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CFYJ Updates

YJAM Recap 2015: SHARING STORIES, Why we start with stories, and move them to Action

Thursday, 29 October 2015 Posted in 2015, CFYJ Updates

recap yjamwrd

 

The balloon launch at the end of a strenuous 200+ mile “Journey for Justice” bike ride across Missouri was symbolic as much as it was ceremonial.  Tracy Wade McClard launched Youth Justice Awareness Month (YJAM) in memory of her son, Jonathan, who took his life when he was incarcerated as an adult at age 17. Seven years later—YJAM has grown exponentially and Tracy’s fight to end the prosecution of youth as adults continues.  As the balloons released, so did the stories of the hundreds and thousands of youth who have been tried, sentenced and incarcerated in the adult criminal justice system.

 

Throughout October, youth, communities, advocates and policymakers from 23 states in 70 events have shared stories of youth in the adult criminal justice system, because the first step to change often begins with the power of a story. Stories this month culminated across four major themes—the adolescent brain, racial and ethnic disparities, solitary confinement, and family engagement.  Stories relayed through poetry, video, research, and art highlighted the need for change.

 

·         Dr. Abigail Baird from Vassar College shared the research on brain science, “We prohibit young people from engaging in a whole host of things because we feel that they lack the maturity to fully grasp the potential consequences of their actions. In spite of this, we support the idea that an adolescent who commits a violent act has somehow overcome the well-known cognitive and behavioral limitations of their age and should now, in the eyes of the court, been seen as an adult.”

 

·         A young man who has been incarcerated as an adult since he was 16 wrote : “In many ways, I was raised in the prison system. I first learned to shave in the county jail at 16, A 65-year old crack dealer showed me how. I learned to tie a tie at age 27, and my boss, a cool sergeant, showed me how it was done. I grew up in here, and I am fortunate that I was taken in by older guys who were positive people. It could have been worse for me, and for many children now entering our prisons, it is worse. “

 

·         Public defenders across the country shared stories of racial and ethnic disparities in the system, “My job is to fight for [them]. Little do they suspect that when I say fight, I don’t just mean the battle that is their case, but the larger war against racial injustice.”

 

·         Reverend Laura Downton called upon the stories of the 80-100,000 youth and adults housed in solitary confinement each day, “To address the moral crisis of solitary, we must affirm that there are no throw away people, and no throw away children. Where cycles of trauma persist, we need interventions that lead to restoration and life. Children should never be placed in solitary confinement. And our young people should not be subjected to confinement in jails and prisons designed for adults. We owe their future, the future God dreams for each of them, an opportunity to flourish.”

 

·        Family member, Keela Hailes, shared her story as a parent, “In my eyes, my son went from a sixteen-year-old-child to a thirty-year-old-man overnight, absent the completed brain development.  In his own eyes, he had no other choice but to go from a child to a man overnight to cope with his new surroundings.  He served out his sentence, came home and tried to be a productive member of society; however, two years later, he reoffended and was sent back to jail. I believe kids should be held accountable and am advocating for common sense measures that hold youth accountable and give them an opportunity to rehabilitate. Studies have shown us that this can, and should happen in the juvenile justice system.”

Stories prompt us to take action.

 

President Barack Obama signed a proclamation this month declaring October 'National Youth Justice Awareness Month' and called on Americans to "observe this month by getting involved in community efforts to support our youth, and by participating in appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs."

 

Policy makers on every level joined his call—state governors also issued proclamations in support of YJAM—including Governor Gary Herbert of Utah and Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan.  So did Mayor Ashton Hayward of Pensacola, Florida .

 

Members in the US House of Representatives held a hearing on juvenile justice, and the US Senate saw the introduction of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, a bill that would limit solitary confinement for youth in federal custody, allow for expungement of certain federal crimes committed as youth, and allow for sentencing review for youth sentenced in the federal system to life without parole.

 

States filed legislation this month to reduce the number of youth prosecuted as adults in Wisconsin (Assembly and Senate), Florida (House and Senate) and Michigan.

 

As we close out October, I leave you with the call to action from youth advocate, Morehouse Student, and formerly incarcerated youth, Alton Pitre, “As fellow caring human beings and advocates for justice, now is the time to challenge ourselves to get involved in this movement. We must use our personal stories and experiences to change the minds and hearts of those in power. Our children deserve to be treated like the children they are.”


The Realities of the School to Prison Pipeline

Friday, 31 July 2015 Posted in 2015, CFYJ Updates

By Mette Huberts, CFYJ Fellow

As summer begins to wrap-up and the thoughts of another school year creep back into our minds, this week the CFYJ fellows focused on a different type of school experience at our last Summer Institute Event. Kaitlin Banner, a staff attorney in the Ending the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track program at the Advancement Project, was kind enough to share her experience and knowledge on the school-to-prison-pipeline with us. She not only explained the causes and consequences of policies that form the pipeline, but also talked openly about how we must go about reforming the issue.
 
The “school-to-prison-pipeline” is a buzz term used to emphasize how our education systems are indirectly pushing kids out of school and on a pathway to prison. Due to the combination of an excess of strict zero-tolerance policy laws and vague laws that lead to high disparity rates, students are being arrested for “crimes” such as scribbling on desks and hugging a friend. Over 3 million students each year receive an out-of-school suspension as punishment for such acts, with black children having a one in six chance of being suspended at least once. This overuse of out of school suspensions only exacerbates the problem, forcing kids to fall behind in school and become disengaged. One way to combat this overuse of suspension and expulsion, Banner informed us, is to create a longer, more intensive due process for students facing such punishments. This longer process is a heavier burden on the schools and therefore discourages them from immediately turning to suspension and expulsion where it may not be necessary. 
 
In addition, Banner explained that the more we allow our schools to feel like prisons, the more inclined students will be to act like criminals. Instead of implementing surveillance cameras, armed guards, and metal detectors, schools need to start talking to kids about their actions in a developmentally appropriate manor. Referring to things such as speaking back to a teacher as “disorderly conduct” and swiping headphones as “theft” only tells the child that they are a criminal rather than simply a teenager acting out. While of course these actions cannot be condoned, they must be addressed with consideration of age and situational factors. At the Advancement Project, one of the solutions Banner uses to fight the pipeline is to implement restorative justice practices in schools, encouraging a focus on adult to student and peer to peer relationships instead of punishment. This has proven much more successful than the harsh punishment on small acts of wrongdoing that schools have previously (and often still do) used. 
 
By identifying both the causes and consequences of the school-to-prison-pipeline, Banner helped us better understand the faults of the system and the pressing need for change. Through providing ideas and tactics of reform she inspired and encouraged us to be more consistently aware of the realities of the school-to-prison-pipeline and to call for reform. There are millions of lives at stake here, millions of children being unjustly treated and sent down the wrong path from their school, a place many of us instinctively deem safe. It is up to us to recognize and work to end the pipeline and to refocus our schools on education instead of punishment.  

Encouraging Young Leaders to Fight for Juvenile Justice Reform

Friday, 24 July 2015 Posted in 2015, CFYJ Updates

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By Samantha Goodman, CFYJ Fellow
 
As part of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice's 2015 Youth Summit, CFYJ Policy Director Carmen Daugherty, along with DC Lawyers for Youth Executive Director Daniel Okonkwo and Free Minds Senior Poet Ambassador Gary Durant, presented on Keeping Young People Out of Adult Courts, Prisons, and Jails. The presentation was part of an annual two-day summit for emerging leaders in the field of juvenile justice hosted by CJJ and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
 
Following Hill visits, where the attendees (aged 16-25) met with members of Congress and/or their staff to discuss and share stories on the need for youth justice reform, Daugherty challenged participants to consider how reform movements get started. Together, Daugherty, Okonkwo, and Durant helped the young leaders understand the difficulties and best ways to build a campaign or movement. Participants reflected on engaging unlikely allies, unifying one goal, and mustering commitment to the cause.
 
Keeping in line with the theme of the summit, Daugherty explained the problems with trying and incarcerating youth as adults. She presented state-by-state efforts and statistics, inviting the attendees to get involved in programs in their communities.
 
"There are no best practices for how to house kids in adult facilities because kids don't belong there," Daugherty said to the young leaders.
 
Okonkow outlined the DC Judge Our Youth Campaign and Durant shared his personal experience as a juvenile in the system as well as a poem he wrote when first involved with Free Minds.
 
For more information on how you can get involved in our efforts for juvenile justice reform, call the Campaign for Youth Justice at (202) 558- 3580. 

Announcing the 2015 Multi-System Integration Certificate Program

Thursday, 09 July 2015 Posted in 2015, CFYJ Updates

The Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR) at Georgetown University‘s McCourt School of Public Policy is pleased to announce that the application window for the 2015 Multi-System Integration Certificate Program is now open through August 21, 2015. The Multi-System Integration Certificate Program will be held October 29 - November 4, 2015 at the Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center, and is designed to support local jurisdictions in their efforts to improve outcomes for youth known to both the child welfare and juvenile justice system (i.e. crossover youth) through a multi-disciplinary approach that highlights integration and collaboration.
 
The purpose of the certificate program is to bring together current and future leaders to increase their knowledge about multi-system reform efforts related to crossover youth, improve the operation of their organizations in serving this population, provide an opportunity for the development of collaborative leadership skills, and create a mutually supportive network of individuals across the country committed to systems reform. Participants receive instruction from national experts on cutting edge ideas, policies and practices including multi-system approaches, cost efficiency procedures, collaborative leadership techniques and proactive communication strategies.  After completing the program, participants will be responsible for the development of a capstone project -- a set of actions each participant will design and undertake within their organization or community to initiate or continue collaborative efforts related to crossover youth.
 
Additionally, the program highlights CJJR’s Crossover Youth Practice Model, which has been proven to assist jurisdictions in strengthening practices and policies related to crossover youth. CJJR has aligned the Multi-System Integration Certificate Program and the Crossover Youth Practice Model as a way to enhance knowledge of multi-systems issues in jurisdictions around the country, thereby assisting them in improving both child welfare and juvenile justice outcomes for these youth. In further support of this approach the program focuses on issues such as family engagement, behavioral health, education, and racial and ethnic disparities – as well as innovative and flexible financing strategies.
 
We encourage you to apply to the Multi-System Integration Certificate Program and consider passing along information about this opportunity to your colleagues and partners. For more information, please visit our website where you will find detailed information about the program, including how to apply, tuition, and available subsidies for those with financial need.  Again, applications are due by August 21, 2015. Please direct questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

National League of Cities to Hold Leadership Academy on Juvenile Justice Reform

Wednesday, 08 July 2015 Posted in 2015, CFYJ Updates

NLC IYEF

WHAT: A two-day convening of teams of city officials and local partners to learn about opportunities to engage in and lead juvenile justice reform efforts, to take place in September 2015.

Despite substantial decreases in juvenile crime rates during the past decade, the nation’s juvenile justice systems remain in great need of fundamental reforms. For example, the availability of high-quality, community-based alternatives to incarceration for youth and supports for reentry is uneven and racial and ethnic disparities within the juvenile justice system are unacceptably large. A number of states and local jurisdictions have made significant progress in improving these systems, relying on evidence-based models that hold youth accountable for their actions in developmentally appropriate ways. In some states, local governments – including cities – have assumed greater responsibility for community-based treatment, diversion programs, and re-entry. These promising developments provide the basis for new and expanded city-led efforts to improve outcomes for young people and communities across the nation.  
 
The Models for Change initiative of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is playing a key role in reshaping the juvenile justice system, grounded in core principles of fundamental fairness; developmental differences between youth and adults; individual strengths and needs; youth potential; responsibility; and safety. Models for Change has supported counties and states in reforming the way they treat young people who are charged with crimes. Local officials say that Models for Change has helped them improve public safety and support youth, even as they grapple with tight budgets and tough fiscal decisions. 
 
Mayors and other city officials have unique opportunities to drive further improvements in their local juvenile justice systems. Municipal leaders and their community-based and faith-based partners can explore new roles and resources in collaboration with the courts and juvenile probation. City agencies (particularly in consolidated city/county governments) may also stand to benefit financially from the adoption of promising juvenile justice reinvestment strategies.  
 
As part of a strategic partnership with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the National League of Cities (NLC) Institute for Youth, Education, and Families will host a Municipal Leadership for Juvenile Justice Reform Leadership Academy on September 23-25, 2015. This convening will provide city officials with the skills and knowledge they need to consider and take up leadership roles in juvenile justice reform, giving participants intensive access to national experts, promising practice examples, peer sharing, and local action planning.  
 
WHERE: The Marriott-Renaissance Depot Hotel, Minneapolis, Minn.
 
WHO: City elected officials, senior city staff and other community or juvenile justice system stakeholders applying in city teams of up to three persons each.
 
NLC will select teams up to 10 cities to attend the leadership academy. Each city may nominate a team of up to three representatives that must include at least one of the following individuals: the mayor; a city council member; or a senior representative of the mayor’s or city manager’s office.  Other team members may include but are not limited to:  senior representatives of city agencies including police departments; juvenile court officials including detention or probation officials, prosecutors, public defenders, or judges; and community-based service providers implementing programs for youth at-risk of involvement or youth currently involved in the juvenile justice system.
 
NLC will select, on a competitive basis, a diverse set of cities of various sizes from different regions of the country to participate in the leadership academy. Preference will be given to cities that are members in good standing of NLC. NLC will use selection criteria that include evidence of high-level municipal leadership and commitment to improving outcomes for youth involved in the juvenile justice system, collaboration among relevant city, county and state agencies, and a clear indication of how the leadership academy can catalyze local efforts.
 
WHEN: The leadership academy will take place on September 23-25, 2015, beginning with an opening dinner and program on Wednesday evening and concluding with lunch on Friday. Interested cities must submit applications via e-mail (see instructions below) on or before July 15, 2015. We encourage early applications. NLC will announce all selections by July 29, 2015.
 
BENEFITS: Selected city teams will learn about best practices and lessons learned from the Models for Change initiative; explore successful efforts to improve juvenile justice initiatives in cities across the country, especially through diversion and re-entry initiatives and efforts to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities; gain access to and guidance from juvenile justice experts; and strengthen their relationships with peers in cities across the nation. 
 
Following the Leadership Academy, NLC will invite participating cities to join the NLC Juvenile Justice Peer Learning Network, s group that provides ongoing opportunities for city leaders to learn and receive support from nationally-recognized experts in the field and from peers in other cities.
 
TRAVEL: NLC will reimburse participants for airline travel (up to a maximum of $500) as well as hotel and other travel-related costs in accordance with NLC’s travel reimbursement policies. Meeting participants will receive reimbursements promptly upon submission of travel receipts following the convening. 
 
FOR MORE INFORMATION about the application materials or the leadership academy, please contact Laura Furr at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (202) 626-3072, or participate in the Question and Answer session at 3:00 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, July 1, 2015.

CFYJ’s Summer Institute Series: Understanding Youth Solitary Confinement

Mette Huberts Friday, 26 June 2015 Posted in 2015, CFYJ Updates

Amy Fettig

By Mette Huberts, CFYJ Fellow

CFYJ’s first Summer Institute event of 2015 focused on the practice of Youth Solitary Confinement and the harmful effects it has on children. Amy Fettig, a member of the ACLU’s National Prison Project Senior Staff Counsel and the director of ACLU’s Stop Solitary Campaign, informed us about the destruction that solitary confinement can cause for youth both physically and mentally. In addition, she emphasized the need for reform in terms of correction officer trainings as well as general public awareness. 

The practice of solitary confinement, both for adults and children, reflects the rigor of the zero tolerance laws and the belief that the solution to disobedience and misconduct is to simply “lock ‘em up”. Correction facility officers and guards have known no other course of action, therefore understanding it to be both normal and expected to put an individual in solitary confinement. For children, this proves especially true. In an adult facility, children enter the system alone and afraid. They are often quickly targeted as prey by the older inmates, leaving them more vulnerable to rape and abuse. For years, prisons and jails have “solved” this issue by putting youth in solitary confinement as protection. While this may physically separate them from the immediate danger at hand, solitary confinement poses an extreme danger in itself. 

Fettig explained that because a minor’s brain is still developing, solitary confinement poses higher risks to youth than to adults. After only seven days in solitary, she informed us, measurements of youth brain activity have already begun to decrease. The child’s inability to obtain sufficient mental health support, education, recreation time, and other necessary services attributes to slowed brain development and often to the formation of a mental illness. Fettig then referred to the tragic story of Kalief Browder in testament to the long lasting damage solitary can do to a youth’s mind, even after being released. In an attempt to attack the root of the problem and prevent more stories like his, she called for reform and the ending of practices such as the direct transfer policy in New York, which allows 16 and 17 year old kids to be immediately tried in the adult court system at the prosecutor’s discretion. 

By identifying both the effects of solitary confinement on youth as well as the problematic policies that force youth into solitary, Fettig helped us recognize and understand the pressing need for change. She concluded by encouraging all of us to be present in the fight against solitary and to act to bring awareness to our own communities. She mentioned her work with the Student Alliance for Prison Reform and their continuing success with a petition calling to end solitary confinement for youth in the federal system, encouraging us to spread the word on our own campuses. Fettig’s discussion has reminded us once again that there is something bigger at stake here. Solitary confinement for youth must be abolished, and while right now this may feel like a large goal, it is up to us and our communities to start demanding policy change one by one, a change that will ultimately save lives.

We Are Excited to Introduce CFYJ's 2015 Summer Interns

Samantha Goodman Monday, 22 June 2015 Posted in 2015, CFYJ Updates

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From left: Samantha Goodman, Nicholas Bookout, Mette Huberts

This summer, Samantha Goodman will be serving as the Campaign’s Public Interest Communications Intern. Hailing from Pittsburgh, Samantha attends Emory University, where she is studying Sociology and French. She coaches soccer and basketball to at-risk youth at the Boys & Girls Club. It was these children’s stories that sparked Sam’s interest in the youth justice reform movement. For fun, she enjoys golf, sailing in Maine, trying new restaurants, travelling, and cheering for Pittsburgh sports teams.

Nicholas Bookout will be conducting Juvenile Justice Policy Research for the Campaign. He is joining us this summer from Harvard College, where he is concentrating in Social Studies. Originally from Gulf Breeze, Florida, Nick’s interest in racial inequality, urban America and mass incarceration lead him to CFYJ. In his spare time, Nick plays basketball, hangs out with his Labs Maizee and Lulu, follows UMich Athletics, and likes Scrabble and Game of Thrones.

Mette Huberts will be working on CFYJ’s State Campaign efforts. Mette grew up in San Francisco, but now attends Boston College, where she is studying Economics and International Studies with a concentration in Ethics and Social Justice. For the past year, Mette has volunteered at the Suffolk County House of Correction in Boston, tutoring and working with inmates. Her experiences there fueled her interest in the criminal justice system and she joins CFYJ looking to foster change. When she has the chance, Mette likes to run, bake, waterski, travel, and hike.

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