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Voices

YJAM: Ten Years of Raising Awareness & Taking Action for Youth

Roy Austin Friday, 28 September 2018 Posted in 2018, Across the Country, CFYJ Updates, Take Action Now, Voices

By Marcy Mistrtett, CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice and Roy Austin, Partner at Harris, Wiltshire and Grannis and former Deputy Assistant to the President for the Office of Urban Affairs, Justice and Opportunity (U.S. Domestic Policy Council)

Today is the first day of October, and the launch of the tenth anniversary of Youth Justice Action Month (YJAM). YJAM began with one mother whose 17-year-old son tragically took his life in an adult prison in Missouri. Since then, this month marks a time when communities across the country take action against inhumane and harsh treatment of children in the justice system.  In 2015 and 2016, the Campaign for Youth Justice worked with the Obama Administration’s Domestic Policy Council on proclamations issued in honor of YJAM and the progress made on behalf of young people who come in contact with the justice system.  In the 2016 proclamation, President Obama called on all of us to “affirm our commitment to helping children of every background become successful engaged citizens.”

Am I Going to Die in Prison?

Jamal Lewis Tuesday, 31 July 2018 Posted in 2018, Voices

By Jamal Lewis, New Jersey Parents' Caucus

“Am I going to die in prison?”  I was arrested and charged with committing my offenses at the age of 16. I was transferred into the adult criminal justice system at the age of 17.  I had none of the assistance available to youth serving their sentence in a youth facility, where young people were offered rehabilitation and vocational training.  There were no therapeutic or vocational programs in New Jersey State Prison, where I served the first 11 years of my sentence.  

Free Your Mind with Free Minds: A CFYJ Summer Speaker Series Event

Jasmine Awad Tuesday, 24 July 2018 Posted in 2018, Voices

By Jasmine Awad, Policy and Legal Fellow

“Before Free Minds, I didn’t know how to read.”  

The Campaign for Youth Justice recently kicked off their 2018 Summer Speaker Series by hosting a “Write Lunch”, a tailored version of Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop’s Write Night,” where community volunteers gather alongside Free Minds Poet Ambassadors home from prison to provide feedback on the writing of Book Club members who are still incarcerated.

Racial Wealth Gap to Racial Equity in Youth Justice

Benedict Roemer Thursday, 19 July 2018 Posted in 2018, Voices

By Benedict Roemer, State Campaigns and Public Interest Communications Fellow

As evidenced by our country’s treatment of immigrant families at the border, the disproportionate incarceration of black and brown youth, and policies targeting communities of color here and abroad, the United States has continued its harmful and oppressive track record with people of color. And while the treatment of immigrants is a very visible testament to this reality, racial disparities continue to exist elsewhere as well. One area in particular is the racial wealth gap between communities of color and white communities in the United States. The racial wealth gap currently stands at a startling 13:1 differential among all households: The median net worth for a white household is $141,000, while the median  net worth of a black household is  only $11,000 per year. This divide in wealth is even greater for households living near the poverty line. For these households, the difference in median net worth is $18,000 vs. $0. Such a wide income and wealth gap leads to countless other disparities; in poverty, education, health, and incarceration.

It’s Complicated: The U.S. and the International Human Rights of Children

Brian Evans Thursday, 21 June 2018 Posted in 2018, Voices

By Brian Evans, State Campaigns Director

Almost 1,000 participants gathered in Paris, France at the end of May for the World Congress on Justice for Children, a global conference of youth justice professionals and advocates. The conference, organized by several European and international groups, was built thematically around the issue of children involved in “violent extremism” (no doubt a significant concern), but the workshops and conversations in the hallways and courtyards of the UNESCO House were much broader in scope.

Is 2018 the Year of Women in Politics?

Jill Ward Tuesday, 29 May 2018 Posted in 2018, Voices

By Jill Ward, Senior Advocacy Consultant, Youth First Initiative

“We're half the people; we should be half the Congress.” - Jeannette Rankin of Montana, first woman to hold federal office in the United States

That was the vision of the first woman elected to Congress in 1916, four years before the 19th amendment secured (white) women’s right to vote and another 45 years before African American men and women were able to exercise their right to vote.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Uplifting the Narratives of Incarcerated Youth

Rachel Marshall Tuesday, 24 April 2018 Posted in 2018, Voices

By Rachel Marshall, Federal Policy Counsel

As someone who works on juvenile justice reform, it comes as no surprise that the sexual assault of incarcerated youth, particularly youth in adult jails and prisons, runs rampant. A quick scan of news stories yields alarming results. Recently, sexual abuse scandals in juvenile facilities in Texas and Wisconsin have been making both national and local headlines. And who can forget the eye-opening report from the Huffington Post in 2016, Cruel and All Too Unusual, that revealed the horrific abuse faced by youth in adult facilities in Michigan. Then there are the stories dating back five to ten years ago, like the ProPublica story headline that reads, “Sexual abuse on the rise at U.S. juvenile detention facilities” from 2013 (3 years later they published another piece titled “Why Are Rates of Sexual Abuse in Juvenile Detention Facilities on the Rise?”).

Justice for All

Rachel Marshall Thursday, 12 April 2018 Posted in Voices

By Rachell Marshall, Federal Policy Counsel

From the federal level to state legislatures across the country, criminal justice reform measures are a hot topic of conversation and proposed legislation. What is often lost in those conversations are the views and voices of victims. As an organization that fights to end the prosecution, sentencing, and incarceration of children in the adult system, we are all too aware that children are often times victims of crime and exposed to trauma before they ever get arrested. One young man who was 15 when he began an 8-year sentence in an adult prison for a carjacking said, “It never occurred to me to carry a gun, or use it against someone until someone stuck a gun in my face.” We know that children who come in contact with the justice system have higher rates of exposure to trauma and violence than children who aren’t in contact with the system. We also know that some victims experience trauma not only after a crime has been committed, but also after their experience with the justice system. Further, we know that in many cases, crimes of violence are perpetrated against family members or members of our community--so limiting our response to victims to a carceral one only often does more harm than good. It’s time to take a new, holistic approach to restoring justice and healing in our communities, one that yields outcomes that reduce future offending, not just punishment.

Youth Art Month: Empowering Youth Advocacy Through Creativity

Patience Fordham and Presley Mettler Friday, 23 March 2018 Posted in Voices

By Patience Fordham and Presley Mettler, Carolina Youth Action Project

Creatives across the country are celebrating Youth Art Month during the month of March, and whether it’s visual, written, performed, or experienced, art has served as a critical tool for empowerment and advocacy among individuals and families impacted by incarceration. The Carolina Youth Action Project is just one of many great organizations across the country helping youth channel their creativity into action for issues close to them—like youth justice. We’re excited to share written pieces from two young people involved with the Carolina Youth Action Project who responded to the question: “What’s something you wish people knew or understood about prisons?”

The Prosecution of Black Youth as Adults

Jeree Thomas Thursday, 01 February 2018 Posted in 2018, Voices

By Jeree Thomas, Policy Director

During Black History Month, we remember the esteemed black heroes and heroines of American culture.  Those who saved our future through the Underground Railroad and those who gave their lives to take us to the mountaintop, but we must also remember the youth who represent just how far our country must go to reach its ideals.

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