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A Closer Look at Prison-Based Education

Kay Xiao Monday, 23 March 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

By Kay Xiao 

Last Tuesday, I attended Justice in Focus: the Path Forward – a talk hosted by the Vera Institute at George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs. At the event, a series of speakers with diverse experiences and perspectives on the criminal justice system covered a comprehensive range of issues including the economic and social benefits of reducing harsh punishments, the need for positive relationships between law enforcement and the community, and the overall status quo of the criminal justice system in the United States today.

I was particularly enlightened by the segment on firsthand experiences where Craig DeRoche, President of the Justice Fellowship, and Stanley Richards, Senior Vice President of the Fortune Society, shared insights based on their own personal experiences within the criminal justice system. Richards brought forth an issue that is often overlooked in the discourse on criminal justice reform – education. A formerly incarcerated beneficiary of prison-based education, Richard’s experience reflects the significance and efficacy of providing opportunities for former inmates to reintegrate into society.

Research demonstrates that prison-based education helps shape the social and economic outcomes of former inmates. Participants have a 43 percent lower chance of returning to prison in comparison to non-participants. Additionally, prisoners who participated in academic or vocational education programs have been shown to have better employment outcomes post-release.

Moreover, prison-based education is cost effective by virtue of its effect on recidivism reduction. According to a meta-analysis conducted by the RAND Corporation, reincarceration costs are $0.87 million to $0.97 million less for those who receive correctional education, which outweigh the costs of prison-based education.

As the research suggests, the logic is simple. Give people the skills to be productive members of society and the positive effects will transcend the individual to the community.

March Raises Awareness for Girls in the Juvenile Justice System

Kay Xiao Thursday, 12 March 2015 Posted in 2015, Across the Country

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The discourse on youth within the criminal justice system often overlooks the special circumstances and unique challenges that girls in the system face. Before ever coming into contact with the criminal justice system, many girls experience trauma – physical and/or sexual abuse, neglect, poverty and family instability – just to name a few.

According to Detention Reform and Girls, a 2005 report from the Annie E. Casey foundation, an increasing number of girls are being arrested for minor offenses and spending more time —sometimes nearly twice as long — in detention relative to their male counterparts. For girls, these experiences can reignite trauma. Instead of addressing these problems, the process and experience of detention ignores the causal factors for these minor offenses and further exacerbate pre-existing trauma.

Moreover, girls are likelier than boys to be arrested for status offenses and often receive more severe punishment than boys. This highlights the subliminal gender inequality that differentiates the experiences of boys and girls in the criminal justice system to the detriment of girls.

March is a month to raise awareness for girls in the juvenile justice system. Take the time to learn more about girls in the system and reflect on some of the challenges that girls in the system face in your own communities.

Promoting Safe Communities: NJJDPC Recommendations to 114th Congress (2015-2016)

Marcy Mistrett Tuesday, 10 March 2015 Posted in 2015, Federal Update

FINAL2 NJJDPC Recs to 114th Congress Page 01

Promoting Safe Communities is a comprehensive document of issues and recommendations for the 114th Congress to promote safe communities by investing in policies that are both effective and based on adolescent development research regarding at-risk youth and the juvenile justice system.  The document calls for leadership and investment in 5 key priority areas, including the restoration of federal leadership in juvenile justice policy; the support and prioritization of prevention, early intervention and diversion strategies; safety and fairness for court-involved youth; the removal of youth from the adult criminal justice system; and support for youth reentering their communities.

Click here to view the recommendations.  

March is Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing

Kay Xiao Monday, 09 March 2015 Posted in 2015, Across the Country

March marks the annual Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing. This month brings together congregations of all faiths, schools and universities in prayer, service and action. The goal is to offer young offenders hope and alternatives to a lifetime as a hardened criminal by raising awareness and creating engagement with issues pertaining to juvenile justice.

How to Get Involved:

  • Place a bulletin in your faith organization’s newsletter.
  • Throughout the month of March discuss juvenile justice in your weekly faith service.
  • Post a flyer in your place of worship.
  • Host a candle light vigil in your faith community in remembrance of youth in the justice system.
  • Host a discussion after a faith service in your community about juvenile justice issues. Such topics could be sentencing laws, sending children into the adult court system, willful defiance or the classification process in the prison system that sends youthful offenders to higher level prisons than adults for the same crime.
  • Support neighborhood groups that work to create cooperative relationships between neighbors, faith communities, and law enforcement to create a safe and secure community.
  • Support or volunteer with programs that promote victim ministry in your place of worship.
  • Support or volunteer with the ministry at your local detention center.
  • Provide spiritual, material, or emotional assistance to those reentering society, both youth and adult. Schools and places of worship are encouraged to invite formerly incarcerated youth to share their experiences and insights about the juvenile justice system.

For more information or to schedule a speaker please contact Javier Stauring at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

CFYJ testifies on conditions of confinement for DC Youth in Jail

Najja Quail, CFYJ Intern Monday, 23 February 2015 Posted in 2015, Federal Update

by Najja Quail, CFYJ Intern

On February 19th, DC Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (D – DC), Chairperson of the Committee on the Judiciary held a Performance Oversight Hearing for the Department of Corrections (DOC), the Office of Returning Citizens Affairs (ORCA), the Corrections Information Council (CIC), and the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS). At the hearing, the Campaign for Youth Justice testified on the conditions of confinement for youth held in the Juvenile Unit of the Correctional Treatment Facility (CTF), the severe lack of programming for these youth, as well as the need for staff training on adolescent development. One of the top issues mentioned by Carmen Daugherty, Policy Director of the Campaign for Youth Justice, was the issue of solitary confinement and its harmful impact on youth. Daniel Okonkwo, Executive Director of DC Lawyers for Youth testified at the hearing on the inadequacy of adult facilities to provide the services that youth need for positive development. He highlighted a need for education, exercise, and pro-social interactions with positive role models. Okonkwo stated that passage of the Youth Offender Accountability and Rehabilitation Act (YOARA) would alleviate some of the concerns raised by advocates, families, and youth.

During questioning, Councilmember McDuffie raised some questions to Thomas Faust, the Director of the Department of Corrections, regarding some of the poignant issues and concerns regarding youth housed at CTF. Currently, according to Faust, 11 youth are confined in CTF. When questioned about solitary confinement, Faust responded that he “rejected” the term “solitary confinement” because what was actually occurring was an “administrative segregation.” Based on his response, “administrative segregation” means being in a cell for 23 hours a day for a maximum of 5 days, at which time a committee must review whether or not the youth held in this solitary confinement will remain “administratively segregated, ”or be released back to the general population. As the Campaign testified, studies have shown that this type of treatment, whether you call it “administrative segregation” or “solitary confinement,” is harmful to the mental, physical, and emotional health of developing youth.

Furthermore, Faust testified that he questions whether or not the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services’ facility is equipped to house the youth in the Juvenile Unit of the Correctional Treatment Facility due to the fact that some of the youth are “violent offenders.” He then testified that the youth housed in the Correctional Treatment Facility were less likely to act out and were given more privileges due to good behavior which would lead one to believe that maybe there’s more to be said about the “violent offenders” he deemed unsafe for housing in a youth facility. Studies have shown that youth can be rehabilitated, which is the basis for having a separate facility and judicial system for youth and Faust’s testimony on the good behavior of the youth housed in the Correctional Treatment Facility is evidence of this fact. It also further solidifies the need to educate DC Council on the ways youth are treated when they have contact with the law and how YOARA can strengthen public safety by providing much needed rehabilitative services to all youth.

CFYJ continues to monitor conditions of confinement at the CTF and plan on providing testimony at the upcoming DOC budget hearings scheduled for the spring. If interested in providing testimony, please contact Carmen Daugherty at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Leading Conservative, Progressive Groups Join Forces to Launch Nation’s Largest Coalition Aimed at Comprehensive Criminal Justice Reform

Monday, 23 February 2015 Posted in 2015, Federal Update

‘Coalition for Public Safety’ to Pursue Aggressive Effort to Reform System at Federal, State, Local Levels

coalition for public safetyWashington, D.C. – Today, a new coalition of the nation’s most prominent conservative and progressive organizations has formed to pursue an aggressive criminal justice reform effort. The Coalition for PublicSafety will be the largest national effort working to make our criminal justice system smarter, fairer, and more cost effective at the federal, state, and local level.Together, these organizations reach tens of millions of Americans seeking commonsense reform, and will work to build consensus around comprehensive efforts that are designed to address some of the most pressing issues facing the nation’s criminal justice system.

The Coalition’s partners include the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Americans for Tax Reform, the Center for American Progress, the Faith & Freedom Coalition, FreedomWorks, the Leadership Conference Education Fund, and Right on Crime.

The Coalition is being funded by individuals and foundations with a broad spectrum of interests, who have come together to jointly pursue broad criminal justice reform. Supporters include Laura and John Arnold, Koch Industries, Inc., the Ford Foundation, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Christine Leonard, former associate director of legislative affairs in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy for the Obama administration and director of the Washington, D.C. office of the Vera Institute for Justice, will serve as the Coalition’s executive director.

“Our justice system needs reform. It’s simply too complicated, too big, and too expensive – and all Americans are picking up that tab,” said Christine Leonard, Executive Director of the Coalition. “We’ve brought together an amazing Coalition of prominent and diverse organizations from across the aisle to help solve the issues facing our criminal justice system. It’s inspirational to see such bipartisan support for reform, and I look forward to working with all of our partners.”

The Coalition for Public Safety will build consensus around the need for reform through educational events, national outreach, and media. The Coalition will work across the political spectrum to pursue a comprehensive set of federal, state, and local criminal justice reforms that will reduce jail and prison populations and associated costs, end the systemic problem of over-criminalization and over-incarceration – particularly of low-income communities and communities of color, ensure swift and fair outcomes for both the accused and the victims, and make communities safer by reducing recidivism and breaking down barriers faced by those returning home after detention or incarceration.

For more information on the Coalition, please visit www.coalitionforpublicsafety.org.

Thank You! Advocates are a Powerful Voice at MO Council Hearing

Tracy McClard Friday, 13 February 2015 Posted in 2015, Campaigns


On Tuesday, February 10th, the Missouri Consumer Affairs Committee held a hearing on Missouri’s “Raise the Age” bill, House Bill 300. The bill was introduced by the bill champion, Representatives Ron Hicks (R) who began the hearing by highlighting the main provisions of the bill and the positive changes this would have for 17 year olds in the state of Missouri.

He shared with the Committee the fact that treating 17 year olds automatically as adults has been the law since 1905. Today, youth arrests and detention are down in Missouri and the overwhelming majority of youth are arrested for misdemeanor offenses. 

Supporters of the bill made sure to have a strong presence, and with the leadership of FORJ’s Tracy McClard, the room was packed with supporters to remove 17 year olds from the adult system in Missouri.

What HB 300 “Raise the Age” accomplishes:

1)  Raises the age of juvenile court jurisdiction from 17 to 18: Missouri is currently one of nine states in which a child is automatically charged in the adult criminal system before the age of 18.

2)  Prevents most youth from being held in adult jail while they are awaiting trial.

Nearly a dozen individuals representing several organizations provided testimony at the hearing in favor of the bill. While the testimony covered a wide range of issues associated with youth exposure to the adult criminal justice system, there were a few common themes among the testimonies.

Several witnesses focused on the substantive differences between the services offered at youth facilities and adult facilities and the impact that intervention with the appropriate services can have on these individuals.  The impact on public safety of charging and housing youth in adult facilities was another popular topic. Several witnesses emphasized that these youth will return to society one day and that services in the juvenile system better prepare these youth for reintegration in the community. Multiple witnesses identified research showing recidivism rates were higher for youth held in adult facilities including findings that, “youth prosecuted in the adult system are 34% more likely to reoffend than those in the juvenile system.” Witnesses also noted that charging and holding youth in adult facilities does not deter crime.  

Several witnesses in favor of the bill, including a local sheriff, testified that the recent Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) requirements of sight and sound separation for all youth under 18 in adult facilities provides more motivation to pass this bill now. Otherwise, states will lose precious federal dollars in unable to meet the stringent requirements.

No groups or individuals testified in opposition of the bill further paving the way for passage.

The full text of the bill can be found HERE.  To receive more information about Missouri’s Raise the Age efforts or get involved, please go to FORJ-MO.

Girls in Justice: A Thought-Provoking Glimpse of Girls in the System

Kay Xiao Monday, 02 February 2015 Posted in 2015, Across the Country

“I have interviewed and photographed children in confinement for the better part of a decade. As I sit on the floor of a cell and listen, each story, each child tells is enlightening, but the stories of the girls stir a special compassion.”

This is how Richard Ross, Professor of art at the University of California - Santa Barbara prefaces his newest book Girls in Justice.

With powerful images and first-hand accounts from over 250 detention facilities across the nation, Girls in Justice captures life behind bars and the physical, emotional and mental effects on young women in the criminal justice system. The evocative imagery alludes to the causes of trauma – sexual abuse, drug usage and forced prostitution to name a few – that many young girls in prisons face long before coming into contact with the system, and shocks the reader into questioning the criminal justice system today and its failure to address the underlying causes of delinquent behavior in girls.

The book highlights a harsh reality: girls in custody report nearly two times the rate of past physical abuse, two times the rate of past suicide attempts, and four times the rate of prior sex abuse as boys. In the process, it forces the reader to ask him or herself “what message is the criminal justice system sending to young girls today? Is it helping or further exacerbating the problem?” Ross seems to think the latter. “These girls in detention and commitment facilities are further abused by an organized system that can’t recognize or respond to their history and their needs,” Ross writes.

Girls in Justice is out this month. To order and for more information, visit here.

Criminal Justice Reform is a Bi-Partisan Effort

Kay Xiao Monday, 02 February 2015 Posted in 2015, Federal Update

The Advancing Criminal Justice Reform in 2015 briefing and panel discussion presented by the Constitution Project Right Left Justice Working Group covered a broad range of topics dealing with criminal justice reform. The panelists included David Keene, Opinion Editor, The Washington Times, Piper Kerman, advocate and author of the memoir, Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Woman's Prison, Pat Nolan, Director, Center for Criminal Justice Reform, American Conservative Union, Van Jones, President, Dream Corps Unlimited and CNN Contributor, and Mark Holden, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Koch Industries, Inc. The congressional speakers were Senator Al Franken (D –MN), Senator Rob Portman (R – OH), Representative Danny K. Davis (D – IL) and Representative James Sensebrenner (R – WI).

The panelists and congressional speakers emphasized the need for bipartisan cooperation in supporting legislation like the Second Chance Act. Goals brought up in the discussion included data-tested methods to help former inmates integrate successfully into society and recidivism reduction. The rationales for these proposed changes were grounded in arguments that criminal justice reforms are economically beneficial, morally just and safer for the community at large.

The discussion also touched upon mental health within the criminal justice system, and the potential risks of not addressing mental health issues in prisons.

NEW WEBINAR SERIES: Connecting Partners. Spreading Knowledge.

Jessica Sandoval Friday, 30 January 2015 Posted in 2015, Across the Country

Looking for insight on a hot or timely topic? Curious about what others are doing in their state? Join Us!

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The Campaign for Youth Justice is launching its new 2015 webinar series, “Peer Learning Community Webinar Series”.  The goal of these forums is to offer technical assistance to our state, strategic and at-large partners to provide answers to the most asked, and the most difficult questions to answer.  We then offer “office hours” for one-on-one follow-up calls for a week after each webinar for state specific follow-up questions, developing strategy and networking.

This monthly webinar series is free and offers attendees the opportunity to hear from experts about best practices, tips on successful strategies and pitfalls to reform efforts.  We seek out state and local experts from their respective fields to enhance our knowledge in the youth justice field and strengthen our connections to each other.   

Educational Benefits:

  • Each webinar is 45-minutes, which  includes 30 minutes of content and a 15 minute window to ask your most burning and difficult questions and connect with the experts; access that may not otherwise be available;
  • Offers practical education in a time-saving format, with options to participate in real time or review later;
  • CFYJ will offer “office hours” for one-on-one technical assistance for a week after each webinar;
  • Topics focus on relevant and timely topics that mirror legislative sessions.

Here’s a sneak preview to other upcoming topics:

  • Engaging Unlikely Allies
  • Using Social Media to Get Your Message Out
  • Documenting Your Wins
  • Polling and Messaging for Your Issue

If you’re interested in signing up for our upcoming webinars, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to be added to the invitation list.  If you have any other questions, contact Jessica Sandoval at 202-558-3580 ext 1605 or at the email listed above.

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