JOY Campaign and Allies Raise Awareness on the Criminalization of DC Youth
On Thursday, June 26, Judge Our Youth (JOY) Campaign advocates - Campaign for Youth Justice, DC Lawyers for Youth, and other allies, joined Black Youth Project 100, the DC chapter of the Black Youth Project, for a peaceful demonstration at the District's Central Detention Facility. The event focused on raising awareness of the criminalization of black youth in DC and is part of BYP’s larger campaign, the #CriminalizedLives Project, which seeks to collect stories from people that have been impacted by the criminal justice system, and specifically, the experiences of youth with law enforcement.
Daniel Okonkwo, spoke on behalf of the JOY Campaign to discuss the changes we need in the nation's capital in order to improve public safety and promote the rehabilitation of youth. Okonkwo enumerated upon how currently, in the DC jails, youth are denied access to regular family visits and do not have educational programs readily available - resulting in difficulties returning to their families and schools upon release.
Other speakers discussed the importance of fighting racially disproportionate sentencing and arrests for all age levels. Preston Mitchum specifically spoke about how the school-to-prison pipeline criminalizes LGBTQ youth in schools and impacts their educational growth. Nikki Lewis, from Jobs for Justice, spoke further upon the difficulties for black youth in finding vocational opportunities, which is extremely challenging for youth upon their return to the community after being placed in the adult criminal justice system. Finally, we heard two returning citizens discuss the violence within the jail walls, emphasizing the need for immediate change.
For more pictures and info from the rally, follow hashtags: #JOYDC #CriminalizedLives