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Social Justice Advocates Meet With Child Rights International Network’s Veronica Yates

Thursday, 07 February 2013 Posted in Research & Policy

On the afternoon of January 29th, youth and social justice advocates were fortunate enough to meet with Child Rights International Network’s (CRIN) director Veronica Yates in an informative discussion about the issues of juvenile justice, campaigning, and advocacy around the world. CRIN is an international network that supports children’s rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Yates pointed out that children face human rights violations throughout the world, but because of their social and political status, the can rarely speak up against these injustices. CRIN advocates for a genuine system shift in how governments and societies view children. Interestingly, the United States and Somalia are the only member-countries that have not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child - a fact that, Yates emphasized, is one of the most frequently asked about issues emailed to CRIN. While the reason for this is unknown, it would seem that the fact that the United States continues to try children in the adult criminal justice system and place children in solitary confinement (a practice the UN has categorized as torture) would be a contributing factor.

Currently, they have a campaign on children and violent sentencing to address injustices against children in the justice system. It focuses on issues from the UN Human Rights Standards, including juvenile life in prison sentences, the use of corporal punishment on children, and monitoring government responses to children's rights issues.

 
As part of its advocacy effort, CRIN created a Wiki of Children’s Rights, which monitors children’s rights country-by-country while also identifying persistent violations. Their resources are translated into different languages, including English, Spanish, French, Russian, and Chinese, to reach critical decision-makers and advocates throughout the world. 
 
In addition, CRIN advocates for more transparency within the UN’s appointment process of positions related to children’s rights, specifically the appointment process for the Executive Director of UNICEF
 
To read more about CRIN's work, visit the CRIN website
 
 
 

Congress Convenes Experts to Respond to Newtown

Monday, 28 January 2013 Posted in Federal Update

By Leah Robertson

In the wake of the tragedy at Newtown, Congress has held a series of convenings to hear from experts on gun violence prevention, mental health, and youth violence prevention. Despite the array of topics discussed, one common theme has emerged: in order to decrease violence, we need to invest real resources in youth engagement and community development, and we must get rid of harmful zero tolerance policies funneling kids down harmful paths.


On Tuesday, January 22, Representative Bobby Scott hosted the Youth Violence Prevention Summit. Panelists Dr. Dewey Cornell, Dr. Peter Scharf, Chief Judge Chandlee Kuhn, Dr. Aaron Kupchik, Sheriff Gabe Morgan, Rashad Burns, and Brian Bumbarger spoke about the importance of focusing on communities to provide places where youth can feel safe, comfortable, and connected to adults who can help them stay on a positive track.  Of note, they focused on the need to pass the Youth Promise Act, a cost-effective, prevention-based, and most importantly, effective program.


 

Video of Representative Scott's Introduction 
to the Youth Violence Prevention Summit


Panelists detailed programs and pathways to reducing violence in communities and strongly reinforced the importance of diminishing school pathways to the juvenile and criminal justice system. Recognizing that school safety must be our highest priority, it is essential that every possible effort is made to ensure our kids are safe. However, as stated directly by Dr. Kupchik, we must think critically about the effects of policies we implement and do what works, not what feels right. We are too quick to listen to our gut, saying “More cops in schools can’t hurt.” But the data shows that it can, and it has. There is substantial evidence that cops and school resource officers (SRO) in schools increase delinquent behavior and decreases educational achievement by changing the school atmosphere from one that inspires pathways to success to one that expects, and unknowingly encourages, violence and failure from the kids.

Furthermore, we have an alternative. We know that prevention-based programs work. Mr. Bumbarger detailed a strong community-based initiative in Pennsylvania - based on the "Blueprints for Violence Prevention" initiatives in Colorado - that effectively decreased juvenile crime, increased educational achievement and consequently resulted in the closure of a 100-bed juvenile correctional facility.

Immediately following the Youth Violence Prevention Summit, Representatives Mike Thompson and Napolitano co- hosted a briefing on Mental Health in America. Panelists emphasized that, despite the widespread effect of mental disorders and the numerous warning signs, society too often stigmatizes mental health issues, leaving people suffering and, on rare occasions, at risk of violent behavior. They emphasized that if society focused on a preventative model, teaching parents and teachers to notice patterns of behavior that indicate mental disease (which usually appear between the ages of 14 and 24 but usually go untreated for almost a decade) without stigmatizing kids, we could save countless people – both those directly affected and those affected by their actions while unmedicated - from the pain associated with untreated mental disease.

Panelists (from left): Gaspar Perricone, James Cummings, 
Dr. Robert Ross, Jeannie Campbell, 
Marc LeForestier, and David Chipman 

Finally, on Wednesday, January 24, Congressman Thompson held a Gun Violence Prevention Summit with 20 Members of the House. Witnesses included: Gaspar Perricone, president of the Bull Moose Sportsmen's Alliance; David Chipman, former special agent at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); Jeannie Campbell, executive vice president of the National Council for Behavioral Health; Marc LeForestier, deputy attorney general at the California Department of Justice; Dr. Robert Ross, president and CEO of The California Endowment; and James Cummings, hunter, sportsman, gun owner and NRA member.

Dr. Robert Ross with Chief Counsel Bobby Vassar

Despite their diversity of backgrounds and beliefs, each panelist agreed: more guns and more law enforcement in schools is NOT the answer. Mr. Cummings, a sportsman, gun owner and NRA member, stated outright, “The worst thing I can see is my 2nd or 3rd grade teacher carrying a gun.” Instead of arming schools, Dr. Ross emphasized the need for community investment, showing a video of 33 kids demanding, “Don’t lock down our schools” and asking for a plan that involves comprehensive health services and gets rid of zero tolerance policies that only make our schools more dangerous. The conclusion is obvious. Law enforcement, especially SROs, in schools are not part of the solution. They are part of the problem. Community-based programs save money, protect communities, and lead to a safe and productive society. The universal heartbreak after Newtown is just another example that every community is our community, and every child is our child. We need to do what is right for them, not what feels right. There is no other solution

For more information on keeping our communities safe, visit: http://www.promotesafecommunities.org

 

State of Maryland Abandons the Construction of New Baltimore City Jail For Youth Charged as Adults!!

Jessica Sandoval Wednesday, 23 January 2013 Posted in Uncategorised

Baltimore Rally 6.17.10196Congratulations to the Maryland Advocates on this tremendous VICTORY!! It was announced on Thursday, January, 17th that the state, according to Gov. Martin O'Malley's proposed budget, will not put any money toward the construction of a Baltimore jail for juveniles charged as adults. Instead, the Maryland Department of Juvenile announced an alternative plan, which includes renovating a smaller existing facility that meets national standards for youth in confinement.

Advocates have been opposing the construction of a new youth jail for youth charged as adults for nearly three years. Congratulations to the wonderful organizers Kara Aanenson and Rashad Hawkins from the Just Kids Partnership, CLIA and Advocates for Children and Youth!

New Web Resource to “Promote Safe Communities”

Wednesday, 16 January 2013 Posted in Across the Country


The National Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Coalition (NJJDPC) is pleased to announce a new web resource “Promote Safe Communities” available at: http://www.promotesafecommunities.org/.  The National Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Coalition (NJJDPC) is a collaborative array of youth- and family- serving, social justice, law enforcement, corrections, and faith-based organizations, working to ensure healthy families, build strong communities and improve public safety by promoting fair and effective policies, practices and programs for youth involved or at risk of becoming involved in the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

The website features:


Please post a link to your website in the comments field, and check the website often for action alerts, news updates, and upcoming meeting notices to stay involved with the work of the NJJDPC!

We appreciate your sharing this new resource with your networks!


Guidance, Not Guns; Counselors, Not Cops

Liz Ryan Tuesday, 15 January 2013 Posted in 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 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
 

In Response to Newtown: Recommendations from the Juvenile Justice Community

Monday, 07 January 2013 Posted in Across the Country, Research & Policy

As a member of the National Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Coalition (NJJDPC), we participated in drafting a statement and recommendations for the Congress and the Administration in response to the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

The tragic December 14th shootings in Newtown, Connecticut shook our nation’s confidence in its ability to prevent future violence and keep our children and our communities safe. While the Newtown incident was horrifying and shocking, it represents a small portion of the violence experienced by America’s youth. Tragedies like Newtown are exceedingly rare, but invite us to remember that in far too many communities, violence is common. As lawmakers discuss potential solutions to keep our communities and our children safer, including limits to the widespread accessibility of firearms, both illegal and legal, in the United States, we offer the expertise of the National Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Coalition (NJJDPC) and provide recommendations for a comprehensive approach to reduce violence and keep children and communities safe.

We hope that Congress and the Administration will utilize these recommendations in addressing potential policies to prevent these tragedies from occurring in the future.

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