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Articles tagged with: Across the Country

Looking Back

Brian Evans Thursday, 05 January 2017 Posted in Campaigns

A Look Back At 2016

2016 was in many ways – let’s face it – a wretched year. But for the work to protect youth from the horrors of the adult criminal justice system, 2016 was actually a pretty good year.

The states of South Carolina and Louisiana passed laws to raise the age of adult court jurisdiction to 18. The states of Vermont and California both ended the practice of allowing prosecutors, without judicial review, to “direct file” juveniles into adult court.

A new law in Indiana will allow some youth charged as adults to transfer back into the juvenile system, and a new law in Arizona will keep some kids charged as adults out of adult jails while they await their trials.  And Washington, D.C., included removing youth from adult jails in its Comprehensive Youth Justice Amendment Act of 2016.

Guest Column: Words that Hide the Reality of the Juvenile Justice System

Laurie Spivey, MST Expert, Multisystemic Therapy Services Thursday, 20 October 2016

By Laurie Spivey, MST Expert, Multisystemic Therapy Services

A look behind the euphemisms that proliferate the system

Imagine that you are sitting in court with your teenage son or daughter. The judge orders your child to six months living in a “training school” to address the concerns of the court. What would you imagine that to be? Something like a military school or a boot camp? A cluster of cabins in the woods where kids do ropes courses and practice trust falls?

The truth is that most training schools are thinly veiled youth prisons. Commonly referred to as “secure placements,” they are actually cinder-block buildings behind barbed-wire where children wear orange jumpsuits, rubber shoes and handcuffs. They live in cellblocks and behind bars, get limited contact with their families and are at high risk of sexual and physical abuse. There is an intentional glazing over of the horrors within these facilities, under-reporting of crimes against young people behind bars and a number of creative euphemisms aimed at shielding us from the truth.

 

NEW POLL: Floridians Share Thoughts on Criminal Justice Reform

Jade Kendrick Thursday, 06 October 2016 Posted in Across the Country

 

A recent survey conducted by the James Madison Institute and the Charles Koch Institute gives deep insight of Floridians’ thoughts on criminal justice reform in their state. The survey results couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Recently, Florida prosecutor, Angela Corey, lost her chance at reelection in the primary. Corey was notorious for pursuing harsh sentences. She is notorious for failing to get a conviction on George Zimmerman, the man who killed Trayvon Martin. She did a number of other injustices during her eight years in office.  Corey charged a 12 year old boy named Cristian Fernandez with first degree murder of his 2 year old brother, David. Cristian, David, and their other brother and sister had been left at home, without supervision, while his mother was at work. That’s when David received a serious head injury and died. Cristian’s mother came home and took Cristian to school. She would wait eight more hours before taking David to the hospital. While the details around how David was injured are still foggy, Corey immediately deemed Cristian the perpetrator. Cristian was held in an adult jail until his conviction where he sentenced to life without parole. Corey would later fight Cristian’s transfer to a juvenile facility. Corey doubled the number of felony cases in Florida where minors were charged as adults. It would be one of Cristian’s lawyers who challenged and defeated Corey.

So what does her losing the election have to do with this survey?

For one, they show a drastic change in attitude with the Florida population. 72% of Floridians believe that it is time to reform the criminal system in Florida and 64% believe that there are too many nonviolent offenders serving time. The opinions show the possibility that kicking out hard prosecutors means that Floridians want different sentencing practices.  62% of Floridians also said they trust judges over prosecutors to decide if a minor should be charged as an adult. That contradicts Angela Corey’s efforts to increase the number of felony cases for minors charged as adults.

The survey is on par with changing laws in Florida. Recently, the state legislature repealed the “10-20 Life” law that required judges to give mandatory sentences to gun involved offenses. Unfortunately, this repeal will not apply to offenders currently incarcerated, even though 63% of Floridians agreed that it should apply to those already in jail. However, this is still a major step for Florida’s criminal justice reform. Another more preventive law Florida has passed a law regarding mental health and Medicare. This plan requires Medicare to offer comprehensive treatment plans for patients diagnosed with a mental illness. Because people with mental illnesses will have better access to treatment, in the long run, the number of mentally ill people with a criminal record will decrease. Still in discussion in the Florida state legislature is the Direct File bill. This bill would limit the power prosecutors have when deciding to charge a juvenile as an adult. Currently, the law states that if a juvenile, no matter the age, commits a certain offense, such as murder or sexual battery, the prosecutor can send them straight to adult court. Under the new bill, state attorneys can only use direct file for juveniles between the ages of 16 and 18. And the prosecutor can only direct file if it involves the 21 offenses listed in the bill. While the first goal of the bill was to make transfers only to be decided by a judge, supporters of the bill had to compromise in order to move it along. The Human Rights Watch found that Florida has more juveniles transferred into the adult court than any other state. The Florida government has been slow to keep up with public opinion. With new legislation being introduced and passed, hopefully criminal justice reform will begin to take effect.

Guest Column: Violence at Spring Creek: It's not the kids, it's the culture

Rebecca T. Wallace and Elizabeth Logemann Guest columnists Friday, 30 September 2016

By: Rebecca T. Wallace and Elizabeth Logemann Guest columnists 

 

Originally posted in the Colorado Springs Gazette

In a recent Gazette article, it was reported that Spring Creek Correctional Facility is again erupting with assaults and riots, leaving youths and staff frightfully unsafe. After more than two years of hearing these kinds of reports from Spring Creek, it has become increasingly clear that the facility is plagued by an unforgiving and punitive culture that breeds violence and chaos. Staff now attribute the source of the violence to restrictions on their use of solitary confinement and other punitive measures. That should send off alarm bells. When staff charged with rehabilitating at-risk youths lament that they can't do their job unless they can lock children in torturous and widely discredited solitary confinement, we know there is a serious culture problem at the facility.

Psychological and rehabilitative experts from around the country are unanimous in their finding that solitary confinement hurts children and is wholly counterproductive to rehabilitation. What's more, it has been proved that evidence-based, nationally accepted best practices - which rely on building one-on-one relationships rather than isolation and restraint - work to reduce recidivism while keeping children and staff safe from violence.

Look to Missouri, which has adopted an approach to youth corrections that is founded on the idea that children are a work in progress and that all youths are redeemable and changeable. After shutting down its large and notoriously violent juvenile detention facility in Boonville in 1983, Missouri began to build small group homes and adopted a rehabilitative model where staff are strongly discouraged from using seclusion and restraint to manage even violent youths. Youths are instead immersed in an intensive, therapeutic treatment program led by development specialists rather than correctional guards and are provided a wide range of vocational and academic opportunities. Facility staff keep children safe primarily through relationship building and compassionate de-escalation, rather than through solitary confinement and restraint. The results are astounding. Compared with youth correctional staff in other states, Missouri staff are 14 times less likely to be assaulted. Compared with their peers in other states, Missouri in-custody youths are 4.5 times less likely to be assaulted, 17 times less likely to be placed in mechanical restraints and 228 times less likely to be placed in isolation. Recidivism rates are some of the lowest in the country, and high school graduation rates are on par with Missouri children who are out of custody.

These results show unequivocally that when children are treated with compassion, while given individualized attention and opportunities for meaningful growth, detention facilities become safer. Pleas from the Spring Creek staff to return to punitive measures, like increased solitary confinement and more restraints, demonstrate with clarity that the facility is on the wrong path. And it is no wonder. While leadership within the Division of Youth Corrections has long said it is committed to implementing nationally accepted best practices and curbing solitary confinement and restraint, it has seen four directors in the past two years - the most recent of whom departed in the wake of the latest Spring Creek scandal. Spring Creek has also seen at least three different facility directors during that same time period. Without consistent, committed leadership at the top, we cannot expect to see meaningful cultural change among line staff.

Finally, although you would not know it from staff accounts, the source of limitations on Spring Creek staff's ability to use solitary confinement is state law that has been in place since 1999. That law prohibits solitary confinement of youths except during an ongoing emergency. In 2014, our child advocacy coalition discovered that staff were placing children in isolation for days, weeks and even months at a time to punish them, in direct violation of the law. This was occurring at precisely the same time Spring Creek staff were complaining of rampant violence in the facility. Clearly, then, it is not the use or nonuse of solitary confinement that is driving the violence.

After more than two years of complaints and assaults, we must acknowledge the true root cause - a persistent punitive culture that must change.

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Rebecca T. Wallace is ACLU of Colorado staff attorney and policy counsel, and Elizabeth Logemann is Colorado Juvenile Defender Center (CJDC) supervising attorney.

 

New OJJDP Report Shows New Trends in Residential Placement of Juveniles

Wednesday, 01 June 2016 Posted in Research & Policy

 By Anne-Lise Vray, Juvenile Justice Fellow

A new report of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention analyzes the juvenile residential placement data for the year 2013, and finds that overall, more than 60,000 youth were in residential placement across the United States on October 23, 2013, a drop of over 12% compare to 2011 and of more than 44% since 2003. 

While this report shows some encouraging trends, some others are worrisome. On the same date, 2,524 youth were locked up for status offenses, i.e. for misbehavior such as running away from home, skipping school, or speaking back to an adult – actions that are not considered crimes when committed by adults. Although the number of kids incarcerated for status offenses has decreased, it still represents almost 5% of all juveniles in residential placement, which is proportionally about the same as in 1997.

The report cautions that state variations in upper age of juvenile court jurisdiction influence placement rates. It points out that if all other factors were equal, one would expect higher juvenile placement rates in states where older youth are under juvenile court jurisdiction. Juvenile placement rates are also influenced by extended jurisdiction laws and transfer laws. States with laws allowing for youth to stay in juvenile facilities beyond the upper age of juvenile jurisdiction have higher placement rates than states with stricter laws, while states with broad transfer provisions would be expected to have lower juvenile placement rates than other states.

With those caveats in mind, the report highlights the geographic disparities in juvenile placement rates on the state level. The District of Columbia, South Dakota, and Wyoming have the highest juvenile placement rate per 100,000, while Vermont, Massachusetts and Hawaii have the lowest. Nationwide in 2013, 173 juvenile offenders were in placement for every 100,000 juveniles in the U.S. population.

“Raise the Age”, “Direct File”, and More: States Pursuing Youth Justice Reforms in 2016

Brain Evans Wednesday, 11 May 2016 Posted in Across the Country

By Brian Evans, CFYJ State Campaign Coordinator

As the year 2016 moves towards its half-way point, one trend has been unmistakable: states are moving to keep more youth out of the adult criminal justice system. And it’s not a regional but a national phenomenon. Led by South Carolina, which is poised to “Raise the Age” of adult court jurisdiction from 17 to 18 – bills have passed both chambers and only minor reconciling of bill language remains – states are adopting a variety of policies designed to treat youth as youth.

Michigan and Louisiana have both seen “Raise the Age” bills pass in one of their legislative chambers – Michigan in the House, Louisiana in the Senate – and in both cases the prospect of the bills ultimately becoming law this year is good. In New York and Louisiana, the governors have vocally backed the “Raise the Age” efforts. In fact, eight of the 9 remaining states that have ages of criminal court jurisdiction lower than 18 have introduced legislation to “Raise the Age” over the past 2 legislative sessions.

But current reform efforts aren’t limited to “Raise the Age”. In Louisiana, Michigan, New York and Missouri, proposed reforms go beyond “Raise the Age” to include larger efforts to change the ways youth are treated by the criminal justice system.  

In Alabama and Missouri, proposals to remove pre-trial youth from adult jails have made serious progress. Alabama’s bill passed in the Senate but fell short of the finish line when their session ended on May 6, while Missouri’s bill looks very likely to become law. Similar legislation has been proposed in Washington, D.C., as part of an omnibus youth justice package.

Indiana has passed a law allowing some youth sent to adult court to access to a “reverse transfer” process that could send them back into the juvenile system, and in Vermont the power of prosecutors to “Direct File” youth into adult court has been drastically curtailed.

In Florida, where such prosecutorial discretion is used more than in any other state, a bill to curb “Direct File” passed unanimously out of two Senate committees before running out of time at the end of that state’s short 60-day session. Another attempt to reform the use of “Direct File” by prosecutors is underway in California, where a governor-supported ballot initiative on the issue may go before voters in November.

While there are still too many mechanisms for transferring youth into the adult system, it is clear that the states have come to recognize how harmful and counter-productive such transfers are. The results of this year will be better justice for more youth, with powerful positive momentum and strong prospects for even greater gains in the coming years.

Promising Findings of Louisiana Raise the Age Study

Brittany Harwell, CFYJ Policy Fellow Friday, 18 March 2016 Posted in Across the Country, Research & Policy

Raise the Age Logo 2

On February 1st the Louisiana legislature released a report supporting the need for, and impact of, raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction. This report was commissioned by the legislature through Resolution No. 73 in 2015 and completed by The Institute for Public Health and Justice  at the Louisiana State University’s Health Science Center. The ultimate recommendation of this comprehensive report is that Louisiana should raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to include 17 year old offenders. Louisiana remains one of nine states that fails to recognize that youth under 17 year olds should not be prosecuted automatically in the adult criminal justice system.
The three big findings that the report made are:
1) 17 year olds are developmentally different than adults and should be treated as such;
2) the Louisiana juvenile justice system has the capacity to manage and rehabilitate added 17 year old youth;
3) other state have found that raise the age impact has had substantially less of an impact on their systems than was predicted and Louisiana should be the same and may even have substantial fiscal savings

It further recommends that a five year comprehensive plan be developed to address a variety of issues specific to youth such as transition, community based interventions, services while in detention, and other ways to ensure that youth are rehabilitated and do not recidivate.

The report notes that the state of Louisiana has not reviewed the age of juvenile jurisdiction in more than 100 years. Due to the growth of the law, social science, and brain science it is important for Louisiana to raise the age to ensure that its juvenile justice system is not stuck in the past. “Louisiana’s successful juvenile justice reforms, and an overall decline in juvenile crime reflective of national trends, have opened up system capacity for raising the age that may not have previously existed.”
The report highlights current brain science on adolescents and specifically how 17 year olds are unable to consistently reason and make responsible decisions. Due to this increased awareness of how adolescent brains work, the courts, including the Supreme Court, have recognized that treating 17 year olds the same as adults is not appropriate. The data shows that 17 year olds are capable of change when rehabilitated and generally stop reoffending. Most delinquent behavior does not follow the youth into adulthood.

The effects of the adult system on youths are troubling because rates of juvenile recidivism rise when placed in adult facilities. Additionally, youth are subject to a variety of harms both physical and psychological when they are subject to adult courts and facilities. To address the issue of placing 17 year olds in adult facilities the report examined the capacity of existing juvenile facilities. The report found that on any given day only facilities are only 56% filled, “…it can be estimated that 258 beds could be available on any given day in Louisiana’s juvenile detention facilities.” The addition of 17 year olds would not cause the current facilities to be overburdened.
The Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights (LCCR) has been a vital advocate for Raise the Age Reform and helping shepherd a bill into law. Raise the Age Louisiana Act, SB 324 will ensure that 17 year olds are under the jurisdiction of the juvenile courts. LCCR has reported that, “polling by LSU shows that 66% of Louisianans – a majority of both parties – believe that 17-year-olds should be included in the juvenile justice system.” On March 15, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has announced that he supports SB 324 and raising the age. Widespread support from Louisianans will ensure that legislators know that their constituencies want what is best both for communities and for adolescents, to raise the age.


For more information on how to get involved in Louisiana's reform efforts, follow us on Facebook and check out the links below:

LCCR

Full Text of SB 324

Report

Raise the Age Bills Flourish in 2016

Tuesday, 15 March 2016 Posted in Research & Policy

Written by: CFYJ policy intern Nils Franco

In five states, legislators and governors alike are calling for new action this year to allow 16- and 17-year-olds back into the juvenile justice system, where youth can receive much-needed, age-appropriate rehabilitative or educational services. In two more states, lawmakers recently proposed including young adults under 21 in the juvenile justice system.

In nine states across the country, the juvenile justice system has an unusual upper age limit – that is, the juvenile system entirely excludes youth after their 17th or even 16th birthday. No matter the crime an older child is accused of committing in these states, the state handles the case entirely in the adult justice system.

These counterproductive state-based policy changes occurred in the late 1990’s, and reform took root just a few years ago. Five states have raised the age of juvenile jurisdiction to cover all ages under 18 in seven years. Connecticut started the trend in 2009, and Mississippi, Massachusetts, Illinois, and New Hampshire followed in 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2014, respectively. This year, with a strong basis for action, so-called “Raise the Age” reform seems to be spreading quickly.

Lawmakers in five of the remaining nine states – Louisiana, Wisconsin, New York, Michigan, and South Carolina – have proposed legislation to bring 16- and 17-year-olds back under the jurisdiction of the juvenile justice system.

In Connecticut, the same governor who oversaw the state’s 2009 Raise the Age reform now calls to further expand juvenile jurisdiction up until a young adult’s 21st birthday. In Illinois, which also implemented Raise the Age reform, a four-committee hearing on raising the age further to 21 prompted Rep. Laura Fine to sponsor one bill to bring misdemeanor cases for young adults under age 21 to juvenile court, and another to bring all cases for adults under age 21 to the juvenile system.

After Louisiana Senator JP Morrell introduced Raise the Age legislation (SB 322) last week, Governor Edwards and Louisiana Chief Justice Johnson announced their support for the bill. Edwards included the bill in his 2016 legislative agenda, and Johnson argued favorably for the bill in her State of the Judiciary address. This reform comes after years of advocacy from a coalition of state-based groups, and after the state’s legislature asked Louisiana State University to study the problem last year. That report published in February and found that reform “would benefit public safety, promote youth rehabilitation, and create long-term savings.”

Governor Cuomo of New York (where juvenile jurisdiction ends after a youth’s 16th birthday) proposed Raise the Age language in his budget proposal and listed raising the age among his State of the State priorities for the coming year. Jennifer March, executive director of the Citizen’s Commission for Children of New York, hailed the governor’s advocacy, noting the state’s age-inappropriate jurisdictional age limit “increases recidivism and reduces the chance for youth to turn their lives around. We can and must do better for our youth and our communities.”

Reform also made its way to South Carolina, where Senate Bill 916, introduced by Democratic Senator Gerald Malloy, will raise the age to 18 and expand the rights of youth to have their case reviewed. That bill was recently referred to a subcommittee chaired by Malloy, who in February discussed past work to separate minors from adults in adult facilities. “We just have to keep changing minds,” Malloy remarked at a panel event.

Missouri’s legislature will also consider Raise the Age legislation among five other bills in both the state house and state senate. The Raise the Age bill, HB 1812, was introduced by Republican representative Ron Hicks. Hicks also successfully passed Jonathan’s Law, another CFYJ-supported bill, unanimously in the 2013 House session.

In Michigan, an impressive 20 bills introduced in this session of the House of Representatives would reform the transfer of youth to the adult criminal justice system. Taking a piecemeal approach, eight of these bills would raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction in the state from youths’ 17th birthday to their 18th birthday.

The editorial board of The Detroit News describes the bills as “an important step in the quest to reform Michigan’s criminal justice system.” Noting that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has not yet endorsed the package, the board reminds readers that “what Michigan has been doing in terms of juvenile justice is not working.” A similar editorial from the Battle Creek Enquirer calls Raise the Age “a rare issue that can unite Republican and Democratic lawmakers.”

Across Lake Michigan, Wisconsin legislators moved this year to capitalize on that rare bipartisan momentum, introducing bicameral legislation to stop sending first-time, nonviolent 17-year-old offenders automatically to the adult justice system.

This year’s reform opportunities offer states a unique ability to limit children’s needless exposure to trauma, abuse, and criminality in adult prisons and jails. The juvenile justice system offers youth the resources needed to overcome traumatic experiences and rehabilitate after committing an offense. 

Children have a particularly strong psychological capacity to learn from past decisions, if the opportunity is allowed. Creating more childhood trauma in a prison setting will do the opposite. Raise the Age legislation is therefore common sense: children cannot be funneled into the adult criminal justice system without long-term consequences to the youth, their communities, and to public safety.

Meanwhile, two remaining states – North Carolina, and Texas – are likely to introduce reforms in upcoming legislative sessions, especially as local organizations continue to underscore the unjust and counterproductive effects of nonstandard jurisdictional age limits.

On the other hand, Georgia’s legislature and governor have not yet acted or expressed interest in moving toward reform. In contrast with the leadership shown across the country by other states, Georgia’s leaders stand out in their inaction.

 

This article was updated on March 22nd to include new actions from Louisiana's legislature, governor, and chief justice.

After Louisiana Senator JP Morrell introduced Raise the Age legislation (SB 322) last week, Governor Edwards and Louisiana Chief Justice Johnson announced their support for the bill. Edwards included the bill in his 2016 legislative agenda. This reform comes after years of advocacy from a coalition of state-based nonprofits, and after the state’s legislature asked Louisiana State University to study the problem last year. That report published last month and finds that “Louisiana should strongly consider raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to include 17-year-old offenders. … This change would benefit public safety, promote youth rehabilitation, and create long-term savings.”

Momentum for Youth Justice in 2016

Thursday, 11 February 2016 Posted in Across the Country, Campaigns, Take Action Now

By Anne-Lise Vray, Juvenile Justice Fellow

The year 2016 has started off very well for youth justice issues, as actions and movements throughout the country have raised hopes of a positive evolution towards reforming and ending the adultification of youth. On the national level, the most important step at the beginning of this year was taken by President Obama, who used his executive authority to end the use of solitary confinement for youth in the federal prison system. Almost at the same time, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that its Miller v. Alabama decision, which found that a mandatory sentence of life without parole for juveniles is unconstitutional under the 8th Amendment, was retroactive.

At the state level too, great movement is underway, from California where Governor Brown officially showed his support for a sentencing reform referendum that would include ending direct file, to Wisconsin where a report recommending raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction has just been released. Legislation in Wisconsin to do just that is pending. Earlier this month, another report, authorized by the Louisiana legislature, analyzed the benefits of raising the age in Louisiana and advocated strongly in favor of doing so. Louisiana’s legislative session starts in mid-March.

Additionally, a lot of legislative action is already happening across the country, with the potential of improving the lives of thousands of kids. This week should be crucial for the future of key bills dealing with juvenile justice issues, starting on Wednesday in Missouri with a Senate Committee hearing on SB 618 and SB 684, two bills that would keep more kids out of adult facilities.

In Florida, a second hearing on SB 314 was held today, February 11th. This bill would modify the direct file statutes to decrease the number of offenses in which a child can be direct filed in criminal court and create a reverse waiver mechanism. The bill was approved unanimously by the Committee today, after passing unanimously out of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee late last year. Today also, the conservative James Madison Institute released a report analyzing the long-term costs of the bill, and recommending that it be supported.

Additionally today, another hearing took place in Maryland on SB 243, a bill which would repeal laws that allow the automatic transfer of kids into the adult system. Finally, Michigan’s House Committee on Criminal Justice is expected to vote on a raise the age reform any day now.

Show your support, take action and be part of this movement of change. Together, we can create a better future for our children and a safer, fairer society.

Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere

Marcy Mistrett Sunday, 17 January 2016 Posted in Across the Country

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By Marcy Mistrett, CFYJ CEO

The anniversary of Rev Martin Luther King Junior’s birthday presents us with a call of action to get involved in local, state and federal campaigns to end the prosecution, sentencing and incarceration of youth in the adult criminal justice system.

The injustices presented by youth being treated as adults in the criminal justice system are plentiful and continually positions the United States as an outlier in preserving the human rights of children. Several of the most egregious injustices include:
 
  • Treating children as though they are mini adults:  Research has proven that childrens’ brains handle decision-making, impulsivity, and causal relationships differently from adults.  Furthermore, they show great capacity to change. Not taking these differences into account is a gross injustice to our children.
  • Failing to provide children with appropriate protections at their arrest and during trial.  Children who are charged as adults are not afforded the protections of having their parents or guardians present during police interrogation.  Research has demonstrated that youth are much more likely to sign confessions, admit guilt, and feed law enforcement the answers that “they want” in order to go home. Despite having the greatest influence and support for their children, parents are often times left out of the equation which rehabilitation is considered.    
  • Treating children differently based on their race and ethnicity.  Children of color are much more likely to be prosecuted, sentenced and incarcerated as adults than their white counterparts.   These disparities are gross and unacceptable (African American youth are 9 times more likely to be sentenced to adult prison than white children for the same crimes; latino youth are 4 times more likely; and Tribal youth are nearly twice as likely).
  • Incarcerating children in adult facilities.  Children charged and sentenced as adults are housed in adult facilities.  They have very little access to developmentally appropriate education, mental health, substance abuse, or vocational services.  Rather, children are often held in solitary confinement to “protect” them from the adult population, isolating them 20-22 hours/day.
  • Punishing children the rest of their lives for poor decisions made in their childhood.  We know that a critical aspect of adolescence is learning to make good decisions; and having the opportunity to right the wrongs we make.  Children who are sentenced as adults carry their conviction the rest of their lives. 

For the past decade, the Campaign for Youth Justice has partnered with states, advocates, and impacted youth and families to challenge these practices.  We have seen the impact that unified voices can have in challenging injustices.  In fact, in the past ten years, 30 states have changed nearly 50 laws making it more difficult to prosecute, sentence and incarcerate children in the adult criminal justice system.

As we enter the 2016 legislative session, we encourage you to get involved in the local, state or federal campaigns that challenge this practice.  Legislation has already been introduced in Florida, Michigan, Missouri, New York, and South Carolina.  We expect several other states to introduce legislation in upcoming weeks to decrease the number of youth entering the adult criminal justice system.  We can only change these laws if communities are willing to stand for justice, and we need your help.

There are many ways to take a stand against injustice:

  • Sign on to your local campaign’s listserve to stay abreast of progress;
  • Call or tweet policymakers to show your support for reform;
  • Leverage your networks to learn more about this issue—host a discussion in your home, or community center, or house of faith to share with others the injustices being harbored against our youth;
  • Raise your voice in support—offer to write op eds or letters to the editor to call on policymakers to do what is right for children.

Justice is a fight well worth fighting for.  In the great words of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”  We hope to gain your support during this legislative session. For more information contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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