Youth Justice Action Month Blog

New Blog: Girls of Color and the Criminalization of Trafficking Survivors

Saturday, 12 October 2019

New Blog: Girls of Color and the Criminalization of Trafficking Survivors

By Cherice Hopkins, Rights4Girls

This Youth Justice Action Month as families, advocates, and communities participate in acts to end racism and the over-criminalization of young people of color, it is crucial that our efforts intentionally and explicitly uplift the voices and experiences of girls touched by the juvenile justice system. Similar to boys of color, girls of color are disproportionately pushed into the juvenile justice system. In fact, girls of color account for 22% of the youth population, but 66% of incarcerated girls. However, girls’ experiences in the system are distinct from boys, as are the reasons they are pushed into the system. Girls enter the system through pathways that are directly tied to their experiences of interpersonal violence and trauma—a process we call the Abuse to Prison Pipeline. A particularly troubling example of the Abuse to Prison Pipeline is the continued criminalization of child sex trafficking survivors.

Guest Column: Youth Justice Awareness Month- Educational Opportunities that Allow Youth Voice to be Heard

Friday, 04 October 2019

Guest Column: Youth Justice Awareness Month- Educational Opportunities that Allow Youth Voice to be Heard

Now I got to make a decision to be the person I want to be
I want this world to believe in me
I also got all these charges on me
I can’t change anyone but me 
(Lyrics written by an incarcerated youth)

Students attending schools in juvenile justice facilities historically have been terribly served (read: low academic expectations, curricula that is not engaging or rigorous, insufficient special education services, etc.).  What makes this especially tragic is that these young people need, and deserve, the best we have to offer. Providing youth with quality educational services during their incarceration is essential to improving overall life chances and long-term outcomes.  Many students arrive at juvenile and adult facilities being disengaged from school, most often having experienced school failure and pushout.  By re-engaging in their education, students become equipped with new skills, refocused on their futures, and redirected onto a more productive path.

At the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings (CEEAS), we work to improve educational opportunities for system-involved youth, with the goal of empowering them to be free, successful, contributing members of their communities. We recognize our youths’ inherent value and seek to provide them with the support and education they need and deserve to realize their full potential.  We work with juvenile justice agencies and their educational partners to provide technical assistance and facilitate peer sharing focused on improving education inside of facilities.

Since 2012, CEEAS has sponsored a series of initiatives (academic projects and competitions) designed to make learning engaging and relevant to students held in secure facilities. The initiatives have connected teachers, many of whom work in small, isolated detention centers across the country, building a sense of community and fellowship; they have introduced technology into secure facilities; and, perhaps most importantly, they have amplified the voices, words, and creativity of students held in confinement. In the four initiatives we sponsored last year, we reached approximately 6,500 students at over 165 schools.  These initiatives have been interspersed throughout the year, often aligned with cultural and historical benchmarks, including YJAM. 


This Fall, in coordination with YJAM, students in secure schools across America are exploring the issues that surround youth justice for the second year of our song-writing initiative, Unsung. As YJAM encourages people to host action-oriented events in the community, our Unsung initiative encourages youth held in confinement to participate in the dialogue around youth justice as well.  Unsung provides teachers with a curriculum that dives into protest songs, policy issues, and the power of lyrics. Students use music to create songs and generate awareness around policy topics that impact their lives.

We have chosen to work with Soundtrap- a collaborative music-making software that will allow 1,500 of our students to create original pieces of music in an online studio. After writing their lyrics and recording their songs, students can then submit their final recorded song to our national contest. The songs are reviewed by professional musicians (Aloe Blacc will be a returning finalist reviewer this year!) and the winning selections featured as a part of #YJAM2019.

It’s opportunities like these--ones that give incarcerated youth a chance to experiment with new technology, explore their creativity, and learn about history and real-life situations that impact them-- that provide for a meaningful educational experience.  An experience where they can be empowered to share their opinions and beliefs and get their voice heard, all the while learning in the process.

If you’re interested in supporting Unsung, we’re always looking for volunteers to review the first round of songs between October 11-16 (click HERE to sign up). Reviewers receive five songs and a rubric to give feedback, and can even provide written feedback that will be shared with the students.

Our Unsung Winners will be announced on October 24, 2019. You can follow @SecondChanceEDU to be the first to hear this year’s winners, and you can help make our students' songs heard by spreading the word! Click here to follow CEEAS on Twitter where the winners will be announced.

Every year we look forward to seeing what the students create and they never cease to amaze us with their talents.  We look forward to a time when all young people held in confinement receive the educational supports they need and deserve to reach their potential.  Until then, we’ll keep pushing for improvements and doing our part to open up meaningful and relevant learning opportunities.

We kicked off this year’s Unsung with a mini lyric contest. Here are a few we wanted to share with you:

When you look at me don’t judge a book by its cover
These judges and DA’s don’t know how much I suffer
Justice is corrupt, and that ain’t even just for me
Everybody got a situation, we just want to be free.
All this gun violence swear it’s getting contagious
Trayvon got kilt for wearin a hoody that’s outrageous
(Lyrics written by an incarcerated youth)

Join Us In The Fight to Implement The Prison Rape Elimination Act

Monday, 30 September 2019

Join Us In The Fight to Implement The Prison Rape Elimination Act

Join us. We need you to encourage your Governor to certify your state’s compliance with the the Prison Rape Elimination Act by October 15th.

Take Action to Protect Youth in Adult Facilities
PREA Weeks:
October 1 - 14, 2019
#ImplementPREA #EndPrisonRape #NoExcuses

What is PREA?

The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) is a federal statute focused on sexual assault and victimization in juvenile facilities, prisons, jail, lockups, and other detention facilities. The goal of PREA is to prevent, detect, and respond to sexual abuse in detention and correctional facilities. Importantly, PREA has a Youthful Inmate Standard to protect youth under 18 in adult facilities

How can you help?

We need you to encourage your Governor to certify your state’s compliance with PREA by October 15th.  This is the deadline every year for states to report on their progress in complying with PREA. If your Governor can not certify, he or she should release a statement of what it will take for the state to certify compliance with PREA during the next audit cycle. .

Take Action: Contact your Governor Today! Use our sample tweets to encourage your governor to certify PREA compliance on October 15th.

Sample Tweets

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

@GovernorX Youth are more likely to commit suicide in an adult jail than in a juvenile detention facility #ImplementPREA

@GovernorX 65% of Youth reported being victimized more than once in adult facilities #ImplementPREA

@Governor X Jails & prisons are not equipped on their own to protect youth from the dangers of adult facilities. #ImplementPREA 

@GovernorX PREA incentivizes states to detect, prevent & respond to sexual abuse in jails and prisons #ImplementPREA

@GovernorX No More Excuses! To protect youth from dangers of adult facilities we must #ImplementPREA TODAY! 

 Governor Twitter Handles

AL – Kay Ivey @GovernorKayIvey

AK – Mike Dunleavy @GovDunleavy

AZ – Doug Ducey @dougducey

AR – Asa Hutchinson @AsaHutchinson

CA – Gavin Newsom @GavinNewsom

CO – Jared Polis @jaredpolis

CT – Ned Lamont @GovNedLamont

DE – John Carney @carney

DC – Muriel Bowser @MayorBowser

FL – Ron DeSantis @Go0vRonDeSantis

GA – Brian Kemp @GovKemp

HI – David Ige @GovHawaii

ID – Brad Little @GovernorLittle

IL – JB Pritzker  @GovPritzker

IN – Eric Holcomb @GovHolcomb

IA – Kim Reynolds @IAGovernor

KS – Laura Kelly @LauraKellyKS

KY – Matt Bevin @GovMatBevin

LA – John Bel Edwards @LouisianaGov

ME – Janet Mills @GovJanetMills

MD – Larry Hogan @LarryHogan

MA – Charlie Baker @MassGovernor

MI – Gretchen Whitmer @gretchenwhitmer

MN – Tim Walz @GovTimWalz

MS – Phil Bryant @PhilBryansMS

MO – Mike Parson @mikeparson

MT – Steve Bullock @GovernorBullock

NE – Pete Ricketts @GovRicketts

NV – Steve Sisolak @GovSisolak

NH – Chris Sununu @GovChrisSununu

NJ – Phil Murphy @PhilMurphyNJ

NM – Michelle Lujan Grisham @Michelle4NM

NY – Andrew Cuomo @NYGovCuomo

NC – Roy Cooper  @NC_Governor

ND– Doug Burgum   @DougBurgum

OH – Mike DeWine @MikeDeWine

OK – Kevin Stitt  @GovStitt

OR – Kate Brown @OregonGovBrown

PA – Tom Wolf @GovernorTomWolf

RI – Gina Raimondo  @GinaRaimondo

SC – Henry McMaster @henrymcmaster

SD – Kristi Noem  @govkristinoem

TN – Bill Lee @GovBillLee

TX – Greg Abbott @GovAbbott

UT – Gary Herbert @GovHerbert

VT – Phil Scott @GovPhilScott

VA – Ralph Northam @RalphNortham

WA – Jay Inslee @GovInslee

WV – Jim Justice @WVGovernor

WI – Tony Evers @GovEvers

WY – Mark Gordon @GovernorGordon

Virgin Islands – Albert Bryan @govbryan

Puerto Rico – Wanda Vázquez @wandavazquezg

Northern Mariana Islands – Ralph Deleon Guerrero Torres @LtCnmi

Guam – Lou Leon Guerrero @magahagaguam


Thursday, 26 September 2019


Tomorrow, on October 1, YJAM (Youth Justice Action Month) begins again. Since 2008, youth justice advocates around the country have come together to organize events and online activities to raise awareness and inspire action on behalf of young people impacted by our criminal justice system.

This year, we note that since CFYJ opened, more than 100 pieces of legislation have been passed that have reduced, restricted, or ended the trial, incarceration, or sentencing of children in adult courts. But we also note that racial and ethnic disparities inherent in the system have not improved – more clear evidence that racism remains a centerpiece of our justice system.

For example: “Black youth are approximately 14% of the total youth population, but 47.3% of the youth who are transferred to adult court by juvenile court judges who believe the youth cannot benefit from the services of their court.”

Because of this, the theme for YJAM this year is A.C.T. (Awaken, Confront, Transform) to End Racism, and throughout the month we will be focusing on the ways in which racism infects our youth justice system, and the ways that advocates and activists are fighting to change that.

We are promoting screenings and discussions of “When They See Us”, the award-winning Netflix series that so powerfully illustrates the injustices at the intersection of youth justice and racism. Many such screening events are already scheduled around the country.

During YJAM, we will also be promoting action on the issue of children incarcerated with adults. From Oct. 1-15, we will be urging state Governors to certify their state’s compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (which requires all children under 18 to be at least sight and sound separated from adults). And on October 29, there will be a Day of Action to call on all jurisdictions to stop jailing children with adults.

There will also be plenty of action on social media and elsewhere online – guest blogs, tweet chats, and podcasts. It will be a busy month!

You can sign up today if you want to organize an event, or to receive regular updates on how you can participate.

Welcome to YJAM!

YJAM 2019 is Coming!

Thursday, 12 September 2019

YJAM 2019 is Coming!

The Campaign for Youth Justice declared October to be National Youth Justice Action Month (YJAM). Since 2009, YJAM has grown every year. YJAM aims to provide people across the country with an opportunity to develop action-oriented events in their communities. We hope to see you in October!

Sign Up Now

Peace & Justice Holiday Card Design Contest

Tuesday, 03 September 2019

Peace & Justice Holiday Card Design Contest

As part of Youth Justice Action Month (YJAM) , we’re asking young people and those who have been impacted by harsh laws that sentence youth to adult time to help design the Campaign for Youth Justice’s (CFYJ) annual holiday card encompassing the theme of “Peace & Justice.” This supports our overall theme for YJAM this year: A.C.T. (Awaken. Confront. Transform.) to End Racism. At CFYJ, we hope to transform the current unjust system to one that embraces peace and justice by addressing historic and structural racism and advances healing and peace.  

A.C.T. to End Racism

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

A.C.T. to End Racism

Many activists and organizers are well versed in the ways that structural racism drives unfair outcomes for youth who come in contact with the law.  It is well documented that despite a near 60% drop in youth incarceration and continued falling arrest rates that in many places racial and ethnic disparities are increasing despite reform efforts.  Youth of color, particularly Black youth, who are charged, incarcerated, and sentenced as adults heavily bear the burden of these disparities. Not only are they treated more harshly than their white counterparts when arrested with the same crimes; but they are sentenced more extremely, often getting longer sentences than adults who commit similar crimes. This is unacceptable.

In Honor Of...

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

In Honor Of...

By Marcy Mistrett, CEO

Anniversaries can be moments of celebration or they can be reminders of our losses and short-comings.  The exoneration and settlement awarded to of five young men charged with rape, assault, robbery , attempted murder, and rioting  in NY in 2014 juxtaposed to the tragic suicide of Kalief Browder in 2015 underscores this fact.

Today is the 4th anniversary of Kalief Browder’s death; he was 22 years young when he took his life, after spending three years on Rikers Island in New York as a teenager, two of which were spent in solitary confinement.  His story moved a nation—and the state of New York fundamentally changed the way it looked at 16 & 17 year olds in their justice system.

The New Netflix Limited Series "When They See Us" Provides an Inside Look at the Power of Prosecutors and Media in Youth Incarceration Cases

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

The New Netflix Limited Series "When They See Us" Provides an Inside Look at the Power of Prosecutors and Media in Youth Incarceration Cases

By Aprill O. Turner, CFYJ Communications Director

NOTE: CFYJ Communications Director, Aprill Turner appeared on WHUR.FM (Washington, DC) with cast member of "When They See Us", Asante Blackk. Check out the full interview here--What You Will Learn From the Documentary of Central Park 5.


Today Netflix releases the highly anticipated limited series, Ava DuVernay's "When They See Us". The series chronicles the story of the tragic Central Park Five case about five teenage boys of color from Harlem who were wrongly convicted of the rape of a white woman which they didn't commit in 1989, and the 25-year fight for justice following their conviction.

The Campaign for Youth Justice had the opportunity to participate in an advanced screening of the film last month in New York, along with other social and criminal justice advocacy organizations.


Wednesday, 31 October 2018


Brian Evans, CFYJ State Campaign Director

With the theme #VoteYouthJustice – anticipating the election that is now less than a week away – this year’s Youth Justice Action Month (YJAM) featured events and activities all across the country.  

Every October is Youth Justice Action Month, and this year, on the very first day, New York’s “Raise the Age” law went into effect for 16-year-olds, who are now no longer automatically tried as adults. All children under 18 were also removed from Rikers Island

The Negative Effect of “Hardening” Schools on Students of Color

Monday, 22 October 2018

The Negative Effect of “Hardening” Schools on Students of Color

By Nicole Dooley, Policy Counsel at NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., and Rachel Marshall, Federal Policy Counsel for the Campaign for Youth Justice

After the February 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, people across the country again started having too-familiar conversations around how to keep students safe from violence at school. These conversations covered a wide range of topics, from students discussing clear backpacks, to teachers and administrators taking emergency preparedness trainings, to state and federal lawmakers deciding how to spend money to make schools safer.

Enter Our #VoteYouthJustice Poster Design Contest

Thursday, 04 October 2018

Enter Our #VoteYouthJustice Poster Design Contest

Election Day 2018 is November 6. During October 2018, Youth Justice Action Month (YJAM) will focus on the importance of elections in the fight for Youth Justice. Throughout the country, races for everything from School Board to the Courtroom to the State House will be in high gear, and the futures of young people will be at stake!

As part of YJAM, we’re asking young people around the country to design a #VoteYouthJustice poster. Five posters will be selected by the Campaign for Youth Justice’s spokespeople and those 5 posters will be voted on by the general public. The winning poster will be used by the Campaign for Youth Justice leading up to Election Day 2018.

Here’s what you need to know to enter the contest:

  1. Young people from across the country are invited to enter the YJAM #VoteYouthJustice Poster Design Contest by designing a poster that encompasses what voting youth justice looks like to them. Make sure you include the date of the election, November 6, 2018, in your poster design!
  2. Submit your poster here by midnight on October 18, 2018. You can submit a picture of your design or an original file.
  3. The top 5 posters will be announced October 23, 2018 and voting will open to the public from October 23, 2018 through October 29, 2018.
  4. A winner will be announced on October 30, 2018.

Submit your poster via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by midnight on October 18, 2018. A PDF or JPEG file are preferred. 

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

Tuesday, 02 October 2018

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

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.”

Contact Us

Campaign for Youth Justice c/o Mindspace
1301 K Street NW, 300W
Washington, DC 20005