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By Tracy McClard
I started Youth Justice Awareness Month in October of 2008 during the most tragic time of my life. Earlier that year my 16 year old son, Jonathan, died in an adult facility in Missouri. I was so devastated and angry that I wanted to make sure the American public was made aware of how we treat children who come in contact with the adult criminal justice system in this country. YJAM provides families, youth, students, advocates and organizations a perfect opportunity to raise awareness and educate the public about the tragedies that happen when children are placed in the adult criminal justice system. It is also an opportunity for all of us to take action locally, so we can build a movement that will end the criminalization of our children.
It’s easy to get involved in this movement! In the time that I have been YJAM Chair, I have seen student groups, local churches, families, advocates, and state leaders, organize a variety of events that have built awareness as well as launched policy campaigns to end the prosecution of children in the adult system. Events can be as large as leading your own community-wide 5K walk/run or as simple as hosting a film screening or community discussion. Many organizations have also been able to raise awareness on the great services they provide to local youth and families, along with achieving fundraising goals for their work to continue.
For YJAM 2013, I will be running “4 Miles 4 Youth” and blogging about my experience as well as asking people to join me through a virtual run
as a way to fundraise for Families and Friends Organizing for Reform of Juvenile Justice (FORJ-MO), an organization I founded to change the Missouri state laws that turn our children into adults, with horrific outcomes, once they enter the adult criminal justice system.
If you are interested in participating virtually, please visit, here
To showcase the amazing reform efforts across the country and in honor of Youth Justice Awareness Month, on October 10thCampaign for Youth Justice is releasing its newest report, State Trends Legislative Victories from 2011-2013: Removing Youth from the Adult Criminal Justice System. This report demonstrates what is possible when families, youth, and advocates work together to educate policy makers and make justice reform a reality.
I encourage all of you to follow the Campaign for Youth Justice as they spearhead Youth Justice Awareness Month. For more information about events happening nationwide, the 2013 YJAM issue themes, and how you can join us through social media, visit, here
and click on “Awareness Month.”