CFYJ 2016 Year in Review
By Marcy Mistrett, CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice
2016 was quite the year to celebrate the IMPACT of ending the adultification of youth by the justice system. States continue to lead reform efforts, thanks to the stellar work of advocates and impacted youth and their families in championing these reforms as: a bipartisan issue, that makes sense for young people, public safety, and states’ bottom line. We can absolutely say this year's reforms happened nationally: From Vermont to South Carolina and Louisiana to Indiana, Arizona to California and Washington, DC -- legislators are passing, with wide margins, reforms that take into account that children are different from adults. At the federal level, we got farther on the reauthorization of the JJDPA than we have in 15 years--with strongly supported bipartisan bills that passed in the House, and almost through the Senate-- that would call for removing youth certified as adults from adult jails while they pend trial. And the POTUS took notice, and paid a lot of attention to young men of color in our justice system, using his executive powers to leverage change.
Young people are advocating and championing the need for reform--from winning recognition by prestigious think tanks, to testifying in US Congress and in state legislatures. Speaking to editorial boards and on national panels as experts--they are changing the narrative about young people and harsh sentencing to one that speaks of their potential and well-being. CFYJ presented at more than 20 conferences, and had 4 more national associations make statements in support of treating youth as youth.
Below, please find 12 reasons to celebrate 2016 over the holidays!
1. One POTUS executive order ending solitary confinement of youth in federal custody. On January 25, 2016, President Obama used his executive authority to end the use of solitary confinement for youth in the federal prison system, an important first step towards completely ending this very harmful and detrimental practice.
2. Two Jail removal bills passed in DC & Arizona. Earlier this year, Arizona passed SB 1308, which allows a juvenile charged with or on trial for a felony to be detained in a juvenile detention center if the detention is order by the court. A few months later, in November, the District of Columbia passed the Comprehensive Youth Justice Amendment Act of 2016, which reformed DC's justice system to make it more consistent adolescent development and what really works in terms of keeping communities safe.
3. Three CFYJ board members and spokespeople taking charge! CFYJ board members and spokespeople Dwayne Betts and Marcus Bullock won the Aspen ideas award for their commitment to more mass incarceration reform and to deliver hope back to those who remain in prisons. And an appointment to the Department of Justice’s Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice by CFYJ board member, Dr. Francisco Villarruel, appointed by the President Obama.
4. Four YJAM proclamations in October from: President Barack Obama, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, and DC council. Additionally, 4 new policy statements were made in 2016 by: ALEC , United Methodist Church, Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform, and Opportunity Youth United.
5. A passed PREA amendment in the Justice 4 All Act, that requires states to be in full compliance by 2020! And an almost-passed JJDPA.
6. Six-hundred cards sent to youth sentenced as adults across the country this Holiday season. Each year, the Campaign and its partners gather to sign Holiday cards that are then sent to incarcerated youth, to remind them that they are not forgotten during this time of the year where it’s even more difficult than usual to be away from your loved ones.
7. Two passed Raise The Age bills in South Carolina and Louisiana, leaving only seven states whose age of criminal responsibility is below 18 years. In June of this year, both states signed into law bills that raised the age of criminal responsibility to 18 years old and joined 43 states and DC who consider keeping the vast majority of youth in the juvenile justices system.
8. Expert testimony by CFYJ staff in eight states (Louisiana, Maryland, Connecticut, North Carolina, Florida, Missouri, Michigan and DC). This year, the Campaign staff has travelled extensively across the country—with a targeted road show across the southeastern states of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia to make sure that the voices of youth in the adult system were heard.
9. 9,000 weekly readers of the Weekly News Roundup, CFYJ’s weekly email blast that compiles some of the recent news stories related to the prosecution of youth as adults.
10. CFYJ’s 10 year anniversary. This year marked the Campaign’s 10th anniversary, an occasion for us celebrate and to reflect on our work by evaluating in 2016 our impact throughout this past decade.
11. Over 11,000 Twitter followers. In 2016, the Campaign has continued to grow its social media base and is now proud to have more than 11,000 followers on Twitter.
12. Two states (California and Vermont) ending the direct filing of youth as adults, i.e a power that allows prosecutors solely to decide whether to bring charges against young people in juvenile court or in adult criminal court. In addition to that, Indiana passed a bill into law (S.B. 160) that creates a “reverse transfer” mechanism for adult courts to return youth charged as adults under Indiana’s direct file statute to the youth justice system, leaving a big fight for the remaining 12 states (and DC) left to fall into line.
2017 will be a new year. With new hopes and new needs that will call on all of us to organize more efficiently, across cities, counties, states, and as a nation united. A year to leverage the arts for healing and celebrating our differences. An opportunity to bring understanding about solutions to violence and building communities that advance safety for all of us. We hope the holidays allow you time to rest, and be among friends and family who share in the hope for our children and a brighter future for all!