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September is #SuicidePrevention Month

Thursday, 21 September 2017 Posted in Voices

By Aprill Turner, Communications & Media Director

September is national suicide prevention month. Throughout the month, individuals and organizations alike will be drawing attention to the problem of suicide and advocating the prevention of this terrible tragedy. Suicide is a national health problem that is also one of the leading causes of preventable death in our nation. As we reflect on this month and what we can do help with prevention, we must remember a very vulnerable population-- young people in adult jails and prisons.

Guest Column: Don’t Give Up on Latinx Youth

Thursday, 14 September 2017 Posted in Voices

September 15 marks the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month, a month dedicated to celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

It also marks a dark time in our Nation’s history, where the federal government and Congress are increasingly calling for the closure of US borders; and targeting immigrant youth and families for deportation under the guise of “public safety.” This week, the US House of Representatives will vote on HR 3697, “The Criminal Alien Gang Removal Act”. If passed, the bill will create new vague and overly broad grounds of removability based on a sweeping new definition of "criminal gang," triggering racial profiling and putting the United States in violation of its international obligations to protect asylum seekers. This follows on the heels of the administration’s repeal of DACA in the next 6 months, a decision that will impact 800,000 young people and their families who have lived in this country since they were young children.

In solidarity with all the families and young people who are being unjustly targeted and in honor of National Hispanic Heritage month, we asked one of our spokespeople, Jesse De La Cruz, to write about his story and about what it means to be a justice-involved Latino youth in the United States.

I’m Jesse De La Cruz, a full-time college student and worker who grew up in the underserved community of South Central Los Angeles. I work smart and hard, both at school and work. This may be in my genes: I come from an immigrant family. My parents fled Mexico to the United States of America in the 1980’s to get opportunities towards a better life. They strongly believe in the American Dream, and so do I. But in this search for a new life, they quickly realized that the two jobs they had to work to keep up with the ever rising costs of living in our impoverished neighborhood in Los Angeles was far from the dream they had in mind.  But our family was well aware that diligence and intelligence were keys for immigrants like us, especially youth, to defeat the sad incarceration statistics that far too many immigrant youth face.  Unfortunately, I too succumbed to the gang violence, drug abuse, and crime wave that hit Los Angeles during my youth. Growing up in the Nickerson Gardens Housing Projects in Watts and South Central Los Angeles, these “activities” were sadly common. Today, as we kick off National Hispanic Heritage Month, and as a Latino youth facing increasing disenfranchisement and discrimination, it is critical for everyone to keep in mind that mass incarceration is a way of building a caste system and strip minorities from their rights; particularly immigrant youth. At the age of 15, I committed a carjacking in Los Angeles. I’m the sole responsible person for committing such regrettable hurtful act on a human; it’s a decision I will have to live with the rest of my life. I entered the Juvenile Justice system after going through a broken school system, a neglectful household, a crime-infested neighborhood, and a broken foster care system. Immediately, I realized that I committed an act on impulse and poor-decision making based on my youth; however, the court system didn’t recognize this. My probation officer recommended for me to be penalized as an adult. I was LUCKY to beat a Juvenile Fitness Hearing that determined if I would go to adult prison or a juvenile detention center; instead I was sentenced to 8 years in the California Youth Authority. As I entered this system, I quickly realized that youth here faced similar experiences of abuse growing up. There seemed to be a relation between crime and abuse. Meanwhile in the California Youth Authority, I quickly developed a love for education.

As I became involved in the justice system, I soon realized that most of the other youth in there with me had had similar experiences and trauma as mine, if not worse. The vast majority of them were also youth of color. From there, it was very easy to put the pieces together and understand how so many Latinx youth across the country wind up behind bars. Compared to white youth, Latinx youth in the juvenile system are 4% more likely to be petitioned, 16% more likely to be adjudicated delinquent, 28% more likely to be detained, and 41% more likely to receive an out-of-home placement. The most severe disparities occur for Latinx youth tried in the adult system. Latinx children are 43% more likely than white youth to be waived judicially to the adult system and 40% more likely to be admitted to adult prison. And I learned first-hand that it doesn’t get easier once you get out.

Re-entering society has been an ongoing struggle. Employment, housing, resources and support were hard to come by as I was labeled an “at-risk” youth. Racial profiling by the LA police has also been a part of my daily life since I was a kid, and it continues today as I get regularly pulled over for “routine stops” when I’m just trying to get from point A to point B with my car.

Like me, many Latinx youth have to face many hardships very early on, much more than most people ever endure in their lifetime, and end up getting in trouble because they don’t know any other way. But when offered opportunities and care, they can also accomplish amazing things and turn their lives around, like I did. Today, I am proud to stand as a young leader in my community, trying to push for reforms in the school system, policy, and community engagement. Thanks to the support of many people and organizations like the Campaign for Youth Justice, I have developed a new perspective on life and have grown a strong mental fortitude to apply in life and continue building my future.

Headed Back to School… In the Justice System

Tuesday, 05 September 2017 Posted in Voices

By Marcy Mistrett, CEO 

With the conclusion of Labor Day Weekend, summer is officially “over”—and hundreds of thousands of children return to school this week.  Across the Internet, we see families readying themselves for the year—buying school supplies, new shoes, and happily attending ‘meet your teacher days.’  Discussions on standardized tests, teachers unions, shortages in school budgets, and achievement gaps begin to fill social conversations.

Remembering Michael Brown; Police Don’t Create Safety, Communities do

Tuesday, 08 August 2017 Posted in Voices

By Aprill O. Turner, Communications Director

Today we reflect on the memory of Mike Brown, the 18-year old unarmed black teen fatally shot six times, twice in the head, by Ferguson, Mo. police officer, Darren Wilson. The 2014  shooting prompted protests across the nation for weeks. The gripping images of a blood-covered white sheet lying over the form of his motionless body for hours will forever be etched in our memories. As will the image of another black mother with tears streaming down her face grieving the loss of her son to this senseless, yet all too common scenario.Three years and many more police-involved shootings later, we ask ourselves, is this what public safety looks like in our communities?

The Youth Who Remain: Pedro Hernandez and the Youth who Remain on Rikers Island until the Implementation of the Raise the Age Law

Thursday, 27 July 2017 Posted in Voices

By Eunice Revis, Juvenile Justice Fellow, and Jeree Thomas, Policy Director

In April, Governor Cuomo signed a budget bill that included language to raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction so that the majority of 16 and 17-year olds would no longer be incarcerated, tried, or treated as adults. However, the legislation does not go into effect until October 1, 2018 for 16-year olds and October 2019 for 17-year olds. In addition, it bans the placement of youth under 18 in adult facilities by October 2018.  Finally, the law stops short of protecting all youth under age 18; it allows youth age 14 and older to still be tried as adults if they are charged with serious felonies; as is the case with Bronx Teen, Pedro Hernandez.

2017 Summer Institute: Session 2 – Youth in Solitary Confinement

Wednesday, 26 July 2017 Posted in Voices

By Eunice Revis, Juvenile Justice Fellow

On July 24, 2017, the Campaign for Youth Justice Fellows hosted the second session of the 2017 Summer Institute for interns and fellows from various juvenile justice organizations to discuss the effects of solitary confinement on children. The Campaign was thrilled to have Jenny Lutz, the Campaign Manager for the Stop Solitary for Kids Campaign, and staff attorney at the Center for Children’s Law and Policy (CCLP) - an organization focused on eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system, reducing the unnecessary and inappropriate incarceration of children, and eliminating dangerous and inhumane practices for youth in custody.

Parenting Without A Voice

Thursday, 20 July 2017 Posted in Voices

By Michelle Hannemann

When children are charged as adults; their parents aren’t notified of their arrest, or that the police are interrogating them in connection with a crime.  Michelle found it out the hard way, when her 16 year old high school junior was arrested and charged with a felony as an adult.  Based heavily on the statement he provided to the police (without any legal representation), he was waived to adult court and sentenced to 5 years in prison. Michelle’s son was then released on an electronic bracelet, and resentenced in 2016 after appealing his first sentence.. Through this hardship, Michelle has learned a lot about the justice system, and how harmful it is for children to be treated as adults.

In honor of Parents' Day, Michelle tells the story of how hard it is to be a parent when you no longer have a voice. 

Brady’s Story: How a “Child in Need of Supervision” Dies in Juvenile Detention

Tuesday, 20 June 2017 Posted in Voices

Why the U.S. Senate Needs to Reauthorize the Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act

By Jeree Thomas, Esq. and Dawn Folkens, mother of Brady Alan Folkens

“Today I woke up feeling like complete [crap]. It has only gotten worse so far. I anticipate feeling bad tomorrow as well. But hopefully I’ll be better by Saturday when my mom comes to visit.” – Brady Folkens, December 19th- Brady’s final journal entry.

A Commitment Worthy of Pride: End the Criminalization of LGBTQ Youth

Monday, 19 June 2017 Posted in Voices

By Shannan Wilber

Pride Month is an opportunity to commemorate the history of the LGBTQ civil rights movement and celebrate the milestones of social and political progress. It is also an opportunity to acknowledge LGBTQ people who have not benefited from these gains, and commit to ending their oppression.

A Broken Heart for Father’s Day: My husband’s Journey

Friday, 16 June 2017 Posted in Voices

By Heidi Nuttall

As a woman and mother, I certainly don’t know from first-hand experience all the feelings and emotions going on within the heart of the man I love and the father of my son, but I can tell you what I’ve observed in our 38 years of marriage, and as we’ve traveled since 2010 on this heartbreaking road with our son who was charged as an adult at the age of 13.

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