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15 Years of Impact: How We Won

Dear Friends,

Thank you for visiting the archives of our website. The Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) officially closed on December 31, 2020, but this website remains for you to use as a resource.

Our efforts at CFYJ over the past 15 years have been a WIN for the field, and for tens of thousands of young people (who are under the age of 18) and their families across the country, who are no longer automatically prosecuted, sentenced or incarcerated in the adult criminal justice system.

Some of our the achievements included:

  • A 70% drop in youth prosecuted as adults! When we opened, 250,000 children a year were prosecuted as adults, by 2015 (the most recent national data available), that number had fallen to 76,000 and doesn’t include data from 6 states who have since raised the age of criminal responsibility;
  • Dramatically fewer youth in adult facilities. There were 10,000 children every night sleeping in adult jails and prisons in 2000—there are now (2018, most recent national data) less than 3,500—and CFYJ’s efforts at the federal level, including enactment of the Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act and the Prison Rape Elimination Act’s Youthful Inmate Standard, can help states get to ZERO;
  • 40 states and DC (more than 80% of the country) have changed over 100 laws to make it harder to send children to adult court;
  • 22 states have made it more difficult to treat children as if they were adults by narrowing or ending their automatic transfer laws [by returning discretion to judges, eliminating the youngest youth from eligibility, and eliminating pathways to the adult system];
    And as a field, we have permanently closed the door to the adult system for more than 100,000 children every year by RAISING THE AGE of criminal responsibility to 18 in 11 states. A number we expect to grow exponentially by 2021 when data becomes available from the 4 states that implemented reforms in 2019;

The work to keep children out of the adult criminal justice system will continue, but it will look different. While the campaign has closed, robust action will continue on a state by state basis. The work will continue in these ways:

  • Working as a project of The Sentencing Project in 2021, to help state campaigns close to a win, move through another legislative session and to transfer the knowledge of building successful campaigns. These key state campaigns include: GA, IN, MD, TX, and PA;
  • Encouraging the funding community investing in racial justice issues locally to also embrace as a priority ending the practice of charging, sentencing and incarcerating youth in the adult system. Youth of color, particularly African American youth, continue to bear the burden of these harmful policies. We are calling on funders to invest in the 8 states that still transfer more than 200 youth a year (AL, AZ, FL, MD, IN,NE, OH, and PA), or the 3 that have yet to raise the age to 18 (GA, TX, WI).
  • Focusing federal dollars and technical support to ensure that the Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act (2018) is fully funded and implemented including youth in the following 7 states are removed from adult jails pre-trial, as all these states currently presume youth placement in adult jails: AL, CT, FL, ID, IN, KS, MS. 

The Campaign is grateful to the families and impacted youth, state allies and advocates, system stakeholders, federal and state legislators across the aisle, researchers, and funders who have joined this movement. Together we did it!

For any additional information, please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

In Solidarity,
Marcy Mistrett
The Campaign For Youth Justice