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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.

 
 

In Remembrance of Kirk Gunderson: Remembering My Son this Mother’s Day

Sunday, 12 May 2013 Posted in Voices

 

 
 
By Vicky Gunderson, Onalaska WI
 
Mother, Vicky Gunderson shares her story of how it feels to spend Mother’s Day without her son and discusses the importance of family engagement and parental involvement for youth in the criminal system.
 
This should be one of the most joyful times of the year for me, however it is a difficult time on and around Mother’s Day.  My name is Vicky Gunderson, and I am a mother who has spent the last seven Mother’s Days without one of my children, my son, Kirk. 
 
Kirk's arrival on the 9th of June, 1988 at 5:03 p.m. was one of the greatest miracles. From the day I found out I was pregnant until the moment we saw his beautiful face, the sense of joy is hard to describe in words. There are no words that can begin to explain the unconditional love you feel at that moment when your baby is laid into your arms. He enriched our family’s life in a way that only you who have raised a child can understand. I would never have imagined that with all the love in my heart and what we felt were the best parenting skills my husband and I knew, that we would find ourselves visiting our son in the county jail, where he was incarcerated nine days after his 17th birthday. And even then, we could not have imagined that just a few months later, we would be notified through family members that our son had taken his life by hanging. Only hours before hearing that he was doing well through the Christmas holiday, and that he was excited that a "deal" was going to take place versus a trial, we were told he was dead.

My lack of words to describe unconditional love; also pertains to the lack of words to describe the unbearable pain. The suicide note that he left was written in wet toilet paper rolled into letters and numbers, "I'm sorry, 143 Fam", meaning I am sorry, I love you family.
 
What I remember is a boy who loved to laugh. A boy whom we had watched play with a passion; hockey, baseball, and football. Even after a series of concussions, and short-term memory loss, a family decision was to end contact sports, leaving his love of hockey. He continued to assist in coaching younger players on the baseball field, and being a referee for the hockey association. What I am unable to share is the timeframe whereby Kirk was introduced to prescription drugs and alcohol as a way of managing his depression; a pain that we will never understand completely. A pain as a Mom I could not take away with a hug, or talking with him. I will remember forever the evening he injured his Dad and his younger brother while under the influence of drugs. Then evening he snapped, leaving me in the intensive care unit, and Kirk in the county jail, at the age of 17.
 
While my husband and other son have recovered physically, none of us will ever recover emotionally from the aftermath of that incident. Despite his age, size and psychological state, Kirk was automatically incarcerated as an adult with adult inmates. While there, we did everything we could for him, but the jail made it almost impossible for us to support him in the way that a 17-year-old in such a dangerous situation needs his family. My son did everything he could to assuage me of the torture he knew I would put myself through after his death. Kirk had started writing a journal while incarcerated. He wrote about times in his life when we talked about accountability, that he would never take his life because of the many people it would affect. As a Mom, you begin the questions, "If I had... If I would have known... If I could have been there”… and so many many “IF” questions that will never have an answer. 
 
However, as a Mom there is a deeper sense within ourselves , with regard to our children, and I do know what the system could have done differently, and should be doing differently after the death of my son. My son never should have been incarcerated with adults, and he never should have been left alone in isolation, especially when he requested to not be left alone. There should be a means to bring a family together to work on rehabilitation and accountability, without the delays, and without the lengthy periods of time that Kirk was incarcerated. Kirk never asked for much while incarcerated, his primary ask was he wanted a hug from his family. That was not too much to ask. 
 
As his Mom, I pray that I will not live one day without Kirk’s joyous smile and sparkling blue eyes in my heart, hoping that the vision I hold so dear does not disappear with time. I also hope that we can change our system so that no mother has to suffer the pain that I feel on a daily basis.
 
Every mom deserves the chance to see their child grow up and blossom into an adult.  This is why, on this Mother’s Day, I am asking stakeholders and systems to understand the importance of family engagement and parent involvement in adolescent development and rehabilitation.  I know my son would be alive today if these practices had been in place when my son was arrested, and I would be celebrating this Mother’s Day with that hug that he and I valued so much.

"FAMILY Comes First" - Transforming the Justice System by Partnering with Families Released

Monday, 06 May 2013 Posted in Research & Policy, Voices

Family Comes First

Today, May 6th, the Campaign for Youth Justice releases its most recent report, FAMILY Comes First: A Workbook to Transform the Justice System by Partnering with Families, which will be the first comprehensive analysis of current family engagement and family partnership practices in juvenile justice systems across the country and provides practical tools and resources for juvenile justice system practitioners invested in undertaking a family-driven approach to juvenile justice. We know that the ability of family members to meaningfully participate in their children’s lives makes a dramatic difference on youth outcomes. FAMILY Comes First provides a framework—The FAMILY Model—to guide efforts to create and sustain meaningful family-system partnerships.

Through literature review, family focus groups and system practitioner surveys, we learned that system stakeholders are working together with families to break down stereotypes and stigma, engage families in individual treatment decisions and larger policy reforms, and prepare youth for productive futures. In the past few years, the juvenile justice field has made major strides in elevating the importance of family involvement to overall system reform efforts. We have come a long way even though we have far to go. FAMILY Comes First fills that gap by providing a clear and intentional guide to transforming the justice system by taking a family-driven approach.

Recommendations in the report include:

Federal policymakers:

  • A National Technical Assistance Center on Family Engagement should be created to provide support to state and local justice and child-serving agencies interested in starting or expanding family engagement programs;
  • A National Family Resource Center should be established to serve families in the justice system; and;
  • The federal government should also fund state and regional Parental Information Resource Centers for families involved in the justice system, and these centers should be co-located and coordinated with existing parent centers already funded by other child-serving agencies.

State and local policymakers:

  • Each agency and program having contact with children and families involved in the justice system should hire or appoint a staff person, preferably a family member or former system-involved youth, to coordinate family engagement efforts and activities;
  • Every justice system agency and program with responsibility for children and youth should conduct a comprehensive assessment to develop specific strategies to implement a family-driven approach to juvenile justice; and
  • Existing federal and state funding sources should be identified to support family engagement programs and related services to families in the justice system.


This workbook is designed to:

  • Educate the reader about the need to support families involved in the justice system;
  • Provide ideas to Train families and practitioners to challenge existing stereotypes about families and spark conversations about improving the justice system;
  • Identify ways to expand upon the positive changes already underway in the community; and
  • Develop a policy agenda to pursue at the local, state, and federal levels to build family-system partnerships.
 
This workbook was funded in large part by a generous grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
 

For more information and a copy of the Executive Summary of the Family Comes First workbook, please visit here. To purchase a copy of Family Comes First, click here.

 

Baltimore Sun - More cops in schools isn't the solution, By Liz Ryan

Thursday, 28 February 2013 Posted in Voices


Today CFYJ's President & CEO, Liz Ryan wrote an op-ed for the Baltimore Sun, "More Cops In Schools Isn't the Solution":

Baltimore Sun

February 28, 2013
More Cops Isn't the Solution: Instead of turning kids into criminals, we need more resources for programs that work

By Liz Ryan

In response to the Newtown tragedy in December, the Obama administration proposed a package of reforms, including a proposal to provide $150 million for local jurisdictions to hire new school resource officers (SROs) or counselors and $4 billion for the Community Oriented Police (COPS) program, which can also be used to hire law enforcement in schools. Members of Congress will be considering these proposals in the appropriations process and have introduced a number of others that would authorize more law enforcement officers in schools.

Visit here for the full article.

IJJO Interviews- Liz Ryan, CFYJ President & CEO

Wednesday, 20 February 2013 Posted in Voices

The International Juvenile Justice Observatory (IJJO) interviews CFYJ President and CEO, Liz Ryan:

Ms. Ryan provides us an analysis of the situation of children rights in the USA together with a description of the main activities and objectives of the Campaign for Youth Justice. In this framework, Liz Ryan underlines that The U.S. should ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other human rights treaties, as well as, she advocates recommendations to federal, state and local policymakers, such as the development of strategies to stop the flow of youth into the adult criminal system.

Reflections on the Youth Jail Victory - Just Kids Youth Leaders

Tuesday, 19 February 2013 Posted in Voices

The Just Kids Youth Leaders were at the core of the campaign to stop the youth jail in Baltimore City. The victory was made possible by the youth led alliance to create grassroots support, form a legislative strategy, and launch a media campaign against the proposed jail.

In this video, the Just Kids Youth Leaders discuss what they learned from all their hard work to successfully advocate against the construction of the youth jail.

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