A Day of Empathy to Kick Off Juvenile Justice Month of Faith & Healing
By Jeree Thomas, Policy Director
March 1st is the National Day of Empathy. It is a perfect start to the Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing. The National Day of Empathy, created by the non-profit Dream Corp, is a call to action for those impacted by the prison industrial complex and issues within in the criminal justice system to meet with legislators on why criminal justice reform is so important to America’s future.
Under a new Administration with an increased focus on detention and law enforcement, the importance of empathy, faith, and healing for those in our juvenile and criminal justice systems are more important than ever.
The Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing was developed to unite religious congregations across faith traditions in support of the needs of youth in the juvenile justice system. The month focuses on bolstering alternatives to incarceration and more humane treatment of youth who are incarcerated.
During this month, the Campaign for Youth Justice would like to highlight those faith organizations supporting 2017 legislative efforts to “raise the age” in their states so that 16 and/or 17 year olds are not automatically sent to the adult criminal justice system.
- In Missouri, the Missouri Catholic Conference along with Metropolitan Congregations United are pushing for the state to raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction so that 17-year olds are not automatically treated as adults. The Missouri Catholic Conference developed a newsletter highlighting the impact of putting children in the adult system and the need for juvenile justice reform.
- In North Carolina, the Methodist Home for Children recently released a statement on why they believe their state should raise the age so that 16 and 17 year olds are not automatically treated as adults.
- In Texas, on February 1st, an interfaith group of leaders gathered in support of raise the age after working and studying the issue together. Rabbi Samuel Karff of Congregation Beth Israel, Rev. Steve Quill from TRUTH Houston, and Bishop James Dixon all spoke in support of raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction at a press conference.
- In New York, clergy and advocates rallied in January to voice their deep concern with trying 16 and 17 year olds as adults. They emphasized that putting youth in the adult system is morally wrong when research shows that youth are developmentally different.
We hope that you will consider taking action during the Day of Empathy and throughout the Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing. If you are a member of a congregation, talk to them about the impact of treating youth as adults in the criminal justice system. Contact your local legislators to remind them that youth need empathy, faith, and healing to be rehabilitated and not just punishment in adult jails and prisons. Put your beliefs into practice in a way that could change young peoples lives in your state. Join the movement.