is to work with advocacy groups to make a difference in the prison system.

Haylea enjoys the small town life, trailing through the woods, four-wheeling, and skeet shooting.


Brighton Haslett-  University of North Carolina Law School

Brighton grew up in Raleigh, NC, and attended North Carolina State University, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 2011. She began law school at the University of North Carolina (UNC) in 2012. Her interests include criminal and constitutional law, and she recently joined UNC’s Holderness Moot Court as a member of the International Team.

Brighton loves to bake and travel, and she is excited to spend the summer reading for pleasure, a past time long forgotten by many law students.


Thaddaeus Gregory- Carleton College

Thaddaeus was born and raised in Seattle, WA. From a young age, he has had legal aspirations. He is currently a rising junior at Carleton College in Northfield, MN, where he is a member of the baseball team. He studies sociology and anthropology in hopes of going to law school, and plans to go into politics after pursuing a legal career.


Thaddaeus is a pitcher on the Carleton baseball team and also enjoys playing several instruments including; clarinet, saxophone, piano, ukulele, and drums in his free time. Reading is also a passion of Thaddaeus’, and some of his favorite books include: The Art of Fielding, Zeitoun, and A Heartbreaking Work of Incredible Genius. He is very passionate about law and is currently studying for the LSAT.


Eric Welch- Tallahassee Community College
Eric Welch was born and raised in Richmond, CA, a small town in the Bay Area between Oakland and San Francisco.

Eric spent time in a juvenile facility called Byron’s Boys Ranch, where he was able to become rehabilitated, focused, and more responsible. When Eric was released, he realized the vulnerabilities that awaited him in his neighborhood, but when Eric’s best friend,  Sean, was killed, he turned back to the streets.  However, when he turned 22, he began to make better decisions for himself. He got involved with a program called the Office of Neighborhood Safety (ONS), which gave him an opportunity to change his life, and he has never looked back.

Eric was recently accepted to Tallahassee Community College (TCC) for Fall 2013. Eric will spend a semester at TCC, and then he will transfer to Florida A&M University to continue pursuing a career in the juvenile justice field.

Vanessa Willemssen- George Mason University

After taking various undergraduate courses related to community corrections at George Mason University, Vanessa discovered her passion in matters of youth justice and shifting the system towards a more rehabilitative approach. She comes to CFYJ hoping to become an active participant in mobilizing forces to push youth justice forward. She first started working with youth as a high school junior varsity softball coach at Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, VA, understanding first-hand the developmental differences between adolescents and adults. She has volunteered as a mentor for at-risk teenagers in the Washington, D.C. area and currently serves as a part-time online journalist for Solitary Watch, an organization aimed at bringing awareness to matters of solitary confinement in prisons.

Graduating this year with a B.S. in Criminology, Law and Society, she strives to one day have a career in the field of social work with a preferred interest in counseling for previously incarcerated youth.

 
 

Support Family Engagement This Father's Day

Friday, 14 June 2013 Posted in Research & Policy

On Sunday, we will gather to honor and thank the fathers and other important men who have nurtured us in our lives through their love, support, and patience. We all have such men in our lives - men who work daily to provide and to protect the children and family they love. 
 
Unfortunately, most justice systems in operation today keep fathers, mothers, and family members at arm's length. Family must come first, especially when it comes to children who come into contact with the law. 
 
This is why the Campaign for Youth Justice has written Family Comes First, the first comprehensive analysis of current family engagement and family partnership practices in juvenile justice systems around the country. This manual provides practical tools and resources for practitioners interested in undertaking a family-driven approach to juvenile justice. 
 
This manual fills the gap in research and policy by providing a clear and intentional guide to transforming the justice system by taking a family-driven approach.
 
Please consider making this report a gift to a father or family in need of this resource. 
 
For additional information on how to get your copy of Family Comes First, please visit here.
 
Happy Father's Day from the Campaign for Youth Justice!

Reforming Juvenile Justice: When Science Meets Common Sense

Wednesday, 12 June 2013 Posted in Research & Policy

By Leah Robertson

On Monday, June 10, The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) discussed the findings of their recently released report: Reforming Juvenile Justice: A Developmental Approach. The report found that well-designed, community-based programs are more likely than confinement to reduce recidivism and facilitate healthy social and moral development for most young offenders and that even in the most serious cases of personal violence, criminal court sentences should avoid confining adolescents in adult prisons.


Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) Administrator Bob Listenbee spoke briefly about the implications of this research as a critical tool for promoting a positive behavioral model for juvenile justice. He emphasized, “I am confident that there is very strong support for juvenile justice reform at the present time” and reinforced his commitment to increasing OJJDP’s role in disseminating information on states with strong reforms and providing technical assistance to states who want to do the same. 

 
Other speakers included researchers, juvenile justice practitioners, doctors and others with expertise in adolescent development and delinquency. The panelists presented the findings of the report, noting six conclusions in particular:
  1. There are important differences between adults and adolescents that are well-studied and scientifically quantifiable. Much adolescent involvement in illegal activity is an extension of the kind of risk-taking that is part of the developmental process, and most adolescents mature out of these activities.
  2. Knowledge about adolescent development can provide a framework for reforming the juvenile justice system to create a system that bolsters, rather than hinders, positive behavioral development.
  3. Current juvenile justice approaches do not utilize the approaches that promote positive behavioral development such as family and parent engagement, pro-social peer interactions, and opportunities for social development.
  4. Juvenile justice’s overreliance on incapacitation denies kids opportunities for normal socialization and disturbs development.
  5. Over the past 15 years, substantial progress toward positive reforms has been made, but the pace has been slow and there is a disturbing lack of empirical data collection in the field.
  6. OJJDP should take the lead to strengthen the requirements of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, in particular the valid court order (VCO) exception, disproportionate minority contact and keeping kids separated from adults.

The panelists and audience concurred that this research will be critical in advocating for reform. Practitioners emphasized that this is the research that juvenile justice experts could see, but they did not have the science to back up their observations. With this data however, there is finally a strong body of science to serve as a base for passing legislation that coordinate juvenile justice practices with the specific needs of young people.  They emphasized that reauthorizing the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act would be critical to this effort.

To do your part to ensure that the juvenile justice system is aligned with what science shows is beneficial to children, families and society, sign the petition to fund juvenile justice reform programs.

Progress on the U.S. Attorney General's Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence

Tuesday, 11 June 2013 Posted in Federal Update

By Liz Ryan

Six months ago this week, the U.S. Attorney General's Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence released recommendations after an exhaustive year-long examination on best practices and approaches to reducing childrens' exposure to violence.  Through extensive public hearings, the Task Force heard from directly affected youth and their families about the violence children are exposed to in the justice system.  Among the extensive set of recommendations, the task force report included a chapter on reducing exposure of children to violence in the justice system with a recommendation to abandon policies that prosecute, incarcerate or sentence youth under 18 in adult criminal court. 

According to the Task Force's report, "We should stop treating juvenile offenders as if they were adults, prosecuting them in adult courts, incarcerating them as adults, and sentencing them to harsh punishments that ignore their capacity to grow."  This recommendation impacts an estimated 250,000 youth under the age of 18 who are prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system and the nearly 100,000 youth who are cycled through adult jails and prisons each year.
 
The Task Force's recommendation reflects the policies of all the major professional associations representing juvenile and adult criminal justice system stakeholders that highlight the harm youth are subjected to in the adult criminal justice system. And the recommendation is consistent with the research across the nation undertaken by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlighting the ineffectiveness of juvenile transfer laws at providing a deterrent for juvenile delinquency and decreasing recidivism.


The Task Force's recommendation also builds on the latest state law reforms according to an August, 2012 report, "Trends in Juvenile Justice State Legislation 2001 - 2011" released by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), showing that numerous states have undertaken policy reforms in the last decade to remove youth from the adult criminal justice system and from adult jails and prisons.  

Since the report was released, several states have moved forward in 2013 by reducing the prosecution of youth in adult court and removing children from adult jails and prisons.  Illinois’ legislature passed legislation this spring to raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to age 18, and Massachusetts’ House has approved similar legislation. Missouri’s legislature has approved “Jonathan’s Law” to give more youth an opportunity at rehabilitation in the juvenile justice system instead of the adult criminal justice system. The Maryland General Assembly has created a task force to examine the issue of automatic transfer, and the Nevada and Indiana legislatures have approved legislation to keep kids out of adult jails and prisons.

As the Attorney General continues to consider the Task Force's report, we look forward to working with the AG to ensure that the recommendation to remove youth from adult criminal court and other recommendations impacting youth in the justice system are fully implemented.

What Can Be Done For Girls in the Juvenile Justice System?

Thursday, 06 June 2013 Posted in Take Action Now

By Mackenzie Tudor

 

On May 17th, the Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) and The National Crittenton Foundation participated in a workshop entitled, “What Can Be Done For Girls in the Juvenile Justice System?” at the Association for Junior Leagues International Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., where they discussed system-involved girls and girls at risk of becoming involved in the justice system and what can be done to help. The Junior League has a rich history in juvenile justice advocacy and was actively involved in the 1970s and 80s in the development and subsequent reauthorizations of the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.

Moderated by Jill Ward, panelists CFYJ CEO Liz Ryan, Crittenton Foundation President Jeannette Pai-Espinosa, and Just Kids Partnership Advocate Jabreria Handy, spoke about the issues surrounding the rise in the number of girls in the juvenile justice system and the ways that Junior League Members could get involved.

 

The highlight of the event was Jabreria Handy. At the age of 16, Jabreria was charged as an adult in the criminal justice system for a crime that she did not commit. She spent 11 months in the Baltimore City Detention Center before her case was sent back to the juvenile justice system. She now shares her story to help ensure that no youth will ever have to go through what she experienced. Jabreria’s account of her experience as a youth in the adult criminal system had a powerful impact on the workshop attendees. Jabreria emphasized that programming both in and out of the juvenile justice system is crucial and, unfortunately, is not as available to youth incriminated in the adult system. Providing support to these girls is critical to helping them transition back into the community.

Jabreria’s perspective on what girls need was echoed by Jeannette Pai-Espinosa. The National Crittenton Foundation has conducted research on Adverse Childhood Experiences that included girls in the juvenile justice system. Girls in the juvenile justice system are often victims of abuse, neglect, household dysfunction or substance abuse in the home.  As a result, these girls are more likely to be incarcerated for status offenses, offenses that would not be illegal if the individual was an adult, such as running away from home. Once in the system, girls often fail to receive the services they need, and instead are re-traumatized and derailed from educational achievement.

This discussion clearly resonated with many of the women in attendance. Sparked by Jabreria’s story, there was a clear desire from those in attendance to learn more about how they could help the at-risk girls both in and out of the juvenile justice system.

Liz Ryan identified the following key steps to take to start advocating for girls in your communities:

1. Urge your Governor to implement the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) to ensure that girls are not placed in adult jails and prisons.


2. Contact your Representative and Senators and urge them to provide more federal resources to address the needs of girls in the justice system.


3.  Reach out to the Juvenile Justice Specialist in your state to get information on how your state is addressing gender-specific programming in its JJDPA state plan. http://www.ojjdp.gov/statecontacts/ResourceList.asp

4. Engage your community and plan an event around October 23rd, National Girls Justice Day. Contact Leah Robertson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

5. Contact the National Girls institute and request technical assistance to create programming in your community.  http://www.nationalgirlsinstitute.org

For more take action steps go here.

Want to learn more about girls in the juvenile justice system? Take a look at CFYJ’s resource list here.

 
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