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OP-ED: Everyday Assaults of Young Offenders in Adult Prisons

Thursday, 08 August 2013 Posted in Voices



From the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange
By David Chura

The panel, sponsored by Boston College, was titled “Youth in Prison: The Reality of the System.” I was there to share my experiences as a teacher who worked with teenagers, some as young as fifteen, serving time in an adult county jail. I was scheduled to speak after T.J.Parsell who, when he was seventeen, served several years in an adult prison and was raped by inmates a number of times. He survived that horrific time and now as an adult shares his experiences to advocate for changes in the way the criminal justice system treats minors.

As T.J. recounted the sexual assaults he lived through I kept wondering what I could add. His experiences were so shocking, so deplorable that I wondered what more could be said.

However, as I listened, I realized there was a lot I could add. According to the Campaign for Youth Justice, inmates under eighteen make up only one percent of the prison population yet are victims in 21 percent of prison rapes. Although those statistics are high, not all young offenders are subjected to the sexual abuse that T.J. went through and that many other kids continue to endure. Yet all teenagers in adult prison live with an endless series of violations on a daily basis, violations that I could only think to describe as “everyday rapes.” I saw that my contribution to the panel was to be a witness to those everyday degradations, assaults and violations that I learned about over the ten years that I taught in prison.

There was the everyday rape of random body searches—on the block, coming back from court, before seeing family on a visit. As Marcus, a seventeen-year-old who never shied away from speaking his mind, put it, “Being searched by police makes you feel dirty. They make you strip down, bend over, and…you know. They call it cavity search. I call it rape.”

My students lived with the everyday violation of never having any privacy when they showered, used the toilet, “went to New York” (one of their many jailhouse slang phrases for masturbating). All teenagers, whoever and wherever they are, work hard to hide their vulnerabilities especially when it comes to their bodies. In prison those vulnerabilities are even more pronounced and covered up by tough guy bravado because these boys know that their bodies—along with so much more—are no longer their own. As they put it, they were “state’s property.”

There was the everyday abuse of having their cells sacked by the emergency response team (ERT) on one of their random searches. I understood the need for such surprise searches. Even my students did, although they were loath to admit it. But none of us understood why a team of men in SWAT uniforms had to scream at you, throw you out of your bed, flip your mattress onto the floor, toss around the few clothes you had, then dump in a trash barrel family photos, letters — even school books that you never saw again — only to be threatened as the ERT left your cell, “We’ll get you next time.”

And “next time” might mean the everyday assault of being thrown into solitary confinement because you finally couldn't hold in your rage anymore at such arbitrary, senseless humiliation and started to mouth off the way only angry, hurt teenage boys can. There, in total isolation, was the endless everyday rape of losing contact with humanity until you lost contact with your own humanity and found yourself participating in your own everyday rape—not showering or brushing your teeth for weeks; sleeping twelve, fifteen hours a day; and when you were awake, screaming, shouting, howling just to let the world—and yourself—know that you’re still there (sort of), doing anything to fight off that final everyday rape of extinction, of disappearing.

Even if a kid can hold it all in, follow the rules, keep his head down, there was the everyday indignity of eating food that poisoned a growing body; of living in an overcrowded, noisy and smelly block, with the constant threat of violence, intimidation and extortion; of being forced to pay extortionist prices for food sold in the prison commissary; of not getting decent health care, or any health care at all, because the gold standard was to save the county money.

The “reality of the system” is a brutal one. The Federal government has finally acknowledged that young offenders must be protected from prison sexual violence. The “Youthful Inmate Standard” regulations established by the Prison Rape Elimination Act require all prisons, jails, lock ups, and detention facilities to provide “sight and sound separation between youth and adults while restricting the use of solitary confinement and isolation practices.”

But these regulations are only a first step in solving how young people are treated in the criminal justice system. If we really want to protect them from the full assault of prison culture—the everyday rapes that have devastating effects long into adulthood—then we must get these children out of the penal system altogether, a system that was never intended to handle young offenders, and place them in environments that are designed to rebuild and to create new lives.


This article was originally published by the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, a non-profit online news source for people who care about youth and the law.

Family Engagement Listening Sessions Report Just Released!

Jessica Sandoval Monday, 05 August 2013 Posted in Uncategorised

On Thursday, July 30, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency (OJJDP) released the much anticipated Family Listening Sessions Executive Summary, available online.

In 2011, OJJDP worked in partnership with the Campaign for Youth Justice on a series of listening sessions with families whose children have been impacted by the juvenile and criminal justice systems.  Sixteen states were represented from every region in the country. The purpose of these sessions was to inform OJJDP about the experiences of system-involved youth and their families and to explore ways to improve family engagement to ensure better outcomes for children, youth and families. Thanks to all of the family members who participated in this process, your time and contribution was invaluable to this process.

We applaud OJJDP for their commitment to make family engagement a priority for the agency and for the country. We hope that with these listening sessions and the release of the Family Comes First Report that the issue of family engagement will not be a sideline issue in the immediate future.  To access the Executive Summary, abstract and Family Comes First workbook, please use the links below.

Family Engagement Listening Sessions Executive Summary:
http://www.ojjdp.gov/pubs/241379.pdf

Family Engagement Listening Sessions Abstract:
http://www.ojjdp.gov/publications/PubAbstract.asp?pubi=263469

Family Comes First: A Workbook to Transform the Justice System by Partnering with Families: http://www.campaignforyouthjustice.org/family-comes-first.html

CFYJ Summer Institute Series Continues with “Write Night” Hosted by Free Minds Book Club

Friday, 26 July 2013 Posted in Voices


By: Haylea Workman

In the continuance of the Summer Institute Brown Bag Luncheon, the Campaign for Youth Justice Fellows attended Write Night on July 23rd, hosted by Free Minds Book Club. Write Night is a monthly meeting where members from the community gather to give feedback on poetry submitted by incarcerated youth. The feedback allows incarcerated youth to feel inspired and cared about by the community.

Fellows read poetry submissions and wrote feedback to each author and then previously incarcerated youth spoke up to explain to those in attendance the importance of connecting with youth through their writing. Many of the incarcerated youth are isolated for 23 hours a day, so they look forward to hearing from the community and working on their poetry. Write night is important because it allows youth to feel connected to the world outside of prison.

Write Night is hosted monthly at the Church of Pilgrim from 6-8pm. The Church of Pilgrim is located at 2201 P street NW. To learn more about upcoming Write Nights send a message to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or contact Tara Libert at (202) 758-0829.

 

Youth Justice Awareness Month (YJAM) is Only Two Months Away!

Angella Bellota Wednesday, 24 July 2013 Posted in Across the Country, Campaigns


During the month of October, allies throughout the country come together to engage their communities on youth justice issues, particularly the harmful impact of prosecuting children in the adult criminal justice system.  

Youth Justice Awareness Month (YJAM) is an opportunity for families, youth, and allies to host community-led actions and events that expose the real-life consequences of children being processed in adult court and placed in adult jails and prisons. With events happening throughout the country, YJAM is not only a time to raise awareness but also a time to build collective action, to strengthen relationships with other advocates, and to join local advocacy campaigns working to create policy changes.

Every year in the U.S. an estimated 250,000 youth are tried, sentenced, or incarcerated as adults. These young people are our friends, siblings, sons and daughters. Each year, we build momentum to end the criminalization of our youth and the devastating long-term consequences they must face every day.

Will you join us in taking a stand for youth justice?  In past years, YJAM events have included:

  • 5K Run/Walk
  • Film Screenings
  • Art Exhibits
  • Poetry Slams
  • Community Service Days
  • Social Media campaigns
  • Teach-In Days  


The Campaign for Youth Justice plans to host several calls with those interested in organizing events in their state. If you would like to participate in these calls, please contact us at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Upcoming calls:

  • July 30th - Hosting a 5K Run/Walk  
  • August 5th - FUNdraising for YJAM
  • August 19th - Media Planning for YJAM


STAY CONNECTED:

For general questions about YJAM or if you would like to host, organize or participate in a YJAM event, please contact CFYJ Field Organizer Angella Bellota: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

For media inquiries, please contact CFYJ Communications & Media Director Aprill Turner: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   

Please visit our YJAM page to learn about the history of YJAM and for a roundup of upcoming events! 

CFYJ's Jessica Sandoval Confirmed for DC's Children and Youth Investment Trust Board Leadership

Wednesday, 17 July 2013 Posted in Voices

By Haylea Workman

 
Jessica Sandoval,CFYJ Vice President and Deputy Director





On Monday, July 8th, Jessica Sandoval, Vice President and Deputy Director of the Campaign for Youth Justice testified before the DC Council as one of three candidates nominated for an appointment on the DC Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation’s (CYITC) Board. The CYITC works to expand and improve services and opportunities for children and youth in the District of Columbia by leveraging both public and private dollars. Their vision is for each child and every youth in DC to have the opportunity to make positive choices that let them develop and grow into healthy productive adults.  

On July 10th, all three candidates were confirmed through a DC Council member vote. As a newly appointed board member of the Trust, Jessica will bring her national and state level expertise on youth justice issues. Both her expertise and experience in positions with the Denver District Attorney’s Juvenile Diversion Program, the Gang Rescue and Support Project, and the State Advisory Group on Juvenile Justice under Governor Roy Romer, will provide the board with a fresh perspective on the improvement of services to youth and children in the District. Jessica’s involvement with the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, National Crime Prevention Council, and the National League of Cities, will be beneficial to the Trust as it continues to improve its relationships with both local and federal entities.

At CFYJ Jessica leads the organization’s state campaign strategy and provides technical assistance to states engaged in youth justice reform efforts.

CFYJ wishes Jessica well on her new appointment.

Spreading the Word About the Alliance for Youth Justice

Wednesday, 17 July 2013 Posted in Take Action Now

By Shanta' Gray

This year I made a personal goal to raise the number of members in the Alliance for Youth Justice.

 The Alliance for Youth Justice is a group of families and allies from all across the country that have come together to advocate, share information and guide policy reform efforts to reform the systems of injustice that have abused, neglected and blamed families for society’s failures.  We know that together, families can empower each other and reform systems that seek to destroy our children, families and our communities.

The Alliance for Youth Justice hosts monthly calls among parents, families and allies to share information about youth in the adult system and the reform efforts.  Our monthly call is by phone, the first Thursday of each month.   Families will also have access to the latest news and developments pertaining to best practices within youth justice and updates on other grassroots efforts for reform.

My goal is to have 50 new members join the Alliance for Youth Justice by December 2013. So far, I have 20 new members this year.  Please help me by spreading the word about the Alliance to help me make my goal for this year.

If you know a family member that should be a part of this growing movement, please have them email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

CFYJ Kicks off 2013 Summer Institute Series

Monday, 15 July 2013 Posted in Voices


By Eric Welch

Annually the Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) spearheads its Summer Institute Brown Bag Lunch Series, in which juvenile justice interns in Washington can gather to learn about different aspects of the juvenile justice field.

Last week was the first Summer Institute Brown Bag Luncheon at the new CFYJ office, which was a huge success.   The Campaign had two very knowledgeable experts, Alexandra Staropoli.  Associate Director for Government & Field Relations at Coalition for Juvenile Justice, and Kaitlin Banner, Staff Attorney of the Advancement Project to end the School-to-Prison Pipeline.

Over 25 motivated local interns were in attendance and sat around the table with open ears processing the information that was being shared about these organizations and what they do. The presentation was about the National Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Coalition, Gangs, and School Safety Working Group. The Gangs Working Group’s main topic was about the Youth Promise Act;, a bill that ensures that there are funds for gang intervention and youth violence issues. School Safety’s primary focus was on the School-to-prison pipeline; a national trend that forces youth out of school and into the criminal justice system.

The Next Summer Institute event will be with Free Minds Book Club on Write Night on Tuesday July 23rd from 6:oo-8:00pm. Please RSVP here if interested in attending, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Nevada Bill Protects Youth in the Adult System

Carmen Daugherty Monday, 15 July 2013 Posted in Uncategorised

On June 11th, Nevada Governor, Brian Sandoval, approved Assembly Bill 202 which protects youth from entering the adult criminal justice system in the state. AB 202 does several things to encourage the safety and rehabilitation of youth in both the juvenile and adult systems. The bill raises the age at which a child will be automatically transferred to 16 for murder or attempted murder. AB 202 also protects youth entering the adult jails by allowing those kids tried as adult to petition the court to be placed in juvenile detention facilities pending their court proceedings. Previously, youth could automatically be housed in adult jails while awaiting trial and research shows us that youth in adult jails are 19 times more likely to commit suicide than youth in the general population and 36 times more likely to commit suicide than youth in juvenile detention facilities.

Finally, the bill will take a retrospective and prospective look at the practice of prosecuting kids as adults by creating a task force to study certain issues relating to juvenile transfer, including blended sentencing as an option, capacity of juvenile  facilities to house youth charged as adults, and costs analysis of housing those kids. The taskforce-- comprised of youth serving agencies, mental health professionals and child advocates--will work on gathering information and providing analysis through the interim session with recommendations for legislation provided to the 78th Session of the Nevada Legislature.

While this is a vast improvement to the Nevada justice system, there is much work to be done to ensure that youth are appropriately charged and rehabilitation is truly an option for all children.

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.



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