Youth Justice Action Month Blog

It's National Voter Registration Day: Let's Get Ready to #VoteYouthJustice

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

It's National Voter Registration Day: Let's Get Ready to #VoteYouthJustice

By Rachel Marshall, CFYJ Federal Policy Counsel

It seems like no matter where you turn these days, everyone is talking about the 2018 election, including the Campaign for Youth Justice. As we approach the kick off of Youth Justice Action Month in October, we’ve been focused on highlighting the issues that impact young people and why, when you head to the polls on November 6, you should #voteyouthjustice. While public safety often makes it onto the public polls and local political platforms, we spend little time re-imagining justice for our young people. In fact, three out of four people in local courtrooms—district attorneys, sheriffs, and some judges—are in elected positions. Their decisions directly affect our daily lives, especially when it comes to policing and the public safety of our most vulnerable population, our children.

This Is America: Can it be the Year to #VoteYouthJustice?

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

This Is America: Can it be the Year to #VoteYouthJustice?

By Aprill O. Turner, Communications Director

2018 has already been another year of tension in cities across the country between police officers and young black males.

The headlines of these incidents never seem to cease. In March, officers in Sacramento, Calif., opened fired and killed Stephon Clark for standing in his own backyard holding a cellphone. Then in April, Brooklyn police officers shot and killed Saheed Vassel, an unarmed black man with mental disabilities when they mistakenly mistook the pipe he was holding for a gun.

Philadelphia police officers arrested Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson in Starbucks in April for simply sitting in the store and waiting for their business partner for a meeting. And in May, a young black man, Anthony Wall — dressed in a tuxedo after having just taken his little sister to prom — was seen in a viral video getting choked by a police officer in Warsaw, N.C. at a Waffle House.

UN Committee on the Rights of the Child: No Children in the Adult Justice System Ever

Monday, 07 October 2019

UN Committee on the Rights of the Child: No Children in the Adult Justice System Ever

On October 8, 2019, Independent Expert Manfred Nowak presented his Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty to the United Nations Generally Assembly, which had requested the study five years earlier. The ambitious attempt to comprehensively chronicle the various ways in which children throughout the world are deprived of their freedom and separated from their families naturally ran into problems with missing or incomplete data, but its recommendations provide a good roadmap for reforms countries like the United States should be pursuing, such as ending the prosecution of all children under age 14.

This study comes as the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the international body overseeing implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, is releasing a General Comment (General Comment #24), providing its expert guidance on the rights of children in justice systems. It makes a strong recommendation for keeping all children entirely out of the adult system.

The CRC uses terminology that is somewhat different from what we use in the USA. For example, preferring “non-stigmatizing language”, the CRC uses the term “child justice system” instead of “juvenile justice system”.  And “criminal responsibility” at the CRC refers to any judicial proceedings, whether in adult or child justice systems.

Thus, when the Comment recommends a “minimum age of criminal responsibility”, it is referring to the minimum age below which children should not be subjected to any criminal legal process in either adult or child justice systems. Such children should instead always benefit from diversion and other positive interventions. The Comment clarifies that: “Children at or above the minimum age at the time of the commission of an offence but younger than 18 years can be formally charged and subject to child justice procedures.

The Comment recommends that states set this minimum age of criminal responsibility at 14. This updates a previous General Comment (General Comment #10), published in 2007, that set this minimum age at just 12.

No U.S. state currently meets this standard (or even the previous standard). In 33 U.S. states, there is no set lower age below which a child cannot be adjudicated for "delinquent" conduct. Eleven states (AR, CO, KS, LA, MN, MS, PA, SD, TX, VT, WI) set a lower age of 10, while the others that have set ages, have set them at 6, 7, or 8 years old. None sets the age at 14.

General Comment #24 is also unequivocal that no child under 18 should ever be tried as an adult, and insists that states that do so should change their laws:

The child justice system should apply to all children above the minimum age of criminal responsibility but below the age of 18 years at the time of the commission of the offence.”

States parties which … allow by way of exception that certain children are treated as adult offenders (for example, because of the offence category), should change their laws to ensure a non-discriminatory full application of their child justice system to all persons under the age of 18 years at the time of the offence…”

No U.S. state meets this standard either. Every state has a mechanism to transfer children to the adult justice system. In fact, over half the states (30) maintain laws that allow children under 14 to be transferred to adult criminal court.

Keeping children out of adult court, and keeping children under 14 out of any criminal proceedings, are great and ambitious recommendations from the UN committee overseeing the most widely ratified human rights treaty in existence. The Convention on the Rights of the Child has been ratified by every country on earth – except the United States.

This fact should not, however, deter us in the USA from using these recommendations as goals to move towards. At the Campaign for Youth Justice, getting and keeping all children under 18 out of the adult justice system is our goal too, and we are excited to see that reflected in this important human rights document.

CFYJ Presents: Peace & Hope Design Contest

Monday, 23 September 2019

CFYJ Presents: Peace & Hope Design Contest

As part of Youth Justice Action Month we’re asking young people & those who have been impacted by laws that sentence youth as adults to help design our annual holiday card encompassing the theme of “Peace & Justice.” There is a prize and bragging rights! 

Get Your Candidates Talking About Youth Justice

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

By Rachel Marshall, Federal Policy Counsel

We’re a little less than 5 months away from 2018’s crucial midterm elections, but before we can get there, states across the country are voting in packed primary elections. Here at the Campaign for Youth Justice, we’re using this opportunity to make sure local communities are getting out to vote and getting their local candidates to talk about youth justice. That’s why we were thrilled to hear Pod Save the People host DeRay McKesson talk to two out of the three candidates for Baltimore State’s Attorney on a recent episode of the podcast ahead of Maryland’s June 26 primary election (he invited all three candidates, but the third candidate did not respond).

Is 2018 the Year of Women in Politics?

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

By Jill Ward, Senior Advocacy Consultant, Youth First Initiative

“We're half the people; we should be half the Congress.” - Jeannette Rankin of Montana, first woman to hold federal office in the United States

That was the vision of the first woman elected to Congress in 1916, four years before the 19th amendment secured (white) women’s right to vote and another 45 years before African American men and women were able to exercise their right to vote.

We are not there yet, but 2018 promises to be a seminal year for women in politics. Today, there are 84 women in the House of Representatives and 23 in the Senate – roughly 20% of the Congress. Of the 107 women serving in Congress, 38, or 35.5%, are women of color. An improvement over time, but still far from half the Congress.

Justice, Fairness, and Power: Why District Attorney Races Matter on Ballots in 2018

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

By Gianna Nitti, Public Interest Communications and State Campaigns Fellow

In our country one of the elected officials that holds the most power, and often for long terms, is the District Attorney (alternative titles include commonwealth's attorney in Kentucky and Virginia, state's or county attorney in Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Vermont, and circuit solicitor in South Carolina). DA’s have a crucial role in the criminal justice system – they are responsible for deciding whether or not to prosecute a case and the level of charges and sentences that they are going to pursue.

Unfortunately, 85 percent of DA’s run unopposed, and there are many who have “tough-on-crime” beliefs, which are increasingly being promoted by the likes of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. These beliefs have a negative impact on those who come in contact with the criminal justice system, especially youth, as well as on public safety through higher recidivism rates.

The Importance of Women’s Engagement in Our Political Process

Wednesday, 07 March 2018

By Gianna Nitti, Public Interest Communications and State Campaigns Fellow

March celebrates International Women’s Day, a time where we collectively take a look around the world and throughout history to recognize the groundbreaking social, economic, cultural and political contributions of women to our country and the world. Ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, CFYJ is looking at where and how women in our country are serving in elected office, especially in positions that can benefit youth justice, as well as potential for increased engagement in this regard.

Of the roughly 42,000 elected offices in the United States, from the presidency down to local offices, women hold about 12,180 positions, or 29% of these positions.

Elected officials are instrumental in creating and implementing laws that govern our towns, cities, counties, states, and country. When our elected officials do not represent the backgrounds and experiences of their constituents, critical issues that impact those who are unrepresented are pushed to the wayside and forgotten. When women and minorities are left out of the conversation, our progression forward into the future stalls, and we fall behind as a nation.


Vote Local: #VoteYouthJustice

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

By Marcy Mistrett, CEO

Justice is local and voting matters. The health of a democracy rests on the ability and interest of its citizens to vote. Yet, the U.S. history on voting rights is spotty.

The Campaign for Youth Justice joins the many other national organizations and movements in calling for our local communities to come out and VOTE in local elections; because voting for youth justice matters.

While public safety often makes it onto the public polls and local political platforms, we spend a lot less time reimagining justice for our young people. However, by getting local candidates to talk about youth justice as part of their platforms—we can hold them accountable to a more fair and balanced justice system.

YouthJustice, Inc.: Using Legal Education to Disrupt the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Monday, 30 October 2017

By Dionna Y. Shinn, Esq., Founder, CEO of Youth Justice, Inc.

Currently, youth around the country face unprecedented challenges in schools. The creation of zero-tolerance discipline policies, increased police presence in the form of School Resource Officers (SROs), excessive suspensions for minor infractions and misuse of expulsions have created an antagonistic and intimidating education environment. Youth find themselves treated more like punitively controlled agents, rather than students in need of academic and socio-emotional support. These occurrences have created a disturbing movement known as the School-to-Prison Pipeline.

Businesses Building a Better Way for Formerly Incarcerated Youth

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

By Rachel Kenderdine, Operations & Human Resources Manager

This week, as a part of October’s Youth Justice Action Month (YJAM), we are celebrating Alternative Pathways out of the adult system. For many youth prosecuted and incarcerated in the adult criminal justice system, life after release is challenging. Adult criminal charges can often act as a prison sentence, even once youth are no longer behind bars—opportunities to get a job, especially one with a livable wage, to attend college, and even to find housing are limited, since many establishments will not even consider an applicant if they have a past felony charge. Since 90% of incarcerated youth return home before their 25th birthday, these young people often feel that their hopes for a future are dashed before they have a chance to show their potential.

Should Troubled Teens Go to Wilderness Programs or Boot Camps?

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Should Troubled Teens Go to Wilderness Programs or Boot Camps?

This blog was originally posted on Multisystemic Therapy' Services's website. We are reposting it with their authorization. 

If you're thinking of sending your teen to a wilderness program or boot camp, think twice.

It's not uncommon for an overwhelmed parent to say, “I need to send him [or her] someplace else.” Whether a young person is running away, refusing to attend school, using drugs or is involved in crime, many parents come to believe military-style boot camps or wilderness programs are the only options left. Heavily marketed and popularized in the 1990s, some parents see boot camps as the way to send a clear message to their kids that their behavior will no longer be tolerated.

Girls' Justice Day

Friday, 20 October 2017

Girls' Justice Day

By Cherice Hopkins, Esq. and Hayley Carlisle

Today is Girls’ Justice Day, a day during Youth Justice Action Month that serves as a reminder to uplift and reflect on the unique experiences of girls in the juvenile justice system. It is particularly significant that Girls’ Justice Day also takes place during Domestic Violence Awareness Month because for most justice-involved girls, their paths into the juvenile justice system begin with abuse. 


Tuesday, 17 October 2017


Let’s break the chains of the black youth’s mind

So that they will remain devine

We were never monkeys swinging from vines

So never look down on own kind

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Campaign for Youth Justice
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