Alliance for Youth Justice
Sponsored by the Campaign for Youth Justice
› From Our Perspective
› We Believe
› Platform for Change
› The Work of the National Parent Caucus
Click here for testimony from parents whose children have been subject to the adult criminal justice system.
From Our Perspective [return to top]
The nation’s juvenile justice system has proven to be broken and ineffective in handling the children that have come through its doors. Over the past decade reform initiatives have made limited progress in overcoming the bureaucracies and long held beliefs that somehow locking up children will solve the problems that are faced by poor children and primarily children of color. The nation’s leaders, with rare exceptions, have chosen to build prisons and detention centers at an alarming pace and created new laws and policies to put children into adult jails and prisons, despite the fact that years of research shows this to be ineffective and in fact, dangerous and counterproductive if our goal is for children to become happy, well-adjusted and successful adults.
For all of the wrongs that exist within the juvenile justice system, one in particular is a glaring and unforgivable policy. Systems nationwide often ignore, separate and blame families of the children. This policy has alienated families from their own children, leaving an already vulnerable population ever more powerless. It is these voices we seek to bring to the forefront of the reform movement of juvenile justice.
While reform advocates and some system administrators see pieces of the whole and seek to bring change to the system, only families see the whole and seek the kind of change that promises systemic and holistic change that can sustain policy change in the long run and bring long-lasting resolution for our children. It is with this mind that we come together as families and allies, from all walks of life, to create a caucus to elevate the voices of those most affected by the juvenile justice system.
We Believe [return to top]
We are the experts on our children.
That all children are valuable and therefore should be given the best we can offer in terms of help and resources.
That we are stronger together and can make a difference if we stand as one in solidarity on a collective set of principles.
That effective and lasting reform can’t exist without the voices and experiences of our families and children.
That system transparency is crucial for accountability and to create measureable successful outcomes that are not dependent on statistics but instead on the well-being of our children.
That children of color are over-represented in the juvenile justice system and that they fare worse at every point in the system from arrest to disposition and incarceration. It is past time to address this and put proven methods in place to end disproportionate minority contact.
That children should be given community and evidence-based services and that funding should be diverted from expensive and ineffective prisons, detention centers and lock-ups into the kind of programs and services that meet high-quality standards and allow children to do well.
That there seem to be two systems of justice in this country; one that serves children of privilege and allows them to receive the care and services that help children grow healthy and strong and a second for poor children and/or children of color, a system that cages children, blames families and ignores the root causes of delinquent behavior.
Platform for Change [return to top]
As parents, families, allies and loved ones of the nearly 2.2 million children that are arrested each year in the US, we are many, and there is no uncertainty of the need for serious change in a system plagued with abuse, neglect, poor outcomes for our children and our communities and scandals, each worse than the one before. In our collective experiences, we have witnessed the serious and sometimes deadly consequences of the system on our children. With these experiences in mind we put forth the following platform of change.
1. Federal, state and local lawmakers should enact policies that include families and youth in all matters pertaining to juvenile justice.
2. Families and youth should be engaged, included and valued participants at all juvenile justice decision-making tables.
3. Child advocacy organizations should provide families with their expertise on what problems exist within the system and educate families on best practice and evidence-based programming.
4. The millions spent on building and maintaining large wasteful institutions should be eliminated and funding should be expanded for evidence-based best practices.
5. Transparency should become a mainstay of all juvenile justice systems. Transparency must include the collection of accurate data, clear maps of where money is spent and on what, recidivism rates for all programming, outcomes of all programming, and a way that allows for the input of children and families in the evaluation process.
The Work of the Alliance for Youth Justice [return to top]
At the Campaign for Youth Justice, we believe that it will take grassroots campaigns across the country to change the flawed and ineffective policies and mandates that have driven decision-makers for far too long. The misinformation, myths and media hype that have propelled states to enact tougher penalties that have failed miserably must now be confronted with accurate research and the firsthand accounts of those who have suffered from such ignorance.
The Alliance for Youth Justice is a space in which families can come together for support, information and to share ideas. Through this network of families and allies we envision a place for families to give and receive information and experiences, to learn about what works, what doesn’t, what has been tried and succeeded and what has failed. It will be a place to find resources and support and to make strategic decisions about what actions to take to achieve our goals.
The Alliance for Youth Justice hosts monthly calls among parents, families and allies to share information about the juvenile justice system and the reform efforts. We have a database of families and allies as well as contact information list for all who wish to participate. With the help of a database we will then be able to disseminate information in a timely way to those who need it most. Families will also have access to the latest news and developments pertaining to best practices within juvenile justice and updates on other grassroots efforts for reform.
A volunteer committee will be established within the Alliance for Youth Justice to provide support and resources to families currently involved in the system. Through our experiences it has become clear that we can’t expect families to become a part of reform efforts without first providing them with support and resources from which they can begin to advocate on behalf of their own children. It is simply not enough to bring families into the reform efforts; we must share our expertise so that families find their own voice and become empowered to share that voice.
The Alliance for Youth Justice is a clearinghouse of information for parents needing specific information and support for their individual needs as well as linking them to a larger movement focused on making change in their communities, their states and on the national level. The efforts of reform will benefit from the growing body of knowledge within the Alliance for Youth Justice and from the energy and experience of families and youth throughout the nation.
The Campaign for Youth Justice will bring its wealth of expertise to families and youth through technical assistance and guidance. By providing educational materials, successful campaign tools and skills to families and youth, the Campaign seeks to build a larger movement of reformists and family experts on juvenile justice issues.
It is the hope and the belief of the Campaign that families will get involved in an effort to help their own children and stay involved in the longer-term organizing reform efforts, thereby adding to number of family experts available to discuss and educate the public on this issue. We also have witnessed the deeper involvement and engagement of families and allies take place when they have been empowered and given the proper tools for success. The initial work done within the caucus then provides tools for the undertaking of other issues important to families, such as the school-to-prison pipeline, poverty, lack of opportunities in poor communities, systemic racism, disproportionate minority contact, poor education systems, lack of accountability among government officials and the targeting of poor and/or children of color for the criminal justice system, just to name a few. This Alliance intends to serve as both an empowerment environment and transformational educational experience that lends to people organizing themselves for the good of their communities.
Activities [return to top]
1. Create and disseminate widely a collective set of principles that ensure the improvement of our children’s lives in the juvenile and criminal justice systems.
2. Provide support, information and assistance for the individual needs of families and their children.
3. Provide support, technical assistance, strategic planning and execution of grassroots efforts for reform.
4. Create a clearinghouse of useful and timely materials on juvenile justice issues and events.
5. Engage families in juvenile justice issues on the local level and include them in activities related to federal legislation in the best interest of all children.