President Obama Declares October National Youth Justice Awareness Month
Events Across the Country Help Raise Awareness Around the Issue of Youth Being Tried, Sentenced and Incarcerated in the Adult Criminal Justice System
WASHINGTON (October 13, 2015) – During the month of October, thousands of people are participating in National Youth Justice Awareness Month (YJAM) activities throughout the country. National Youth Justice Awareness Month was created eight years ago by a Missouri parent, Tracy McClard, whose 16-year-old son was tried and prosecuted as an adult, and ultimately took his own life while incarcerated in an adult prison.
In declaring October "National Youth Justice Awareness Month", earlier this month, President Barack Obama raised the profile and priority of this awareness month. The President pointed to the fact that two states still prosecute all 16-year-olds as adults regardless of their crime, and said, "Involvement in the justice system -- even as a minor, and even if it does not result in a finding of guilt, delinquency, or conviction -- can significantly impede a person's ability to pursue a higher education, obtain a loan, find employment, or secure quality housing." A total of nine states prosecute all 17-year-olds as adults, the President wrote.
“We lead this national movement to draw awareness to the issues that youth and their families face while in the adult justice system, because it is often overlooked,” said Marcy Mistrett, CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice. “We are very happy that President Obama has helped shine a national light on this issue. Every year, an estimated 200,000 youth are tried, sentenced, or incarcerated as adults. Prosecuting youth in the adult criminal justice system goes against what research and brain science has proven: that youth are different from adults. Yet, youth sentenced as adults receive an adult criminal record, are denied employment and housing opportunities, and can be barred from receiving student financial aid.”
To help raise awareness about YJAM, events are taking place throughout the country ranging from service days, 5K walks/runs, film screenings, art shows, poetry slams and conferences. Local non-profits, volunteers and family members directly affected by the social injustice of having the youth in their lives charged, prosecuted and sentenced in the adult criminal justice system have organized the events. A full list of events can be found here.
The Office of the Vice President and Domestic Policy Council will also be hosting a YJAM event at the White House on October 14, the day-long activity will include White House staff and youth from across the country. Youth advocates from New York City will join a panel, highlighting New York’s failed policy to treat all 16 year olds as adults. “Despite the recommendations of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Commission on Youth, Public Safety, and Justice to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18 and implement common sense reforms, legislation failed to pass both houses last June, says Charles Nunez, youth advocate from Youth Represent in New York, “As we mark Youth Justice Awareness Month, we shine a spotlight on New York to protect children and protect public safety by passing comprehensive legislation to raise the age.”
The Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) is a national organization dedicated to ending the practice of trying, sentencing and incarcerating youth under the age of 18 in the adult criminal justice system. For more information about Y-JAM www.campaignforyouthjustice.org or Follow us on Twitter @JusticeForYouth and Like us on Facebook at: Campaign for Youth Justice #YJAM #YOUTHJUSICE