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"FAMILY Comes First" - Transforming the Justice System by Partnering with Families Released

Monday, 06 May 2013 Posted in Research & Policy, Voices

Family Comes First

Today, May 6th, the Campaign for Youth Justice releases its most recent report, FAMILY Comes First: A Workbook to Transform the Justice System by Partnering with Families, which will be the first comprehensive analysis of current family engagement and family partnership practices in juvenile justice systems across the country and provides practical tools and resources for juvenile justice system practitioners invested in undertaking a family-driven approach to juvenile justice. We know that the ability of family members to meaningfully participate in their children’s lives makes a dramatic difference on youth outcomes. FAMILY Comes First provides a framework—The FAMILY Model—to guide efforts to create and sustain meaningful family-system partnerships.

Through literature review, family focus groups and system practitioner surveys, we learned that system stakeholders are working together with families to break down stereotypes and stigma, engage families in individual treatment decisions and larger policy reforms, and prepare youth for productive futures. In the past few years, the juvenile justice field has made major strides in elevating the importance of family involvement to overall system reform efforts. We have come a long way even though we have far to go. FAMILY Comes First fills that gap by providing a clear and intentional guide to transforming the justice system by taking a family-driven approach.

Recommendations in the report include:

Federal policymakers:

  • A National Technical Assistance Center on Family Engagement should be created to provide support to state and local justice and child-serving agencies interested in starting or expanding family engagement programs;
  • A National Family Resource Center should be established to serve families in the justice system; and;
  • The federal government should also fund state and regional Parental Information Resource Centers for families involved in the justice system, and these centers should be co-located and coordinated with existing parent centers already funded by other child-serving agencies.

State and local policymakers:

  • Each agency and program having contact with children and families involved in the justice system should hire or appoint a staff person, preferably a family member or former system-involved youth, to coordinate family engagement efforts and activities;
  • Every justice system agency and program with responsibility for children and youth should conduct a comprehensive assessment to develop specific strategies to implement a family-driven approach to juvenile justice; and
  • Existing federal and state funding sources should be identified to support family engagement programs and related services to families in the justice system.


This workbook is designed to:

  • Educate the reader about the need to support families involved in the justice system;
  • Provide ideas to Train families and practitioners to challenge existing stereotypes about families and spark conversations about improving the justice system;
  • Identify ways to expand upon the positive changes already underway in the community; and
  • Develop a policy agenda to pursue at the local, state, and federal levels to build family-system partnerships.
 
This workbook was funded in large part by a generous grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
 

For more information and a copy of the Executive Summary of the Family Comes First workbook, please visit here. To purchase a copy of Family Comes First, click here.

 

CFYJ Mother's Day Card Signing Event with Justice for Juniors

Thursday, 02 May 2013 Posted in Across the Country

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Yesterday, the Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ), along with Justice for Juniors, held an event at the George Washington University for our Mother’s Day Card initiative. Justice for Juniors is a branch of George Washington University’s Protestant Campus Ministry association whose main focus is juvenile recidivism within Washington D.C.
 
 Every Mother’s Day, CFYJ sends Mother’s Day cards to women that have impacted the lives of the prisoners we correspond with. Mother’s Day is one of many holidays that the prisoners we correspond with are away from their loved ones which can be very difficult.  CFYJ attempts to aid this pain during this emotional time by being the voice for those currently incarcerated through Mother’s Day cards.
 
The event was a success, with about 20 students and volunteers in attendance. The first portion of the evening consisted of CFYJ spokespeople, Michael Kemp and Keela Hailes, as well as  a screening of CFYJ’s, Childhood Interrupted. Michael spoke on being able to participate in the Mother’s Day initiative while he was incarcerated and Keela spoke on the feelings as a mother of a child who was incarcerated. During the second portion of the evening, the volunteers helped sign Mother’s Day cards on behalf of those currently incarcerated. Each card also included a personalized message that came directly from their loved one. In total, nearly 120 Mother’s Day cards were sent to the strong women who have supported and loved those incarcerated, through the good times and the bad.
 
For pictures from last night’s event, please visit , here. 

North Carolina Kids Still in Danger: HB 217 Moves to Appropriations

Angella Bellota Thursday, 25 April 2013 Posted in Across the Country, Take Action Now

On April 17, committee members of Judiciary Subcommittee B convened and passed an amended version of HB 217 which is now scheduled to go to the Appropriations Committee. The language for the updated bill can be found, here.

 
HB 217 now includes two sections on juvenile transfer. Although there have been changes to the language about juvenile transfer, it is not enough.  North Carolina youth are still in danger of being sent to the adult criminal justice system. Specifically, the updated bill now states:
  
  •  B1 and B2 felonies committed by 15 year olds would be subject to prosecutorial discretion; and
  • All other felonies (C – E classifications) committed by 15 year olds will be sent to a study committee of Judiciary B Subcommittee to determine how often a prosecutor’s request for transfer is denied by the judiciary. 
 
“We are trying to solve a problem that does not exist…”
 
During the discussions before a vote on HB 217, many of the committee members questioned the need for the juvenile transfer section of the bill since judges currently have the discretion to decide whether or not a case can be transferred. Sponsors of the bill believed that prosecutors’ requests for transfers were being denied by judges at a high rate, but did not provide any evidence for this belief. 
 
In a state that is currently trying to evaluate how to most effectively use its limited resources, the North Carolina juvenile transfer section of HB 217 clearly reads as a misinformed and counterproductive policy recommendation.  
 
This is why a variety of expert practitioners - judges, university professors, attorneys, and legislators – have taken a stand to oppose the juvenile transfer section of HB 217. Although adjustments have been made to the language of the bill, the changes are not enough. Advocates from across the state are standing their ground and refuse to see the removal of judicial discretion and refuse to let ineffective policies like HB 217 throw more kids into the adult criminal justice system. One message still rings clear:


We must remove the juvenile transfer sections of HB 217!
 
The Campaign for Youth Justice and other organizations have vowed to continue providing support to North Carolina advocates and youth leaders who are doing all they can to protect NC kids. Here is how you can join them in their efforts:
 
#1 GET THE FACTS: North Carolina advocates have developed a new fact sheet that can inform all youth justice allies about HB 217 and the consequences it would have on youth and families if it were to pass. You can find the fact sheet, here.
 
#2 CONNECT: A new committee means connecting with NC legislators that now have the power to stop this bill. Use the script below to send a message to the Appropriations leadership. 
 
I urge you to oppose the juvenile transfer sections of HB 217. Deciding which court a youth should be processed through is a life-altering decision. Removing judicial oversight would lead to the unchecked prosecution of children in adult court. Prosecutors should NOT be given complete discretion over our children’s future. Oppose the juvenile transfer sections of HB 217 in order to maintain the appropriate checks and balances in NC’s court system. 
 
HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE
Legislator
Phone
Email
County/District
Rep. Nelson Dollar (Senior Chairman)
                919-715-0795
 
 
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
Wake
Rep. Justin Burr (Chairman)
                919-733-5908
 
                This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
Montgomery, Stanly
Rep. Bryan Holloway (Chairman)
 
919-733-5609
 
 
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
Rockingham, Stokes
Rep.  Linda Johnson (Chairman)
                919-733-5861
 
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
Cabarrus
 
#3 ACTIVATE: There are no easy wins when it comes to fighting for youth justice, so it is critical that you activate your networks on this detrimental bill. Please share this update and stay tuned for more action steps. To get connected with the youth leaders and organizations spearheading this effort in North Carolina, contact Angella Bellota, CFYJ Field Organizer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
 

Snapshot of State Reforms to Remove Youth from Adult Criminal Court

Wednesday, 24 April 2013 Posted in Federal Update

By Liz Ryan

At a recent event in New York, “In Search of Meaningful Systemic Justice for Adolescents in New York” hosted by the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, I gave an update on the trends in juvenile justice reforms as they relate to youth in adult criminal court and youth in adult jails and prisons.

During the past eight years, approximately twenty states have enacted more than thirty pieces of legislation to reduce the prosecution of youth in adult criminal court and end the placement of youth in adult jails and prisons.  These reforms have been undertaken in all regions of the country and have been led by republican and democratic policymakers.  CFYJ issued a report in 2011, “State Trends: Legislative Victories from 2005 to 2012 Removing Youth from the Adult Criminal Justice System” authored by Neelum Arya documenting many of these reforms and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) released "Juvenile Justice Trends in State Legislation, 2001 - 2011",  in August, 2012 highlighting reforms over the previous decade.

Overall, the states have moved away from prosecuting youth in the adult criminal court and placement in adult jails and prisons, and towards providing access for children to improved rehabilitation and treatment services in the juvenile justice system.  In the past eight years, we’ve seen four major trends.

Several states have raised the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to age 18.  Connecticut was recently featured in a report, “Juvenile Justice Reform in Connecticut: How Collaboration and Commitment Have Improved Public Safety and Outcomes for Youth”, highlighting how it achieved this success.  Illinois removed 17 year olds charged with misdemeanors.  The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission recently reported on the success of this effort and recommended that Illinois update its law in 2013 to remove 17 year olds charged with felony offenses, which can be viewed here. Mississippi also removed most 17 year olds from automatic prosecution in adult court, and Massachusetts and North Carolina’s lawmakers are considering ‘raise the age’ proposals in their 2013 legislative sessions.

More than a dozen states have changed their transfer/waiver laws to keep more youth in juvenile court.  These efforts have focused on providing judges more discretion to consider whether a youth’s case should be considered in adult criminal court and have dealt with felony cases as well as younger offenders.  States enacting these reforms include, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, Ohio, Utah, Virginia and Washington.  In 2013 legislative sessions, efforts are underway in Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada and Oregon, and Maryland has enacted a task force to examine this issue.

And, ten states have changed their laws to remove youth from pretrial placement in adult jails and/or placement in adult prisons under the age of eighteen.  These states include, Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia.  Indiana just passed legislation in its 2013 session to remove youth from adult prisons.

Finally, a handful of states have changed their sentencing laws as they apply to youth.  These include Colorado, Georgia, Texas and Washington.  Oregon is considering legislation in its 2013 session.

As we’ve had the opportunity to work with so many allies in these states, there are many lessons learned from these successful efforts.  Here are just a few:

First, in these state reform efforts, state research and analysis has played a significant role in informing policymakers.  In a number of these states, state experts researched and wrote reports that looked at the state law and available data, and interviewed directly affected youth and their families.  These reports provided insights on the issue, identified problems and created a platform for reform.  We’ve highlighted many of these reports on our website here.

Second, the recidivism research showing that youth are more likely to re-offend when prosecuted in adult criminal court has proved invaluable.  Policymakers are most interested in the impact of public safety when they consider policy reforms on juvenile justice.

Third, the public strongly supports these kinds of reforms, seeing the issue as one of fairness and humane treatment of children.  Public opinion polling conducted by GBA strategies in 2011 shows that the public strongly supports rehabilitation and treatment over incarceration and automatic prosecution in adult criminal court, favors judicial decision-making and supports reducing racial and ethnic disparities in the justice system.  In this and other polling, the public absolutely rejects placing youth in adult jails and prisons, the polling can be found here.

Fourth, a number of these states created study commissions with all the key stakeholders, dedicated resources and staff, and a research and analysis capacity to examine the issue.  These study commissions obtain buy-in from key stakeholders, are a vehicle to create and advance policy recommendations as well as work out differences and monitor implementation of reforms.

Finally, involving directly affected youth and their families in these efforts is essential. Youth and families' voices and perspectives are the most crucial in informing policymakers and educating them on the negative impacts of prosecuting youth in adult criminal court.

As New York and other states consider policies to reduce the prosecution of youth in adult court, developments in these states and the lessons learned offer much to consider.  Thanks to the dedication and hard work of so many organizations and individuals around the country, we anticipate additional reforms in 2013 and beyond.

Jonathan’s Law Receives Overwhelming Support in Missouri

Wednesday, 17 April 2013 Posted in Federal Update

By Tracy McClard

The Missouri state legislature which began its 2013 session on January 9 and concludes May 17, is giving SB36/HB541- Jonathan’s Law overwhelming support.  Jonathan’s Law was named for Jonathan McClard who lost his life in an adult facility in Missouri right after his 17th birthday.  

Jonathan’s Law gives more youth who are certified as adults, access to Missouri’s Dual Jurisdiction Program operated by Missouri’s Department of Youth Services.   In this program, which was implemented in 1995, youth are kept out of adult facilities and placed in a youth oriented facility that provides education, mental health services, drug rehabilitation, victim empathy, and family involvement all in a space that was created to give youth the services they need to become productive members of society.  

The bill, which is sponsored by Senator Wayne Wallingford and Representative Hicks, has passed the senate judiciary committee, senate floor, and house judiciary committee unanimously.  

For additional information on Jonathan’s Law, click here for our fact sheet.

Marginalized Girls: Creating Pathways to Opportunity

Tuesday, 16 April 2013 Posted in Take Action Now

 

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Last Thursday, I joined a panel of youth justice advocates at Georgetown University’s Journal on Poverty & Law for a symposium, “Marginalized Girls: Creating Pathways to Opportunity,  to discuss the effectiveness of gender-responsive reforms in juvenile justice.  Moderated by Dana Shoenberg of the Center for Children’s Law and Policy, the panel featured Dr. Lawanda Raviora and Vanessa Patino Lydia of the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center and Liz Watson of the National Women’s Law Center who shared the main findings and recommendations in the articles they authored for the journal.   Malika Saada Saar of Human Rights Project for Girls and I shared our reactions to the articles and offered recommendations for next steps.
 
Here are my recommendations for ways you can take action:
 
(1)    Advocate for more federal resources to address the needs of girls in the justice system.
 
The Obama Administration just proposed a budget including $2 million for grants in this area that could provide powerful incentives to implement some of the best practices featured in the articles.
 
To contact your House member, visit here.
 
To contact your Senators, visit here.
 
(2)    Engage others in your community and ask the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Girls Institute (NGI) to provide technical assistance to your jurisdiction.
 
For information on the NGI, visit their website here
 
(3)    Contact your members of Congress to urge that they update the Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) to eliminate the loopholes in the law that allow status offenders to be detained in juvenile detention facilities as girls are disproportionately detained for status offenses.
 
To contact your Senators, visit here.
 
(4)    Urge your governor to implement the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) to ensure that girls are not placed in adult jails and prisons.
 
To contact your Governor, visit here.
 
(5)    Mark your calendars: October 23, 2013!
 
October is National Youth Justice Awareness Month and October 23, 2013 will be Girls Justice Day. Use this opportunity to build awareness in your community about girls in the justice system and to create support for change.
 
Organized by Rohini Singh, Editor of the Journal, the symposium was a great success and hopefully there will not only be more attention but more action to address the needs of girls who are at risk of or in the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems.

CFYJ National Spokesperson Deon Jones selected as a 2013 Truman Scholar

Friday, 12 April 2013 Posted in Across the Country

 

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By Roger Ghatt

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation announced today the names of 62 exceptional college juniors from 54 U.S. colleges and universities who have been selected as 2013 Truman Scholars. The Campaign for Youth Justice is happy to announce that Deon Jones a National Youth Spokesperson for CFYJ has received a 2013 Truman Scholarship. Deon is a junior at American University majoring in political science. He is also founder of the Manifest Leadership Institute, a leadership program that caters to incarcerated youth. Deon was chosen for this prestigious award on the basis of his stellar academic and leadership accomplishments and the likelihood of his becoming an influential public service leader. As a Truman Scholar, Deon will receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government.
 
Deon is a dedicated public servant who has chosen as his career goal juvenile justice advocacy. The Campaign already considers him one of our leaders and someone to watch for the future. He will receive the award in a special ceremony at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, on June 2, 2013.
 
The Campaign for Youth Justice congratulates Deon on this esteemed accomplishment.

It’s NOT safe.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013 Posted in Take Action Now

 

 

 
 

This is the true story of Ameen. Ameen has been incarcerated since age 13 and is serving a life sentence.  He writes:

 

“My four sisters and I were raised by our mother.  My father was in and out of the system….  He never taught me much … [except to tell me] that I was the man of the house, and [had] to take care of my mother and sisters.  I was only ten years old at the time, but I understood perfectly what I was instructed to do….  My mother was struggling to provide for my sisters and I, so I took it upon myself to try and help out.  I hit the streets of Atlanta and began hustling….  I stole, sold drugs, robbed, and did whatever else it took to make money, all of which I brought home to my family.  My mother didn’t approve of me hustling, but she understood my motive, turned a blind eye, and begged me to be careful.

 

I was raised by the older gangsters and dope dealers [and] taught to never talk to the police about what I saw….  [One day], I witnessed one of the older drug dealers murder a kid in cold blood.  I [saw] the entire thing … but wasn’t involved.  I was simply a bystander – a 13-year-old kid in the wrong place at the wrong time….  Someone told the cops that I was at the scene of the crime so I was arrested for the murder.  [The authorities] gave me several opportunities to tell them exactly what I saw, [but] … that was forbidden in my hood … so I kept my mouth closed [and] was sentenced to life.

 

I arrived [in prison] at the age of 16 and [went to a] dorm designed to house juvenile prisoners until they were eligible to go into general population [at age 17].  Yet, while in [the dorm], I and several other juvenile prisoners interacted with the older prisoners.  We went to school, church, medical, and lunch with these older prisoners… [they] even cut our hair.  There were terrible interactions too.  While one prisoner was busy cutting hair, [another would] force my juvenile comrades to perform oral sex….  I saw a 14-year-old kid get brutally raped by three adult prisoners in the bathroom….  They choked him until he lost consciousness and then they took turns raping him….  I was afraid they were going to rape me also.  They kept a knife pointed to my neck…and threatened to rape me if I told the officer what I saw.  So again, I kept my mouth closed.

 

I [have] realized that the reason why I’m in prison is because I wouldn’t speak up about what I saw….  If  I’m ever given a chance to finally speak out…I am going to finally tell the police what really happened [the day of the murder] and why housing juvenile offenders with adults is dangerous.”  

 
Contact your governor to let him or her know personally that to do otherwise would be to tacitly consent to the continual rape of children every day in your state.
 
Share this story with five friends on Facebook and/or Twitter
 
Tweet this message or infographic using the hashtag #implementprea

Visit the CFYJ PREA page to learn more about PREA and to read more stories from youth.

 

 

"There's No Excuse" Campaign Calls on Governors to Protect Youth from the Dangers of Adult Jails and Prisons

Tuesday, 02 April 2013 Posted in Take Action Now

During the month of April, thousands of individuals and organizations will be calling on  their governors to cease the practice of placing youth in adult jails and prisons in order to comply with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).  Passed unanimously by Congress in 2003, PREA restricts the placement of youth in adult jails and prisons. The U.S. Department of Justice regulations state: “as a matter of policy, the Department supports strong limitations on the confinement of adults with juveniles.”  The regulations ban the housing of youth in the general adult population, prohibit contact between youth and adults in common areas, and limit the use of isolation.
Children in adult jails and prisons are:

--At the greatest risk of sexual victimization according to the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission;

--Often placed in solitary confinement 'for their own protection' which is detrimental to their mental health and can result in suicide; and

--Denied educational services, counseling and other supports.
It is crucial that governors fully protect children from the dangers of adult jails and prisons.  Rather than try to segregate children from adults in adult jails and prisons which often leads to solitary confinement, governors should implement best practices by removing youth from adult jails and prisons.

Take Action Now!

Here are 2 things you can do today:
(1) Tell your governor there's no excuse for keeping kids in adult jails and prisons!
Click here to contact your governor!

(2) Spread the word!
Throughout the month of April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we hope you will spread the word! We will be sharing information and ways to get involved. To get updates, view our blog, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter @JusticeforYouth. Our hashtag is: #Implement PREA.

For additional information our PREA page, here.

THANK YOU! Your actions slowed down HB 217 in North Carolina. Let’s keep the pressure on!

Tuesday, 26 March 2013 Posted in Across the Country

By Angella Bellota

When legislators introduced HB 217 last week at the North Carolina General Assembly, your quick response to stand in solidarity with North Carolina youth and families slowed down the bill!

HB 217, would throw children as young as 13 into the adult criminal justice system and remove judicial oversight. If this bill were to pass, it would give prosecutors complete discretion over the future of NC children and strip juvenile court judges’ of their decision making power – the only neutral and unbiased decision maker in transfer cases.

Within a matter of days, here is what YOU were able to accomplish:

In less than two days, over 400 of you signed the petition started by NC youth leaders calling a stop to HB 217. This means that each of the fourteen members on the committee received over 400 emails urging them to oppose section 7, of HB 217.

Along with your calls and direct messages to friends, family and networks we not only flooded their phone lines but also their inboxes! Youth leaders also took action through social media, and the word to attend the hearing spread like wildfire. On the morning of the hearing, you were able to pack the room!

NC allies received an overwhelming amount of support from youth, students, advocates, faith leaders, attorneys and judges. Your presence is making it clear -- Our communities will not stand by and allow ineffective proposals to further criminalize youth!

The fight is not over!

We can expect the committee to most likely reconvene on Wednesday, April 3rd. We were informed that the committee will reconvene once the NC Advocates for Justice and others have a chance to meet with representatives from the Conference of District Attorneys the first week of April.

North Carolina allies are asking everyone to continue to put pressure on the decision makers involved on this bill. The primary sponsor, Rep. Stam has requested feedback and comments, and below you will find ways to continue to have your voice heard:

·         Each time someone signs the petition, bit.ly/NOHB217 the committee members receive a message urging them to oppose HB 217. If you have already signed, please take the next 30 seconds to share it through email and on social media! Help NC reach 500 signatures!

Join several other organizations sending in a formal letter opposing HB 217. If you are interested and/or need assistance drafting a letter, contact: Angella Bellota, Field Organizer This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Make plans to attend the hearing next week. We will continue to share details with you as soon as we get them.

Are you interested in testifying? We can help! Contact Angella Bellota, Field Organizer This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

We are excited to be a partner in North Carolina. Join us in showing your support by sharing this alert with your networks!

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