A Message From CFYJ CEO Marcy Mistrett
We hope this letter finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy. We know for many of the families we serve and advocate with, these are particularly trying times, as their loved ones remain incarcerated and at elevated threat of contracting Coronavirus. Our hearts are with you, and we remain committed to getting as many young people home during this crisis as possible; and protecting those who won’t be released with appropriate care, access to families, and medical attention when needed.
It is a difficult time to reach out and share about CFYJ’s future, but a critically important time to be transparent with information. Over the past several months, in partnership with our board, funders, partners and friends in the field, CFYJ has been analyzing what our next steps are; and in January, the Board of Directors decided that CFYJ will wind down our operations in December, 2020. While we share this news with mixed feelings emotionally, we are confident that much of our work will shift and continue to be carried out on the state level.
Our efforts have been a WIN for the field, and for tens of thousands of young people (who are under the age of 18) and their families across the country, who are no longer automatically prosecuted, sentenced or incarcerated in the adult criminal justice system. None of this would have been possible without the incredible partnerships with all of you over the past 15 years.
Some of the achievements we are celebrating include:
A 70% drop in youth prosecuted as adults! When we opened, 250,000 children a year were prosecuted as adults, by 2015 (the most recent national data available), that number had fallen to 76,000 and doesn’t include data from 6 states who have since raised the age of criminal responsibility;
Dramatically fewer youth in adult facilities. There were 10,000 children every night sleeping in adult jails and prisons in 2000—there are now (2017, most recent national data) less than 4,500—and CFYJ’s efforts at the federal level, including enactment of the Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act and the Prison Rape Elimination Act’s Youthful Inmate Standard, can help states get to ZERO;
40 states and DC (more than 80% of the country) have changed over 100 laws to make it harder to send children to adult court;
22 states have made it more difficult to treat children as if they were adults by narrowing or ending their automatic transfer laws [by returning discretion to judges, eliminating the youngest youth from eligibility, and eliminating pathways to the adult system];
And as a field, we have permanently closed the door to the adult system for more than 100,000 children every year by RAISING THE AGE of criminal responsibility to 18 in 11 states. A number we expect to grow exponentially by 2021 when data becomes available from the 4 states that implemented reforms in 2019.
The work to keep children out of the adult criminal justice system will continue, but it will look different. The national campaign will wind down, but robust action will continue on a state by state basis. CFYJ is committed to:
Working as a project of The Sentencing Project in 2021, to help state campaigns close to a win move through another legislative session. These key state campaigns include: GA, IN, MD, TX, and PA;
Encouraging the funding community investing in racial justice issues locally to also embrace as a priority ending the practice of charging, sentencing and incarcerating youth in the adult system. Youth of color, particularly African American youth, continue to bear the burden of these harmful policies. We are calling on funders to invest in the 8 states that still transfer more than 200 youth a year (AL, AZ, FL, MD, IN,NE, OH, and PA), or the 3 that have yet to raise the age to 18 (GA, TX, WI).
Focusing federal dollars and technical support to ensure that youth in the following 7 states are removed from adult jails pre-trial, as all these states currently presume youth placement in adult jails: AL, CT, FL, ID, IN, KS, MS.
The Campaign is grateful to the families and impacted youth, state allies and advocates, system stakeholders, federal and state legislators across the aisle, researchers, and funders who have joined this movement. Together we did it!
We invite you to save the date for Oct. 9, 2020. Details will be forthcoming for a special event to celebrate all that we have been able to achieve together.
We thank you again for your continued support of the Campaign of Youth Justice.
The Campaign For Youth Justice