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Across the Country

A Spotlight on Colorado’s Reform Efforts: A sneak peek into our upcoming State Trends Report

Jessica Sandoval Tuesday, 08 October 2013 Posted in 2013, Across the Country

During the second week of Youth Justice Awareness Month (YJAM) CFYJ will take a look back at the reform efforts that improve the lives of youth by decreasing the chances that they would come into contact with the adult criminal court.  Here at CFYJ our mission is just that, and we partner with state organizations, advocates, youth and families to launch and win state legislative campaigns for youth justice.

In the years at CFYJ, I have had the pleasure of working with many states to organize campaigns for juvenile justice reform to remove youth from adult court.  The work has been tedious, exciting, rewarding and challenging.  It is all worth it because we know from the research that youth in adult court are 34% more likely to recidivate at higher rates than those retained in the juvenile court.  At the Campaign for Youth Justice we have worked diligently to create our campaign model to be successful in states where there is interest in building grassroots campaigns.  We provide a myriad of technical assistance options to our partners such as, campaign planning, policy assistance, coalition building support, media assistance and training, hearing preparation, policy and political analysis.  We know that the research supports our mission and we believe after 8 years of state based campaign work that the trends emerging are not by accident. On October 10th, we will be releasing our latest State Trends report which examines the states who have in the past several years changed state policies to remove youth from the adult court.

Colorado is no stranger to these successes.  In 1993, I was living in Colorado when the state expanded their laws to prosecute youth more harshly.  It happened during a special legislative session to address a crime wave.  This effort was led by then District Attorney Bill Ritter.  Fifteen years later, in 2008 when the legislature passed a significant direct file reform bill, it was vetoed by Governor Ritter. It was tragic, but we were hopeful that with a new Governor coming into office we could do it again. 

In 2011, with families and youth, good data, media, an engaged coalition, and a skilled organizer we were ready to engage in a major campaign to end direct file.  Building community support, strong spokespeople and legislative champions were all priorities.  Our role in the campaign was to provide policy and media support as well as support the organizer of the Colorado campaign housed at the Colorado Juvenile Defender Coalition.  There were two major pieces of legislation introduced, House Bill 1139, a jail removal bill and House Bill 1271, the direct file reform bill.  HB 1139 was passed and signed into law in March 2012 helping to drive the energy needed to pass HB 1271.  The bill was hotly contested and debated.  On April 20, 2012 Governor Hickenlooper signed HB 1271 into law.  Victory!

Having been involved with this effort since 2009, I believe that the strong organizing effort with communities, youth and families, in addition to good data, incredible legislative champions and influential coalition members made this Colorado campaign a success. I was happy to have Colorado lead these efforts and I encourage other states to consider doing the same.  If you are a state that is considering doing a reform campaign I urge you to contact us.  We are happy to help!

To continue following other state reforms during the month of October, continue to visit CFYJ's blog and to engage in our social media campaign check us out on Facebook and Twitter using #statetrends #youthjustice #YJAM

In solidarity,


YJAM is a Time to Reflect and Celebrate Efforts in the States

Wednesday, 02 October 2013 Posted in 2013, Across the Country

Photo By Richard Ross
National Youth Justice Awareness Month (YJAM) celebrates those states that have taken a giant step in improving the justice system for kids. Over the past several years, four states have launched successful "Raise the Age" efforts to reduce the automatic prosecution of 16 and 17 year olds in the adult criminal court that impact more than 20,000 young people.
Connecticut led this effort by changing its law in 2007 and 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. Many individuals, organizations and state leaders are featured in the report, most notably the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance (CTJJA).  As a result of the CT campaign, 8,000 youth will no longer be automatically tried in adult court.
In 2010, Mississippi passed legislation to remove 17 year olds from automatic prosecution in adult court (with certain exceptions).  This new law, which went into effect  in July, 2011, was championed by the Mississippi Coalition for the Prevention of Schoolhouse to Jailhouse, the NAACP, the MS ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
During the 2013 session, the Illinois legislature passed legislation to remove 17 year olds charged with felonies from automatic prosecution in adult court, a move which gives 4,000 more youth the opportunity to access rehabilitative services and programs in the juvenile justice system.  The Illinois Juvenile Justice Initiative and the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission spearheaded these efforts. And Massachusetts raised its age to 18 in the 2013 session, thereby giving 6,000 youth an opportunity to participate in juvenile justice programs, rather than the adult criminal justice system.  Citizens for Juvenile Justice advanced these reforms.
All these "Raise the Age" efforts will improve outcomes for youth and communities by increasing access to more effective programs and services in the juvenile justice system. We applaud the state officials in these states who championed these initiatives -- CT, MS, IL and MA -- and the advocacy groups who advocated for these policy reforms. For the ten states with lower ages of juvenile court jurisdiction remaining -- NY, NC, GA, LA, MI, MO, NH, SC, TX, WI -- the pressure is on!  

North Carolina Continues to Wait for Justice Reform

Angella Bellota Tuesday, 13 August 2013 Posted in 2013, Across the Country, Take Action Now

Rep. Avila, primary sponsor of HB 725

On July 26, the North Carolina General Assembly ended a much debated legislative session.  Many of you watched as social justice advocates fought back legislation that would harm voter rights, women’s rights, as well as reduce resources to NC’s education system which will impact thousands of youth and families across the state. For those of us in the youth justice field, we watched as youth justice advocates worked tirelessly for several months to push forward HB 725, the Young Offenders Rehabilitation Act (Raise the Age), as well as oppose HB 217, a bill that would remove judicial discretion from juvenile transfer cases and undermine the forward thinking policy recommendations of the Raise the Age campaign.

North Carolina experienced a difficult session but the commitment from youth justice supporters cannot go unnoticed. Many of you joined the Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) in taking a stand for North Carolina youth.  Coordinating efforts with our allies on the ground, the CFYJ network, as well as other national partners – we made phone calls, wrote letters, conducted legislator visits, and signed on to petitions that reminded NC leaders that our NC allies were not in this fight alone.

We applaud you and thank you for your energy and persistence during this legislative session.  It is this collective effort that makes state campaigns stronger during session and for future campaigns. A recap of each legislative bill is below. Please make sure to visit Action for Children NC to stay connected to the Raise the Age campaign. If you have questions or would like to continue to receive state campaign updates, contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Update on HB 725
HB 725 the Young Offender Rehabilitation Act (Raise the Age) received a successful second reading vote on the House floor – a 61 to 37 vote – a real sign of bipartisan support! Since session ended on the same day, the bill will now wait for the short session to begin in May 2014 and will resurface on the House calendar for a third reading before heading to the Senate. Outreach efforts will continue during the interim to prepare for the 2014 legislative session. Your continued support will give HB 725 a fighting chance during the short session in May. To learn more about HB 725, click HERE.

Update on HB 217
HB 217, the bill that would remove judicial discretion in juvenile transfer cases and place the fate of NC youth in the hands of prosecutors did not move out of the Senate because of your persistent and strong pushback.  Although we were able to stall the bill in the Senate Judiciary II committee, this bill has the opportunity to be re-introduced during the short session in May 2014. It is important to remember that elements of the 217 proposal were much worse than what it was eventually ratified to be, and that is in no small part to your actions. We will continue to monitor this piece of legislation and will keep you updated on local efforts to defeat this bill. For now, you can find more information about HB 217, HERE

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

Angella Bellota Wednesday, 24 July 2013 Posted in 2013, 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


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! 

Vera Institute of Justice and National PREA Resource Center to Host Webinar on Implementing the Youthful Inmate Standard of PREA

Monday, 13 May 2013 Posted in 2013, Across the Country

On Thursday, May 16th, the Vera Institute of Justice in conjunction with the National PREA Resource Center will host the first of two scheduled webinars on implementing the Youthful Inmate Standard of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). The webinar will be held at 3:00 p.m.
The Youthful Inmate Standard requires 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. This much anticipated webinar will be the first opportunity to learn how states plan to implement this standard and protect one of the most vulnerable populations in adult facilities. This is a critical time to address this issue because we know that:
  •   youth in jail are 19 times more likely to commit suicide than youth in the general population;   
  • youth are 36 times more likely to commit suicide in an adult jail than in a juvenile detention facility; and
  •   to “protect” the youth in adult facilities, some jails and prisons keep youth in solitary isolation for upwards of 23 hours a day.
We hope you can participate on Thursday to learn what your state is doing to protect children in adult facilities. Register here for the webinar.

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

Thursday, 02 May 2013 Posted in 2013, 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 2013, 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. 
Rep. Nelson Dollar (Senior Chairman)
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Rep. Justin Burr (Chairman)
                This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Montgomery, Stanly
Rep. Bryan Holloway (Chairman)
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Rockingham, Stokes
Rep.  Linda Johnson (Chairman)
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
#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. 

CFYJ National Spokesperson Deon Jones selected as a 2013 Truman Scholar

Friday, 12 April 2013 Posted in 2013, 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.

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

Tuesday, 26 March 2013 Posted in 2013, 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!

CFYJ Welcomes Two New Employees!

Tuesday, 19 February 2013 Posted in 2013, Across the Country

The Campaign for Youth Justice is excited to welcome two new senior staff members who have recently joined us this January. Aprill O. Turner, originally from Clearwater, Florida, will be the new Communications Director while Carmen Daugherty, native of Louisville Kentucky, will be the new Policy Director.

Our new Communications Director, Aprill is a Public Relations professional with more than twelve years of experience working with non-profit and corporate clients, as well as elected officials. Prior to coming to the Campaign for Youth Justice, Aprill has been a Communications Consultant for the National Association of Black Journalists, Senior Account Executive at CooperKatz Public Relations in New York City, as well as planned and conducted media outreach initiatives for New York Lawyers for the Public Interest and the National Campaign to Restore Civil Rights. In addition, Aprill has worked on Capitol Hill in several media capacities as well as leading media strategy for several local, Congressional and Senatorial campaigns. Aprill obtained her Bachelor's degree in Legal Communications from Howard University and a Master's degree in Political Communication and Fundraising from The George Washington University. Currently, she serves on the Board of Directors for the Washington Association of Black Journalists.

As the new Communications Director, Aprill wishes to increase the exposure of the Campaign for Youth Justice in the organization’s target states as well as at the federal level. She was drawn to the Campaign by their clear focus on juvenile justice issues and wishes to spread that message further and wider.

Prior to joining the Campaign, Carmen, our new Policy Director, served as Deputy Director and staff attorney for Advocates for Justice and Education, a DC based non-profit, formed to educate parents, youth, and the community about the laws governing public education, specifically for children with special needs. In 2008, Carmen was appointed to the D.C. Mayor's Juvenile Justice Advisory Group where she works with city stakeholders to provide recommendations on district compliance with the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act. She also co-chairs the American Bar Association section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, Public Education Committee which seeks to protect and advance the right of equal access and opportunity to public education for all people. Carmen received her undergraduate degree from Vassar College and her Juris Doctor from Tulane University School of Law.

As the Campaign’s Policy Director, Carmen assists both state based organizations and national partners in developing policy goals related to criminal justice reform. Carmen aspires to keep state level policy makers well informed about the policy options available to ensure that the long term outcome of legislation is beneficial rather than detrimental to the youth.

Both Aprill and Carmen are excited to be joining the Campaign’s efforts to raising awareness about youth incarceration in the adult criminal justice system!

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