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Students Say NO to Police in Schools

Tuesday, 05 March 2013 Posted in 2013, Take Action Now

By Leah Robertson

The Youth Justice Coalition says no to armed police in schools. A coalition of students visited Washington, D.C. yesterday to stage a rally and march from Congress to the White House to demand “Counselors, not Cops.”

 

Students stand in front of Congress

to say NO to cops in Schools

Following the tragedy at Newtown, Congress has been considering legislation and funding to put more cops in schools. However, these students vocalized how they have already seen that police presence in schools does not create the positive learning environments students need to promote a positive learning environment. On the contrary, police presence in schools leads to more suspensions and expulsions, which research shows funnel more kids to the juvenile justice system, and sometimes takes them directly to the adult criminal justice system.

It was so inspiring to see these young people coming together to take a stand for their right to education and safety. Several teenagers spoke out about their personal experiences with police officers in schools. They consistently emphasized the physical and emotional scars of misplaced investments: funding police officers instead of teachers, counselors, and evidence-based programs.

Counselors, Not Cops.

Counsel, Don't Cuff.

One young man spoke about the life-changing impact one counselor had on him. This counselor helped him change from a confused and angry teenager to a motivated student. If this one counselor taking a personal interest in him could have such an impact, imagine what our youth could do if we increased the ratio of counselors to students from 500:1 to 100:1 or even 50:1, rather than investing in more police who are likely to criminalize our students at a fragile and critical identity-building stage in their lives. Imagine what we could do with all the money saved by keeping youth out of the pipeline to prison and on the course to college and careers.

For more information on the Youth Justice Coalition Rally, click here.

For press clips, click here.

Spread the Word- CFYJ is looking for Summer 2013 Fellows!

Wednesday, 27 February 2013 Posted in 2013, Take Action Now

The Campaign for Youth Justice  is accepting applications for its fellowship program. We accept part-time and full-time interns during the fall and spring semesters (preferring students who can commit to an entire academic year), and full-time interns during the summer (at least an 8 week commitment).


The Summer 2013 Fellowship Application deadline is March 31, 2013.  The following fellowship opportunities are currently available for Summer 2013:


Summer 2013 Fellow in Field and Outreach
Summer 2013 Fellow in National Outreach
Summer 2013 Fellow in Research and Policy
Summer 2013 Fellow in Communications


For additional information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Forget-Me-Not This Valentine's Day

Thursday, 07 February 2013 Posted in 2013, Take Action Now

The Forget-Me-Not flower has been a symbol of remembrance for over 100 years. They are a widespread, yet often undervalued flower. Like many youth, they can “grow in a slightly disorderly fashion”, but need simple care and guidance to grow into a striking landscape.


This Valentine’s Day, show your support for our young people by making a donation to the Campaign for Youth Justice’s prisoner correspondence project. This small gesture may be the only contact they have with the outside world on this day intended for families and loved ones.

This project works to ensure that no child is forgotten this Valentine’s Day. Over 10,000 kids will spend this Valentine’s Day in an adult jail or prison, often in solitary confinement where they cannot communicate with others, let alone their loved ones.

Your donation will go directly towards supporting our correspondence with incarcerated youth.

Here is what your donation will provide:

  • $25 – provides stamps for Valentine’s Day cards for 50 incarcerated youth
  • $50 – provides stamps, cards, and envelopes for Valentine’s Day cards for 50 incarcerated youth
  • $100 – provides stamps, cards, and envelopes for Valentine’s Day cards for 50 incarcerated youth and stamps, cards and envelopes for each of them to send cards in return

This Valentine’s Day, please help us make sure that every child is in our hearts. Make sure that every child knows that he or she is not forgotten.

Guidance, Not Guns; Counselors, Not Cops

Liz Ryan Tuesday, 15 January 2013 Posted in 2013, Research & Policy, Take Action Now

This piece was originally published in The Crime Report. To learn more, read the National Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Coalition's Recommendations for President Obama, Vice President Biden, and the 113th Congress. 

As the country grieves and looks for ways to begin to heal in the wake of the Newtown tragedy, we have a unique opportunity to honor the lives lost with a comprehensive, effective public policy response.

Our sincerest sympathies go to the children, youth and families impacted.


The Administration and Congress must now move quickly, but thoughtfully, to put forward policies and practices that recognize and address the violence experienced every day in communities around the country.

As our national leaders consider their response, they should focus on five principles: Safe Schools; Mental Health; Prevention; Intervention; and Healing.

To increase safety in schools, some have suggested more guns in schools as a response to the incident in Sandy Hook.

But the nation's educational leaders, including the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, have stated emphatically that, "Guns have no place in our schools."

Others have suggested more police presence.

But research has shown that increased police presence has not made schools safer. In fact, it has resulted in the criminalization of young people in the justice system.

University of Delaware Professor Aaron Kupchik, author of "Homeroom Security" says that while armed guards are already in many schools, "their presence has effects that help transform the school from an environment of academia to a site of criminal law enforcement.


Instead of more guns and more police presence, education experts such as Barbara Raymond of The California Endowment point to the importance of counselors, social workers, psychologists and evidence-based programs.  One example is  the school-wide positive behavior support program to improve learning environments in schools and help children resolve conflict.

An interdisciplinary group of more than 200 violence prevention researchers, practitioners and professional associations recommends that, "these efforts should promote wellness, as well as address mental health needs of all community members while simultaneously responding to potential threats to community safety. This initiative should include a large scale public education and awareness campaign, along with newly created channels of communication to help get services to those in need."


Additionally, a comprehensive approach must address the root causes of violence, and focus resources on proven violence prevention and juvenile delinquency prevention programs such as the University of Colorado's Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence's "Blueprints for Violence Prevention" programs.

Easy access to guns that kill 7 young people  a day and injure 43 more is a challenge addressed by the bipartisan national coalition of 750 mayors led by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City and Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston. The coalition has created comprehensive recommendations to severely reduce the easy access to guns and assault weapons in the U.S.


Finally, there must be a focus on healing.

The U.S. Attorney General's Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence undertook an exhaustive examination over the past year on best practices and approaches to reducing children’s exposure to violence. The task force report included recommendations on reducing exposure of children to violence in the justice system, to counter current approaches that are counterproductive, wasteful and increase risk of re-offending.

The Task Force also made recommendations to ensure that trauma-informed services and care are provided when children are exposed to violence.

To help realize its recommendations, the Task Force highlighted the need for new federal leadership and a new federal initiative on the issue to guide the federal government's work in this area.

Task force co-chair Robert Listenbee, Jr., chief of the Juvenile Unit of the Defender Association of Philadelphia summed it up in his statement when the report was released:  “We have the power to end the damage to children from violence and abuse."

We know the need.  We also know what works.

What’s required now is action.

It is time for Congress and the Administration to step up and provide the leadership and resolve to end violence against children.

Liz Ryan is President and CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice and co-chairs the Act 4 Juvenile Justice campaign of the National Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Coalition (NJJDPC). She welcomes comments from readers. Please click here to see a detailed set of legislative, funding and administrative recommendations from the NJJDP Coalition. 


Central Park Five: Setting the Record Straight

Tuesday, 08 January 2013 Posted in 2013, Research & Policy, Take Action Now

By Liz Ryan

"Central Park Five" is a "must see" for any youth justice advocate. The documentary tells the story of five youth ages 14 -16  Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise  who were arrested in New York City in 1989, and after being interrogated for hours by law enforcement, falsely confessed to the rape and physical assault of a woman jogging in the park. They were convicted and sentenced to 6 to 13 years each in the justice system.

 

Produced by renowned documentarian Ken Burns, his daughter Sarah Burns, and her husband David McMahon, the film features moving interviews with McCray, Richardson, Salaam, Santana and Wise and their families, as well as others involved in their cases, and shows press reports, film clips of their interrogations, and footage of the case throughout the process.
 
Gut-wrenching and profoundly sad, this documentary highlights many of the the problems with the justice system that led to their wrongful conviction and are still prevalent in our justice system: police interrogating youth for hours without lawyers and coercing youth to confess to crimes they did not commit; prosecutors overlooking DNA evidence and other information crucial to the case; and a press corps sensationalizing the case with shocking language, virtually convicting the youth before the trial, and then hardly covering the fact that the convictions were vacated and the youths exonerated a dozen years later.

To add insult to injury, the young men, after having served a collective total of 41 years in prison for a crime they did not commit and being exonerated in 2002, have not received compensation from the city of New York. Their attorneys filed a lawsuit in 2003, but the film indicates that the legal case is "unresolved" almost a decade later.
 
Unaddressed - but underlining the facts and issues covered throughout the film - is the fact that state law allowed these youth to be prosecuted in adult criminal court and placed in adult prison to serve their sentences. If this case can teach us anything, it is that youth are different from adults and need to be treated differently in police and state custody. Additionally, despite what should have been a tough lesson for New York, the state remains one of two states in the country that continues to charge all 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. 

The film also fails to mention the immense impact of this case on juvenile justice policies around the country. In the decade following the case, almost every state in the country changed their laws to make it easier to try youth as adults in adult criminal court. We now know just how misguided this was. 
 
 
While difficult to watch at times and profoundly moving, this film can be used to engage community members on youth justice issues and spark dialogue about justice system policies and practices. Here are some ways you and your community can get involved. 
 
Click here for the film trailer and showtimes.
 
Click here to follow the Central Park Five on Facebook.
 
Click here to take action in support of compensation for the Central Park Five.
 
For more background and to help educate others, here's a terrific article on the documentary
 
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