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From Courts to Communities: The Right Response to Truancy, Running Away, and Other Status Offenses

Monday, 23 December 2013 Posted in 2013, Research & Policy


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“Status offenses” can sound like a scary concept, but in reality, status offenses are simply behaviors that are prohibited because of an individual’s legal standing as a minor. They can be things like running away or skipping school, or under-age drinking. While these youth need help, the problem is that the court system is often not the most appropriate place for these cases to be handled.


Like most aspects of juvenile justice, it can be difficult to even know where to begin to stem the tide of these types of cases. Fortunately, a new paper from the released by the Status Offense Reform Center at the Vera Institute of Justice called “From Courts to Communities:  The Right Response to Truancy, Running Away, and Other Status Offenses” aims to increase understanding about what status offenses are and what possible solutions look like in the real world.


The good news is that there are alternatives that work – states like Florida, New York, Louisiana, and Washington have taken incredible steps forward. And they aren’t alone. Across the country, communities are implementing alternatives that involve diverting youth from courts, immediate responses to families in crisis, and other hallmarks of effective systems. 


Want to learn more? Check out “From Courts to Communities” today to learn more about status offenses and the strategies that are working around the country today to achieve better outcomes for youth!

Research and Support for Retaining Ohio Youth in the Juvenile Justice System Grows: New Report and Resolution Call on Ohio to Continue Efforts to Keep Youth Out of Adult Court

Thursday, 19 December 2013 Posted in 2013, Research & Policy

Columbus, OH – On December 17th, the Children’s Law Center, Inc. released an updated report on Ohio youth in the adult criminal justice system; this report updates the original Falling Through the Cracks report issued in May 2012.  The report covers developments on youth in adult court both nationally, including the U.S. Supreme Court holding in Miller v. Alabama that youth cannot be sentenced to mandatory life without parole, and in Ohio, where the legislature passed SB 337 to keep youth out of adult jails.

The 'Sweet Taste of Justice' was a Huge Success!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013 Posted in 2013, Campaigns

The "Sweet Taste of Justice" event, hosted last week by the Campaign for Youth Justice, was a great success!  It was a night of celebration of the successes of the campaign and its allies' successes in working towards its mission of ending the practice of trying, sentencing and incarcerating youth in the adult criminal justice system, as well as a surprise award presentation to CFYJ President & Founder, Liz Ryan.

Human Rights Day 2013: Making U.S. Children Behind Bars a Priority

Monday, 09 December 2013 Posted in 2013, Across the Country

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By Liz Ryan

Several times a year, our organization meets with delegations of juvenile justice experts from around the world.  We always start the conversation with a show of hands.  How many of your countries prosecute children in adult criminal court? How many of your countries put children in adult jails and adult prisons? How many of your countries sentence children to decades behind bars or life in prison without the possibility of parole? My hand is always the only one raised in response to these questions.

As we share our orange wristband bearing the message, "Join the Movement for Youth Justice" with these experts, we tell them about the 100,000 children who languish in adult jails and prisons and the 250,000 children prosecuted in adult criminal court every year.  We share the astronomical statistics about the $6 billion the U.S. spends to incarcerate children in the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems every year and the grim facts on the inhumane conditions of confinement that children are exposed to in the justice system.

I always see the same look of shock on their faces. They tell us that they had not heard any of this from their U.S. State Department hosts on their trip to date. "I'm not surprised," I tell them.  Their State Department Hosts reflect a common thread in American society: a view that the U.S. is the beacon of human rights, and other countries must measure up to the U.S.  The U.S. does not abuse human rights, especially not when it comes to children.  Rather, the U.S. is the human rights standard bearer and will withhold foreign aid when other countries violate human rights.

In reality, the U.S. is number one when it comes to children in the justice system, but not because we have the highest standards in the world.  The U.S. is the world's leader in the incarceration of children.  We stand out above the rest as the only country in the world that routinely prosecutes children in adult criminal court and places children in adult jails and prisons, where they are the most at-risk of violence, sexual assault, and suicide.  For the youth who are convicted in adult criminal court, the consequences are serious, negative, life-long, and in some cases, deadly.

On this Human Rights Day 2013, we must remember the children in the United States who languish behind bars in juvenile detention centers, juvenile prisons, adult jails and adult prisons.

U.S. policy and state laws do not adequately protect these children from harm or ensure rehabilitative programs or regular access to their families.  And, the United States does not adhere to international human rights conventions - such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) - that would protect the human rights of the children in the justice system.

The good news is that the American public strongly rejects the incarceration of children. According to the latest polls, they favor their rehabilitation and treatment.  Americans overwhelmingly oppose the placement of youth in adult jails and prisons, and strongly favor individualized determinations on a case-by-case basis by juvenile court judges in the juvenile justice system rather than automatic prosecution in adult criminal court.

It is past time to recognize that we are not a world leader when it comes to the human rights of children in the juvenile and criminal justice systems.  We lag behind the rest of the world.  Rather than always focusing on taking other countries to task for their human rights abuses, U.S. officials and state policymakers must focus on addressing the human rights of children in the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems here at home.

VIRGINIA’S JUSTICE SYSTEM: Expensive, Ineffective and Unfair

Tuesday, 19 November 2013 Posted in 2013, Take Action Now

By Christine Brugh

Last week, the Justice Policy Institute released a new brief titled, “Virginia’s Justice System: Expensive, Ineffective, and Unfair.” The brief examines trends in incarceration in Virginia, delving into topics such as racial disparity and drug laws. According to the brief, Virginia has the 8th highest incarceration in the United States, making it even more pertinent that these disparities be addressed.

Voice and Visibility for Disconnected Girls

Carmen Daugherty Monday, 18 November 2013 Posted in 2013, Uncategorised

On November 15th, The National Crittenton Foundation, Georgetown Law Center on Poverty, Inequality & Public Policy, and Human Rights Project for Girls hosted a Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice for Disconnected Girls forum at Georgetown University Law Center. This event launched a new policy series entitled Voices and Visibility for Disconnected Girls: Responding to Trauma. The goal of this new series is to explore the importance of trauma-informed approaches to girls in school, the juvenile justice system, and child welfare system.

YOU ARE INVITED! JOIN CFYJ for #YJAM on Oct 2nd as “We Burn Down The House”

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

October is rapidly approaching and so is Youth Justice Awareness Month! Youth Justice Awareness Month (YJAM) is an opportunity for communities, families, youth, and allies to host community-led actions and events that expose the consequences of children being processed in adult court and placed in adult jails and prisons. With events happening throughout the country, YJAM is not only a time to raise awareness but also a time to build collective action, to strengthen relationships with other advocates, and to join local advocacy campaigns working to create policy changes.

A Word of Thanks to YOU!

Monday, 04 November 2013 Posted in 2013, Across the Country, Voices

SPLC: Art, Poetry & Justice Slam in Mississippi

The Campaign for Youth Justice team would like to take a moment to thank all of you whose inspirational actions engaged, educated and activated communities during Youth Justice Awareness Month (YJAM).

Through Youth Justice Awareness Month, you lifted up the experience, voice and leadership of young people and their families who have been directly affected by the justice system. You took a stance against trying youth as adults, placing youth in adult jails and prisons, the over-incarceration of youth of color in the justice system, and the dangers of solitary confinement and the risk of violence and sexual assault in adult jails and prisons. 

Many of your states were highlighted in a new report, State Trends: Legislative Victories from 2011-2013 Removing Youth from the Adult Criminal Justice System” and you shared the good news with your communities.

FFLIC 5k Walk/Run in Louisiana

And although there was a government shutdown for the first half of October, that didn’t stop you from hosting events – such as film screenings, panel discussions, poetry slams, art exhibits, and 5k runs. By engaging your community, you move these issues forward and play a role in building youth justice wins throughout the country.

You showed how the Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) matters to your communities because it sets federal standards for how youth in the justice system should be treated.  And your actions pressured Congress to keep investing in federal funds and to consider the reauthorization of the JJDPA.

SPLC event at the University of Alabama -Birmingham

During YJAM, you took actions to ensure that the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) is being fully implemented in your states, and because of your efforts, the U.S. Department of Justice issued new guidance recommending that PREA’s Youthful Inmate Standard be implemented by removing youth from adult jails and prisons!

Tracy McClard, Chair of Youth Justice Awareness Month, recently shared in an interview with JJIE, “No matter what side of the issue you are on, if you do the research, you're going to find that kids don't belong in adult systems in any way, shape or form.” It is people like Tracy and you, that give our youth a fighting chance. Your actions inspire us all to continue this momentum all year long!


Thank you to all organizations and their partners for hosting YJAM events in 2013:

ACLU of Mississippi
Act 4 Juvenile Justice Campaign
Alliance for Youth Justice
American University Students
Appalachian State University -Student Chapter of the American Correctional Association
Black on Both Sides
Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings (CEEAS)
CFYJ Fellowship Alumni
Chicago Grassroots Curriculum Taskforce
Child and Family Focus, Inc.
Children’s Defense Fund-Southern Regional Office
Colorado Juvenile Defender Coalition
Correctional Association of New York - Juvenile Justice Project
DC Lawyers for Youth
Decarcerate PA
Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center
DeSoto County Parents and Students for Justice (DC-PSJ)
Education from the Inside Out Coalition
Elephant Rebellion
Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children (FFLIC)
Families and Friends Organized to Reform Juvenile Justice (FORJ)
Families of Youth Incarcerated (FYI)
First Defense Legal Aid
Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop
Illinois Juvenile Justice Initiative
Immigrant Youth Justice League
Just Kids Partnership
Kings Leadership Institute
Kuumba Lynx
Michigan Association for Children's Mental Health
Michigan Citizens for Prison Reform
Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency
Mikva Challenge
NAACP of Mississippi
One Voice of Mississippi
Project NIA
Renewed Minds, Inc.
Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)
Students Against Mass Incarceration (SAMI)
Tampa Interfaith Coalition for Juvenile Justice
The Children's Campaign - Florida
The National Crittenton Foundation
The Young People’s Project of Jackson
Tougaloo College Owens Health and Wellness Center
United Way of the Capital Area
University of Alabama at Birmingham - Criminal Justice Student Organization
University of Alabama at Birmingham - NAACP Student Chapter
University of Alabama at Birmingham - The Young Americans for Liberty
University of Maryland College Park- KSH Tzedek Student Fellowship
Voices for Florida Girls
Youth Art & Self-Empowerment Project

To learn more about Youth Justice Awareness Month and event hosts, click HERE
Join us on Facebook and Twitter for more pictures, media coverage, and action opportunities. 

This Week's #Playground2Prison Snapshot Contest Winner...

Thursday, 31 October 2013 Posted in 2013, Take Action Now

It’s Friday, which means one thing – it’s time to pick the final winner of the #Playground2Prison snapshot contest! Every week, during Youth Justice Awareness Month, people have submitted snapshots telling us why they fight for youth justice. The winning submissions receive, a YJAM goody bag including great YJAM swag: a Childhood Interrupted DVD, YJAM bracelet, Playground to Prison poster, and a YJAM tote.

Change Agents for Youth Justice Reform

Angella Bellota Thursday, 31 October 2013 Posted in 2013, Across the Country, Voices


When pursuing change in your state, youth/adult partnerships are critical for campaign reform efforts. Youth are more than just their story and have a source of knowledge and leadership that should not be ignored. When young people are supported and treated as partners – their leadership shines through and their ability to meet the challenges of advocacy work, and  their ability to message the issue in unique ways, have led to some impressive moments. Check out some of the young leaders we’ve had the pleasure of working with in recent years. All are national spokespeople with Campaign for Youth Justice.

Jabriera Handy

image courtesy of Just Kids Partnership

We first met Jabriera when she was working on stopping a youth prison from being built in Maryland. She recently received the Spirit of Youth Award from the Coalition for Juvenile Justice and she is currently a youth organizer for the Just Kids Partnership in her home state of Maryland.  In this excerpt, Jabriera testified before the U.S. Attorney General’s Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence, sharing her experience as a way to educate and influence the task force on the critical need for reform.  The task force ultimately recommended what she had testified on: keep kids out the of the adult criminal justice system.

Good afternoon. My name is Jabreira Handy and I was exposed to violence as a youth incarcerated as an adult. At the age of 16, I was charged as an adult in the adult criminal justice system. It is because of my exposure to the adult system that I’m here to urge this task force not to expose any more young people to violence in the justice system, particularly in adult jails or prisons. It’s also fitting because this hearing comes as here, in the city of Baltimore, we are debating whether to build another adult jail for youth charged as adults, which disturbs me.

Words can't explain what I went through in the adult system. Tears hardly express the pain and discomfort of being judged as a criminal. At the age of sixteen, I got into an argument with my grandma. As she was disciplining me, I attempted to get her off me. I left the house and later on that day she died of a heart attack because of the argument. I was charged with her death. I was charged as an adult and spent eleven months in Baltimore City Detention Center. I was forced to shower with a woman twice my age and shamelessly exposed to a squat and cough in front of everyone while menstruating. I was neglected and did not receive the psychological and healthcare help I needed throughout my stay. I was treated as if I had been judged guilty of committing the crime or as they would say “as an adult.”

To read Jabriera’s complete testimony, click HERE

Michael Kemp

We met Michael after his release from prison and sadly 66 days after his release he was sent back.  We kept in touch through mail and after his release in 2010; he interned with us and ultimately became a spokesperson. Michael is a regular here at our office, he has been on several radio shows, was featured in The Washington Post and speaks regularly in classrooms, conferences and other events. He is a poet ambassador with Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop in Washington, DC. In the clip below he talks about his visit with the U.S. Attorney General on reform efforts. He advocated for the appointment of an OJJDP Administrator and the critical need for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to issue final PREA regulations especially to protect youth in the justice system. Regulations were issued six weeks after the meeting with the Attorney General.

Click HERE to watch a clip of Michael during the “BarackTalk” event sponsored by the National League of Young Voters

Nicole Miera

image courtesy of NY Times

We met Nicole when we worked together with her and other allies on the Direct File Campaign in Colorado.  She is very passionate and committed to sharing the atrocities of her brother’s suicide in the Denver County Jail.  She has testified in hearings and on Capitol Hill.  She recently spoke with The New York Times and shared her family’s story and the tragedy that happened to her teenage brother Jimmy Stewart. Nicole has been a strong advocate in her state and through the involvement of her and other youth justice allies - legislative reform in her state was achieved.

Click HERE to read Nicole’s interview with The New York Times 

Dwayne Betts

We met Dwayne soon after his release from prison.  Over the years he has been an advocate for removing youth from the adult court. He is a talented author and poet and is currently attending law school at Yale.   Dwayne was appointed by President Obama to serve on the Federal Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice, the first young person who was directly impacted by the justice system to serve on this council. In August, he was asked to speak to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and here is a recap of his remarks:

Click HERE to watch Dwayne speak to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)

In seeing how much Jabriera, Michael, Nicole, and Dwayne have been able to accomplish as young leaders, we think the message is clear: Youth are critical change agents in any social justice movement. Many of us know from experience the difficult task of being an advocate, so it never ceases to inspire us when young people stand up and speak out for youth justice reform and other issues impacting their peers and communities. We believe that youth and their families are integral to making real change happen and hope that you will join all of us in continuing to expose the dangers of youth in the adult system.

Continue to follow the youth voices conversation this week, using:
#YouthVoices  #YJAM  #youthjustice
Remember to share your message on why #youthvoices matter!
To learn more about the Campaign for Youth Justice Spokesperson Bureau, contact:
 Aprill Turner, Communications & Media Director: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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