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Articles tagged with: Youth in Adult Jails and Prisons

New BJS Report: A Closer Look at Youth in Connecticut

Gianna Nitti Monday, 05 March 2018 Posted in 2018, Research & Policy

By Gianna Nitti, Public Interest Communications and State Campaigns Fellow

Recently, the US Bureau of Justice Statistics released its annual bulletin of Prisoners for 2016. Trends shown in the report provide hope for the youth population and advocates, with results showing a 58% decline for the number of imprisoned youth between 2009 and 2016 – from 2,279 to 956. Policy changes at the state and federal levels have led to a decline in crime and arrest rates, which positions states to be able to progress with reducing their youth incarceration rates in adult facilities.

International Human Rights Day: Let's give our youth the human rights they deserve.

Friday, 09 December 2016 Posted in 2016, Across the Country

By Anne-Lise Vray, Communications Associate

Human Rights are defined by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) as “rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status.” Such rights are protected by the law, including international treaties like the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the US has signed in 1995 but failed to ratify since then.

Ten Years After the C4YJ Launches, We Are Not Done

Jason Ziedenberg, Research and Policy Director, The Justice Policy Institute Thursday, 03 November 2016 Posted in 2016, Take Action Now

Impact Webslider

By Jason Ziedenberg, Research and Policy Director, The Justice Policy Institute: a think tank that served as the Campaign for Youth Justice’s fiscal sponsor when the project was launched in 2006.  

Last year, I got one of those calls that all of us fear. A friend whose stepson faced transfer to the adult court called me, looking for advice on anything I might know about how a young person might be treated when they were on adult probation. The young person eventually accepted a plea that resulted their being convicted on an adult felony, and avoided being in jail, and placed on probation because of the zealous advocacy of their parents.

For me, that call underlined that as the Campaign for Youth Justice celebrates its ten year anniversary, our collective work to end the practice of prosecuting, sentencing, and incarcerating youth under the age of 18 in the adult criminal justice system is by no means finished.

Guest Column: Redeemed Juveniles Like Me Are Not the Exceptions

Xavier McElrath Bay, Youth Justice Advocate, The Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth Thursday, 20 October 2016 Posted in 2016, Campaigns

By Xavier McElrath Bay, Youth Justice Advocate, The Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth

Today is special for me for several reasons.

For starters, I will have the honor of spending much of the day in a symposium at San Quentin State Prison in California. I especially look forward to sharing time with the members of KID C.A.T. (Creating Awareness Together), a group of individuals who were sentenced to life without parole when they were children. After years of incarceration, they created their own support group with a mission to organize acts of community service and goodwill.

During my first two visits to San Quentin earlier this year, I learned about the group’s past activities, which have included conducting food and hygiene product drives for the homeless, fundraising to sponsor youth involvement in community programs, raising awareness and money for cancer research, and folding hundreds of origami hearts for kids at Oakland’s Children’s Hospital. All these activities took place behind the walls of San Quentin and were facilitated by people once considered to be heartless, remorseless monsters as a result of the now-disproven “superpredator theory.”


Guest Column: Youth Justice Awareness Month: Transforming Awareness into Action

Jody Kent Lavy, Executive Director, The Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth Thursday, 20 October 2016 Posted in 2016, Campaigns

By Jody Kent Lavy, Executive Director of the Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth

October is Youth Justice Awareness Month — as proclaimed by President Obama — and we are celebrating and honoring all of the hard work of community leaders, advocates, coalition builders, legislative champions, judicial officials, defenders, and directly impacted individuals who seek to ensure that our country holds children accountable in age-appropriate ways that account for their experiences with trauma and their capacity to grow and change.

Our partners at the Campaign for Youth Justice started Youth Justice Awareness Month in 2008 to draw attention to the need to end the prosecution of youth in the adult criminal justice system. As awareness has grown, so have opportunities to create change, so the founders have decided to focus this year and in the future on transforming awareness into action. We are thrilled to join them in their efforts.

Momentum for Youth Justice in 2016

Thursday, 11 February 2016 Posted in 2016, 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.

New York Governor Includes “Raise the Age” Proposal in his “State of the State” Budget Announcement

Friday, 15 January 2016 Posted in 2016, Across the Country, Campaigns

By Anne-Lise Vray, Juvenile Justice Intern

On January 13th, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo addressed the crucial question of raising the age in his “State of the State” speech, in which he outlined the New York State executive budget for 2016-17. New York is one of the last two states, along with North Carolina, where 16 year-olds are automatically charged as adults, which can have devastating, sometimes deadly, consequences. Trying, sentencing and incarcerating teenagers as adults has indeed been shown to substantially increase recidivism, as well as exposing the children to grave threats such as sexual assault and suicide.

A large coalition of advocates, law enforcement experts, unions and clergy has been working very hard to get New York to side with the vast majority of states and raise the age of criminal responsibility. The group has already won many victories and gained a lot of support, including from the state’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, which was reiterated in his Wednesday’s budget announcement.

The 2016-17 budget includes funds for the application of a bill which, if it passes, would (among other things) raise the age of criminal responsibility from age 16 to age 17 on January 1, 2018 and to age 18 on January 1, 2019; raise the lower age of juvenile jurisdiction from age 7 to age 12 on January 1, 2018 for all offenses except homicide; and expand Family Court jurisdiction to include youth ages 16 and 17 charged with non-violent felonies, misdemeanors, or harassment or disorderly conduct violations. New York is the state with the second highest number of kids housed in adult state prisons (after Florida), with 144 youth under 18 locked up with adults on any given day.

There are now high hopes that the state of New York will finally come around and stop this detrimental practice, and will instead give thousands of children a second chance and the opportunity to turn their lives around. “We cannot lose one more child to a system that contradicts what we know about adolescent brain development, increases recidivism, and makes our community less safe,” said Paige Pierce, CEO of Families Together in New York State. “Including ‘Raise the Age’ in the budget recognizes that enough is enough, it is time for New York State to live up to its progressive reputation and be smart on crime.”

For more information on NY’s raise the age efforts: http://raisetheageny.com/

Youth Rights are Human Rights

Brian Evans Wednesday, 09 December 2015 Posted in 2015, Across the Country

Human Rights Day

By Brian Evans, CFYJ State Campaign Coordinator

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is the most widely adopted human rights treaty in the world. With the accessions earlier this year of Somalia and war-torn South Sudan, every single nation on earth has ratified it except for one – the United States.  

The U.S. notoriously lags behind much of the industrialized world when it comes to engaging with the United Nations and signing on to human rights instruments (the Convention to End Discrimination Against Women – CEDAW – is another example, as is the U.S. Senate’s recent rejection of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities). But when it comes to the CRC, the U.S. literally stands alone. Why is that?

To be ratified in the United States, an international treaty requires a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate, and a strong opposition, citing concerns about usurpation of U.S. sovereignty and undermining of parental rights, has thus far prevented the CRC from passing. Opponents of the CRC also claim to fear a spike in lawsuits asking for the government to financially support the social and economic rights established by the treaty.

These arguments do not hold up to serious scrutiny. Acceding to the CRC will not put our children, or the U.S. government, under the thumb of international forces beyond our control. But it could serve as a helpful guide for advocates and policy-makers seeking fair and more equitable treatment of our children. For example, on the question of youth in the adult criminal justice system the CRC says that “every child deprived of liberty shall be separated from adults.” There is no good reason for the U.S. not to strive to meet this standard.

Many U.S. social justice movements have begun to leverage international human rights mechanisms to enhance their efforts; and pushing the U.S. to finally ratify the CRC would be an important step forward.  However, the movement to get children out of the adult system hasn’t been waiting for that ratification; as advocates and state legislatures in 30 states have shown, removing children from the adult criminal justice system is smart policy—to provide youth with a second chance and the tools necessary to succeed, and in keeping communities safe. 

In Spring 2014, the U.N. Human Rights Committee reviewed U.S. compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a core human rights treaty the U.S. ratified in 1992. In its review, the U.S. was called on to: “…ensure that juveniles are separated from adults during pretrial detention and after sentencing, and that juveniles are not transferred to adult courts.”

The UN Human Rights Committee also added, in a direct reference to the (at the time) 10 U.S. states that had still not “raised the age” of adult court jurisdiction to 18, that the U.S.: “…should encourage states that automatically exclude 16 and 17 year olds from juvenile court jurisdictions to change their laws.”

In short, sending kids to the adult criminal justice system is already recognized as a violation of their human rights.Today, December 10 – International Human Rights Day – is a good day to remember that to meet human rights standards it has pledged to uphold, the United States (and the state governments therein) must end the jailing of children with adults, and the transfer of children to adult court

Zero Tolerance: How States Comply with PREA's Youthful Inmate Standard

Thursday, 19 November 2015 Posted in 2015, CFYJ Updates

NEW REPORT: Overwhelming Majority of States Allow Youth to be Housed in Adult Prisons


CFYJ released a new report today, Zero Tolerance: How States Comply with PREA’s Youthful Inmate Standard. This report explores how states house youth under 18 in prisons in the new age of PREA compliance and enforcement. Furthermore, this report highlights national trends in juvenile arrests, crimes, and incarceration of children in the adult system.

The United States’ extraordinary use of adult correctional facilities to house youth presents numerous concerns, including serious, long-term costs to the youth offender and to society at large. Science and research conducted over the last 20 years confirm what common sense tells us: kids are different. Adolescent development and adolescent brain research have prompted leaders across the country to start looking at our juvenile justice system through a developmentally appropriate lens.1 Such a perspective equally applies to the treatment of youth who would be eligible for adult prison sentences. In light of the decline of youth arrests and youth crime, coupled with the requirements of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) the housing status of the 1200 youth under 18 years of age in the adult prison must be investigated. Each state has its own unique prison system, so in order to determine the housing status of youth we gathered information on each state’s statutes, policies, and practices for housing the shrinking — and at times — invisible, population of youth in adult prisons across the country.

Despite the strong language provided in the Prison Rape Elimination Act, state laws vary widely as to the regulations and parameters for housing youth in adult prisons. In fact, some states have no regulations or parameters governing the treatment of youth sentenced as adults at all. While some states have fully removed youth from their prison systems — Hawaii, West Virginia, Maine, California, and Washington — the overwhelming majority of states allow youth to be housed in adult prisons. In fact 37 states housed youth under 18 years of age in their state prisons in 2012. The PREA requirements have become the emerging standard of care for the housing of youth in adult facilities, yet the majority of states still permit the housing of youth in adult facilities, often times with no special housing protections. Once youth are sentenced in adult court to an adult prison term, few jurisdictions have enacted safeguards to protect their physical, mental and emotional health. Additionally, programs and behavioral responses in adult facilities rarely are adjusted to meet the needs of adolescent populations.

Link To Full Report
Link To Executive Summary

Also please help us spewad the word on social media:


-        CFYJ’s latest report explores how states house youth in prisons in the new age of PREA compliance and enforcement http://bit.ly/1MX7BHF

-        CFYJ launches a new report: “Zero Tolerance: How States Comply with PREA’s Youthful Inmate Standard” http://bit.ly/1MX7BHF

-        Despite PREA regulations, the majority of states still permit the housing of youth in adult facilities, highlights CFYJ’s new report http://bit.ly/1MX7BHF

-        According to CFYJ’s latest report, the number of youth incarcerated in the adult prison system has decreased 70% since 2000 http://bit.ly/1MX7BHF

-        CFYJ’s new report finds that youth of color are placed in adult facilities at much higher rates than their white peers http://bit.ly/1MX7BHF

-        Youth housed in adult prisons face higher risks for sexual abuse, physical force or threat of force, says CFYJ’s latest report http://bit.ly/1MX7BHF

-        CFYJ’s new report once again exposes the consequences of sending youth to adult prison: recidivism, abuse and suicide http://bit.ly/1MX7BHF

-        Florida is the state with the highest population of juveniles in prison, according to CFYJ’s latest report http://bit.ly/1MX7BHF

-        Youth in adult prisons recidivate 34% more often than youth in the juvenile system, reminds CFYJ’s new report http://bit.ly/1MX7BHF

-        CFYJ’s latest report once again shows that youth in the adult system commit suicide at greater rates http://bit.ly/1MX7BHF


-        CFYJ just released a brand new report, “Zero Tolerance: How States Comply with PREA’s Youthful Inmate Standard”, which explores how states house youth under 18 in prisons in the new age of PREA compliance and enforcement. The report highlights that despite the official implementation of PREA, the majority of states still permit the housing of youth in adult facilities and/or refuse to comply. Youth housed in adult prison face greater risk of physical abuse and suicide than youth in juvenile facilities. http://bit.ly/1MX7BHF

-        CFYJ’s latest report, “Zero Tolerance: How States Comply with PREA’s Youthful Inmate Standard”, once again shows the disastrous consequences of incarcerating youth in adult facilities. Youth in adult prisons recidivate 34% more often than youth in the juvenile system. Youth of color are the first targets of this system and are much more likely to be placed in adult facilities than their white peers. http://bit.ly/1MX7BHF

Governor Malloy of Connecticut prepared remarks today on criminal justice reform

Friday, 06 November 2015 Posted in 2015, Across the Country

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Today, the Governor of Connecticut issued a press release on criminal justice reform in which he urged the legislature to consider raising the age of being tried as adult to 21. Raisng the age of juvenile justice jursdiction through to the age of 20 instead of 17 is a poineering effort, however, it does have credible roots in research based evicence on youth development. 

Marcy Mistrett, CEO of The Campaign for Youth Justice touches upon the importance of age appropriate sentencing.

"Making decisions informed by brain research, evidence- based practice, local data and what is in the best interest of kids and the community is smart public policy. We applaud the Governor for treating kids like kids, " said Mistrett. "Governor Malloy’s statement today on criminal justice reform continues to build momentum on the great progress already underway in Connecticut. 

The following is direct from the press release:

Governor Dannel P. Malloy presented some first-in-the-nation ideas regarding criminal justice today at a Connecticut Law Review symposium held at the UConn School of Law in Hartford.  While Connecticut has become a national leader in its criminal justice efforts, the Governor introduced several ideas to deliver further progress, including raising the age of the juvenile justice system's jurisdiction through age 20 instead of age 17, as well as allowing low-risk young adults aged 21 through 25 to have their cases heard confidentially, their records sealed, and the opportunity to have those records expunged.  He also discussed exploring bail bond reform.

Find the complete press release transcipt here

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