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Across the Country

PREA: Why it Matters in the States

Carmen Daugherty Monday, 11 May 2015 Posted in Across the Country

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On any given day, over 8,000 youth are detained or confined in adult jails and prisons.  The research shows that youth are not safe in adult jails and prisons and are at the greatest risk of sexual victimization.  According to research by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, youth under the age of 18 represented 21 percent of all substantiated victims of inmate-on-inmate sexual violence in jails in 2005, and 13 percent in 2006 - surprisingly high since only one percent of jail inmates are youth.  The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission found that, "more than any other group of incarcerated persons, youth incarcerated with adults are probably at the highest risk for sexual abuse."  Research also shows that youth are 36 times more likely to commit suicide in an adult jail than in a juvenile detention facility.   

Over ten years ago, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) unanimously passed Congress.  The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued final regulations in August 2012 to implement PREA in order to end sexual violence behind bars. YOUR VOICE was instrumental in getting these regulations published and the Youthful Inmate Standard is a powerful tool in removing youth from adult jails and prisons. 

This week, CFYJ will highlight states that are working towards justice reform utilizing the tools that PREA provides. We will continue to be watching as Governors provide certifications to the Department of Justice in hopes that states move closer to full PREA compliance.

By May 15th, Governors will have to certify whether their state is in compliance with PREA, or make assurances that federal dollars will be used to come into compliance. Help us monitor state responses and continue to advocate for full PREA implementation:There's No Excuse! Protect Children from Rape in Adult Jails and Prisons. Use #ImplementPREA to show your support.

Please visit our blog this week for updates on PREA from around the country.

Additionally, here are some sample posts for social media, please share:

Twitter:

“There’s No Excuse” national week of action to end prison rape #ImplementPREA

Prison Rape Elimination Act was passed to end sexual abuse behind bars. Act now to #ImplementPREA

PROBLEM: Jails & prisons are not equipped to protect youth from dangers of adult facilities. SOLUTION: #ImplementPREA

PREA would help the more than 2 million people behind bars including the 100K youth in jails & prisons every day  #ImplementPREA

There's No Excuse! Protect Children from Rape in Adult Jails & Prisons. Take Action TODAY#ImplementPREA

Implementing PREA will save lives. Join our efforts to protect youth behind bars #ImplementPREA

Facebook:

On any given day, over 8,000 youth are confined in adult jails and prisons. Research shows that youth are not safe in adult facilities and are at the greatest risk of sexual victimization. Youth are 36X more likely to commit suicide in an adult jail than in a juvenile detention facility. Take Action during the “There’s No Excuse” #ImplementPREA.

Prison rape is no laughing matter: More than 2million people behind bars including the 100K youth in jails & prisons are at risk of sexual abuse every day. The Prison Rape Elimination Act was passed to end sexual abuse behind bars. Its time for Governors to ensure that PREA is implemented in every state. Learn more and take action #ImplementPREA

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Kay Xiao Wednesday, 01 April 2015 Posted in Across the Country

Today marks the beginning of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, geared towards raising awareness of sexual violence and prevention to public health, human rights, and social justice that exists across demographic groups: sexual violence happens to people of all ages, races, genders, sexual orientations, religions, abilities, professions, incomes, and ethnicities. From college campuses to jails and prisons, sexual violence impacts individuals and communities alike.  
 
Prisons and jails across the United States house youth under 18 with adults every single day. The most recent data from the Department of Justice, Bureau of Statistics  reports that nearly 4500 youth are held in jails and nearly 2000 in prisons on any given day. According to the new data, Florida houses over 200 youth each day in adult prison, Louisiana and New York, 178 and 182 respectively, Connecticut 143, North Carolina 115, and Michigan and Texas, 106 and 104. Georgia houses nearly 100.
 
The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), Youthful Inmate Standard (YIS), was created to protect these youth from the dangers of living in prisons and jails. It is our belief that these young people should be completely removed from these facilities and given access to developmentally appropriate rehabilitative services in the juvenile justice system. While we suspect many states will not certify full compliance, our goal is to keep shining a light on the prevalence of sexual abuse of youth in adult jails and prisons, and to continue to call on the full removal of youth in adult facilities.
 
In 2011, correctional administrators correctional administrators reported 8,763 allegations of sexual victimization in prisons, jails, and other adult correctional facilities, and according to the 2012 National Survey of Youth in Custody, An estimated 9.5% of adjudicated youth in state juvenile facilities and state contract facilities (representing 1,720 youth nationwide) reported experiencing one or more incidents of sexual victimization by another youth or staff in the past 12 months or since admission, if less than 12 months.
 
During the month of April, please take the time help us raise awareness about sexual victimization of youth in adult jails and prisons. 
 

State of the States: Here's What's Moving in 2015

Najja Quail, CFYJ Legal Intern Tuesday, 24 March 2015 Posted in Across the Country

By Najja Quail, CFYJ Legal Intern

As the rates of juvenile arrests continue to decline, state policymakers are taking advantage of the opportunity to rethink the way we deal with youth involved with the adult criminal justice system. This legislative session, several bills have been introduced in various states to: 1) raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction; 2) examine the ways in which youth are transferred to the adult system; and 3) remove youth from pretrial detention.

Missouri, New York, and Texas, all have bills currently being reviewed by the legislature to raise the statutory age for which youth in these states can be automatically prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system. Connecticut is trying to raise the minimum age of transfer from 14 to 15 years of age while Vermont proposes that all cases involving youth under 18 originate in the juvenile court, giving Family Court judges the ability to waive those cases to the criminal court. There is also push to make changes with regard to who decides whether a youth will be transferred to the criminal court, and where that youth is housed pending transfer decisions.  Utah’s SB 167 does several things to reduce the number of youth entering the adult system. Utah’s proposed bill limits the number of offenses in which a child can be “direct filed” in the adult system among other significant shifts in burden and changes in certification language.

Florida, a state notorious for its high number of youth involved in the adult system due to unfettered prosecutorial discretion, has several bills (HB 195, HB 783, SB 444, SB 498, and SB 1082) currently in the Legislature that would limit the number of youth automatically transferred to the adult system. The State of Maryland has bills in both the House and Senate (HB 618 and SB 172) that would require youth to be held in juvenile rather than adult facilities while they await a transfer determination.

In addition to the abovementioned bills, there are many states looking at other aspects of juvenile justice reform, thus making it more likely that youth in the adult system will have a place to go and receive appropriate rehabilitative services if these bills are successful. State legislative sessions end anywhere from late April to early June so there is plenty of time to get involved. To receive information on what’s happening in your state, please join our email list to receive timely updates. You can sign up here.   

March Raises Awareness for Girls in the Juvenile Justice System

Kay Xiao Thursday, 12 March 2015 Posted in Across the Country

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The discourse on youth within the criminal justice system often overlooks the special circumstances and unique challenges that girls in the system face. Before ever coming into contact with the criminal justice system, many girls experience trauma – physical and/or sexual abuse, neglect, poverty and family instability – just to name a few.

According to Detention Reform and Girls, a 2005 report from the Annie E. Casey foundation, an increasing number of girls are being arrested for minor offenses and spending more time —sometimes nearly twice as long — in detention relative to their male counterparts. For girls, these experiences can reignite trauma. Instead of addressing these problems, the process and experience of detention ignores the causal factors for these minor offenses and further exacerbate pre-existing trauma.

Moreover, girls are likelier than boys to be arrested for status offenses and often receive more severe punishment than boys. This highlights the subliminal gender inequality that differentiates the experiences of boys and girls in the criminal justice system to the detriment of girls.

March is a month to raise awareness for girls in the juvenile justice system. Take the time to learn more about girls in the system and reflect on some of the challenges that girls in the system face in your own communities.

March is Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing

Kay Xiao Monday, 09 March 2015 Posted in Across the Country

March marks the annual Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing. This month brings together congregations of all faiths, schools and universities in prayer, service and action. The goal is to offer young offenders hope and alternatives to a lifetime as a hardened criminal by raising awareness and creating engagement with issues pertaining to juvenile justice.

How to Get Involved:

  • Place a bulletin in your faith organization’s newsletter.
  • Throughout the month of March discuss juvenile justice in your weekly faith service.
  • Post a flyer in your place of worship.
  • Host a candle light vigil in your faith community in remembrance of youth in the justice system.
  • Host a discussion after a faith service in your community about juvenile justice issues. Such topics could be sentencing laws, sending children into the adult court system, willful defiance or the classification process in the prison system that sends youthful offenders to higher level prisons than adults for the same crime.
  • Support neighborhood groups that work to create cooperative relationships between neighbors, faith communities, and law enforcement to create a safe and secure community.
  • Support or volunteer with programs that promote victim ministry in your place of worship.
  • Support or volunteer with the ministry at your local detention center.
  • Provide spiritual, material, or emotional assistance to those reentering society, both youth and adult. Schools and places of worship are encouraged to invite formerly incarcerated youth to share their experiences and insights about the juvenile justice system.

For more information or to schedule a speaker please contact Javier Stauring at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Girls in Justice: A Thought-Provoking Glimpse of Girls in the System

Kay Xiao Monday, 02 February 2015 Posted in Across the Country

“I have interviewed and photographed children in confinement for the better part of a decade. As I sit on the floor of a cell and listen, each story, each child tells is enlightening, but the stories of the girls stir a special compassion.”

This is how Richard Ross, Professor of art at the University of California - Santa Barbara prefaces his newest book Girls in Justice.

With powerful images and first-hand accounts from over 250 detention facilities across the nation, Girls in Justice captures life behind bars and the physical, emotional and mental effects on young women in the criminal justice system. The evocative imagery alludes to the causes of trauma – sexual abuse, drug usage and forced prostitution to name a few – that many young girls in prisons face long before coming into contact with the system, and shocks the reader into questioning the criminal justice system today and its failure to address the underlying causes of delinquent behavior in girls.

The book highlights a harsh reality: girls in custody report nearly two times the rate of past physical abuse, two times the rate of past suicide attempts, and four times the rate of prior sex abuse as boys. In the process, it forces the reader to ask him or herself “what message is the criminal justice system sending to young girls today? Is it helping or further exacerbating the problem?” Ross seems to think the latter. “These girls in detention and commitment facilities are further abused by an organized system that can’t recognize or respond to their history and their needs,” Ross writes.

Girls in Justice is out this month. To order and for more information, visit here.

NEW WEBINAR SERIES: Connecting Partners. Spreading Knowledge.

Jessica Sandoval Friday, 30 January 2015 Posted in Across the Country

Looking for insight on a hot or timely topic? Curious about what others are doing in their state? Join Us!

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The Campaign for Youth Justice is launching its new 2015 webinar series, “Peer Learning Community Webinar Series”.  The goal of these forums is to offer technical assistance to our state, strategic and at-large partners to provide answers to the most asked, and the most difficult questions to answer.  We then offer “office hours” for one-on-one follow-up calls for a week after each webinar for state specific follow-up questions, developing strategy and networking.

This monthly webinar series is free and offers attendees the opportunity to hear from experts about best practices, tips on successful strategies and pitfalls to reform efforts.  We seek out state and local experts from their respective fields to enhance our knowledge in the youth justice field and strengthen our connections to each other.   

Educational Benefits:

  • Each webinar is 45-minutes, which  includes 30 minutes of content and a 15 minute window to ask your most burning and difficult questions and connect with the experts; access that may not otherwise be available;
  • Offers practical education in a time-saving format, with options to participate in real time or review later;
  • CFYJ will offer “office hours” for one-on-one technical assistance for a week after each webinar;
  • Topics focus on relevant and timely topics that mirror legislative sessions.

Here’s a sneak preview to other upcoming topics:

  • Engaging Unlikely Allies
  • Using Social Media to Get Your Message Out
  • Documenting Your Wins
  • Polling and Messaging for Your Issue

If you’re interested in signing up for our upcoming webinars, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to be added to the invitation list.  If you have any other questions, contact Jessica Sandoval at 202-558-3580 ext 1605 or at the email listed above.

New FRONTLINE Digital Exclusive Film, Stickup Kid

Aprill O. Turner Friday, 19 December 2014 Posted in Across the Country

Stickup Kid, a 30-minute FRONTLINE digital exclusive film, tells the story of Alonza Thomas — who, at age 16, was sent to adult prison after being charged with armed robbery shortly after California enacted a new tough-on-juvenile-crime law.

One of the first minors tried under Prop. 21 in California — and how spending over a decade behind bars in adult prison impacted him. It's a provocative look at a major social issue for which there are no easy answers  — and it gives new insight into the ongoing debate over juvenile sentencing Alonza went on to spend more than a decade behind bars.

The documentary is a provocative look at a major social issue for which there are no easy answers — and it gives new insight into the ongoing debate over prison reform in America.

It was produced in association with the Investigative Reporting Program at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

WHERE TO WATCH:

You can watch Stickup Kid, here.

You can also watch on PBS's Youtube channel, here.

Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter using #StickupKid.

YJAM 2014: Advocates Making Waves in Youth Justice Reforms

Sunday, 19 October 2014 Posted in Across the Country, Campaigns, Voices

As we reflect on this year and in commemoration of Youth Justice Awareness Month (YJAM), we have seen the pursuit of many youth justice reforms across the country. Efforts to improve the lives of our youth come in many forms - whether it's pursuits to improve laws, efforts to change the hearts and minds of the public, or working to empower youth and their families - the Campaign for Youth Justice applauds the daily efforts of advocates who take a stand for youth. Today, we highlight what many say can't be done: change for the better. Our youth, our communities, and our nation have all felt the positive impact of your efforts. Thank you for all that you do.

Youth Justice Awareness Month Kicks Off in 1 Week!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014 Posted in Across the Country, Take Action Now, Voices

The time is almost here - Youth Justice Awareness Month (YJAM) kicks off in just one week! We are very excited about the growing list of organizations joining us this year - Over 20 organizations in nearly 20 states are helping to make YJAM a reality. Events planned range from poetry slams, film screenings, community forums, and more. We estimate that over 3,000 people will attend YJAM events all over the country this year.

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