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California: Here’s What’s Moving in Youth Justice in 2017

Monday, 25 September 2017 Posted in Campaigns

By Abigail Appel, Juvenile Justice Fellow

Historically, children who are involved in the justice system at a young age are much more likely to be arrested again as adults. In an effort to dismantle this correlation and increase the likelihood that justice-involved youth have positive outcomes, California has recently passed a number of bills. These bills address various hurdles that make it much harder for youth with criminal records to be successful upon release. All of the bills move away from the “one size fits all” logic in order to give children better opportunities for rehabilitation and judges more leeway to determine a fair punishment.

September is #SuicidePrevention Month

Thursday, 21 September 2017 Posted in Voices

By Aprill Turner, Communications & Media Director

September is national suicide prevention month. Throughout the month, individuals and organizations alike will be drawing attention to the problem of suicide and advocating the prevention of this terrible tragedy. Suicide is a national health problem that is also one of the leading causes of preventable death in our nation. As we reflect on this month and what we can do help with prevention, we must remember a very vulnerable population-- young people in adult jails and prisons.

Guest Column: Don’t Give Up on Latinx Youth

Thursday, 14 September 2017 Posted in Voices

September 15 marks the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month, a month dedicated to celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

It also marks a dark time in our Nation’s history, where the federal government and Congress are increasingly calling for the closure of US borders; and targeting immigrant youth and families for deportation under the guise of “public safety.” This week, the US House of Representatives will vote on HR 3697, “The Criminal Alien Gang Removal Act”. If passed, the bill will create new vague and overly broad grounds of removability based on a sweeping new definition of "criminal gang," triggering racial profiling and putting the United States in violation of its international obligations to protect asylum seekers. This follows on the heels of the administration’s repeal of DACA in the next 6 months, a decision that will impact 800,000 young people and their families who have lived in this country since they were young children.

In solidarity with all the families and young people who are being unjustly targeted and in honor of National Hispanic Heritage month, we asked one of our spokespeople, Jesse De La Cruz, to write about his story and about what it means to be a justice-involved Latino youth in the United States.

I’m Jesse De La Cruz, a full-time college student and worker who grew up in the underserved community of South Central Los Angeles. I work smart and hard, both at school and work. This may be in my genes: I come from an immigrant family. My parents fled Mexico to the United States of America in the 1980’s to get opportunities towards a better life. They strongly believe in the American Dream, and so do I. But in this search for a new life, they quickly realized that the two jobs they had to work to keep up with the ever rising costs of living in our impoverished neighborhood in Los Angeles was far from the dream they had in mind.  But our family was well aware that diligence and intelligence were keys for immigrants like us, especially youth, to defeat the sad incarceration statistics that far too many immigrant youth face.  Unfortunately, I too succumbed to the gang violence, drug abuse, and crime wave that hit Los Angeles during my youth. Growing up in the Nickerson Gardens Housing Projects in Watts and South Central Los Angeles, these “activities” were sadly common. Today, as we kick off National Hispanic Heritage Month, and as a Latino youth facing increasing disenfranchisement and discrimination, it is critical for everyone to keep in mind that mass incarceration is a way of building a caste system and strip minorities from their rights; particularly immigrant youth. At the age of 15, I committed a carjacking in Los Angeles. I’m the sole responsible person for committing such regrettable hurtful act on a human; it’s a decision I will have to live with the rest of my life. I entered the Juvenile Justice system after going through a broken school system, a neglectful household, a crime-infested neighborhood, and a broken foster care system. Immediately, I realized that I committed an act on impulse and poor-decision making based on my youth; however, the court system didn’t recognize this. My probation officer recommended for me to be penalized as an adult. I was LUCKY to beat a Juvenile Fitness Hearing that determined if I would go to adult prison or a juvenile detention center; instead I was sentenced to 8 years in the California Youth Authority. As I entered this system, I quickly realized that youth here faced similar experiences of abuse growing up. There seemed to be a relation between crime and abuse. Meanwhile in the California Youth Authority, I quickly developed a love for education.

As I became involved in the justice system, I soon realized that most of the other youth in there with me had had similar experiences and trauma as mine, if not worse. The vast majority of them were also youth of color. From there, it was very easy to put the pieces together and understand how so many Latinx youth across the country wind up behind bars. Compared to white youth, Latinx youth in the juvenile system are 4% more likely to be petitioned, 16% more likely to be adjudicated delinquent, 28% more likely to be detained, and 41% more likely to receive an out-of-home placement. The most severe disparities occur for Latinx youth tried in the adult system. Latinx children are 43% more likely than white youth to be waived judicially to the adult system and 40% more likely to be admitted to adult prison. And I learned first-hand that it doesn’t get easier once you get out.

Re-entering society has been an ongoing struggle. Employment, housing, resources and support were hard to come by as I was labeled an “at-risk” youth. Racial profiling by the LA police has also been a part of my daily life since I was a kid, and it continues today as I get regularly pulled over for “routine stops” when I’m just trying to get from point A to point B with my car.

Like me, many Latinx youth have to face many hardships very early on, much more than most people ever endure in their lifetime, and end up getting in trouble because they don’t know any other way. But when offered opportunities and care, they can also accomplish amazing things and turn their lives around, like I did. Today, I am proud to stand as a young leader in my community, trying to push for reforms in the school system, policy, and community engagement. Thanks to the support of many people and organizations like the Campaign for Youth Justice, I have developed a new perspective on life and have grown a strong mental fortitude to apply in life and continue building my future.

Headed Back to School… In the Justice System

Tuesday, 05 September 2017 Posted in Voices

By Marcy Mistrett, CEO 

With the conclusion of Labor Day Weekend, summer is officially “over”—and hundreds of thousands of children return to school this week.  Across the Internet, we see families readying themselves for the year—buying school supplies, new shoes, and happily attending ‘meet your teacher days.’  Discussions on standardized tests, teachers unions, shortages in school budgets, and achievement gaps begin to fill social conversations.

After 14 Years, More Progress Still Needed on Prison Rape Elimination Act

Friday, 01 September 2017 Posted in Federal Update

By Rachel Marshall, Federal Policy Counsel

Today marks the 14th anniversary of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003, a federal statute focused on sexual assault and victimization in juvenile facilities, adult prisons, jails, lockups, and other detention facilities. In 2012, the regulations for implementation of the law were finalized and issued. One of the most critical components of the regulations is Section 115.14, the Youthful Inmate Standard, which requires agencies to avoid using isolation on youth in adult facilities in order to comply with requirements to house and keep youth and adults separate in adult facilities. A state that does not comply with the Youthful Inmate Standard and other requirements of PREA must use five percent of its designated prison funding from the Department of Justice to come into compliance with the statute.

Impact of Raise the Age on Mississippi’s juvenile courts

Thursday, 31 August 2017 Posted in Campaigns

By Josh Rovner

On July 1, 2011, Mississippi implemented Senate Bill 2969 (2010) to raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to include 17-year olds charged with most felonies. Reading old news clips confirms sense of the déjà vu for other campaigns – we’ve been here before.

Women’s Equality Day: Commemorating Progress While Fighting to Fulfill the Promise of Equality for ALL Women

Thursday, 17 August 2017 Posted in Across the Country

By Anne-Lise Vray, Communications Associate

On August 26, we celebrate Women’s Equality Day, in “commemoration of that day in 1920, on which the women of America won their right to vote, as an opportunity to continue to work for equal rights for ALL citizens.” While this is a day to celebrate and women have made many strides, we still have room for improvement to achieve equality for all. The treatment of  incarcerated girls and women in the criminal justice system is certainly one of those areas.  

International Youth Day 2017: Celebrating the Contribution of Youth to Transformation, Social Justice, and Peace

Friday, 11 August 2017 Posted in Across the Country

By Jeree Thomas, Policy Director, and Tim Klipp, Juvenile Justice Fellow

August 12, 2017 is International Youth Day. The United Nations General Assembly adopted the day by resolution in December 1999. The adoption of the day occurred nearly a decade after the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Among the rights outlined in the Convention are the right of children to stay connected to their parents when they are separated by State action, the right of children to express their views and to be heard in judicial and administrative proceedings, and the right to liberty in the criminal justice and juvenile justice context. Under Article 37 of the Convention, the use of “arrest, detention, or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time...”   The United States has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is why International Youth Day is an important time to lift up the rights, voices, and needs of youth.

Remembering Michael Brown; Police Don’t Create Safety, Communities do

Tuesday, 08 August 2017 Posted in Voices

By Aprill O. Turner, Communications Director

Today we reflect on the memory of Mike Brown, the 18-year old unarmed black teen fatally shot six times, twice in the head, by Ferguson, Mo. police officer, Darren Wilson. The 2014  shooting prompted protests across the nation for weeks. The gripping images of a blood-covered white sheet lying over the form of his motionless body for hours will forever be etched in our memories. As will the image of another black mother with tears streaming down her face grieving the loss of her son to this senseless, yet all too common scenario.Three years and many more police-involved shootings later, we ask ourselves, is this what public safety looks like in our communities?

The Youth Who Remain: Pedro Hernandez and the Youth who Remain on Rikers Island until the Implementation of the Raise the Age Law

Thursday, 27 July 2017 Posted in Voices

By Eunice Revis, Juvenile Justice Fellow, and Jeree Thomas, Policy Director

In April, Governor Cuomo signed a budget bill that included language to raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction so that the majority of 16 and 17-year olds would no longer be incarcerated, tried, or treated as adults. However, the legislation does not go into effect until October 1, 2018 for 16-year olds and October 2019 for 17-year olds. In addition, it bans the placement of youth under 18 in adult facilities by October 2018.  Finally, the law stops short of protecting all youth under age 18; it allows youth age 14 and older to still be tried as adults if they are charged with serious felonies; as is the case with Bronx Teen, Pedro Hernandez.

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