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Articles tagged with: Juvenile Justice

SCOTUS Rules Miller retroactive: Continues articulating that ‘kids are different’

Wednesday, 27 January 2016 Posted in 2016, Federal Update

By Carmen Daugherty, CFYJ Policy Director

In the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court’s Miller v. Alabama decision, the Court found that a mandatory sentence of life without possibility of parole is unconstitutional under the 8th Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment when applied to those who are under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes.  This decision followed several 8th Amendment decisions acknowledging the lesser culpability of youth offenders, including banning the death penalty for youth, and banning life without possibility of parole for youth who commit non-homicide offenses.

This week, the Supreme Court ruled Miller retroactive in Montgomery v. Louisiana. Thus, those youth sentenced to die in prison prior to the Miller decision will now be given a chance at review and possibly parole. Henry Montgomery, who at the age of 17 was convicted of murdering a sheriff, was sentenced to life without the possibility in parole.  “The sentence was automatic upon the jury’s verdict, so Montgomery had no opportunity to present mitigation evidence to justify a less severe sentence. That evidence might have included Montgomery’s young age at the time of the crime; expert testimony regarding his limited capacity for foresight, self-discipline, and judgment; and his potential for rehabilitation.”

The Court noted in Miller that youth are prone to recklessness, immaturity, irresponsibility, more vulnerable to peer pressure, less able to avoid negative environments, and more amenable to rehabilitation than adults and therefore punishment should be “graduated and proportioned” not only to the offense but also to the offender. The Court punctuated these concerns with what it calls a “foundational principle: that imposition of a State’s most severe penalties on juvenile offenders cannot proceed as though they were not children.” In the Court’s Montgomery decision, these foundational principles continued to influence the court’s 6-3 decision.  

For a further analysis and full opinions, see here.  

Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere

Marcy Mistrett Sunday, 17 January 2016 Posted in 2016, Across the Country

image1 6

By Marcy Mistrett, CFYJ CEO

The anniversary of Rev Martin Luther King Junior’s birthday presents us with a call of action to get involved in local, state and federal campaigns to end the prosecution, sentencing and incarceration of youth in the adult criminal justice system.

The injustices presented by youth being treated as adults in the criminal justice system are plentiful and continually positions the United States as an outlier in preserving the human rights of children. Several of the most egregious injustices include:
 
  • Treating children as though they are mini adults:  Research has proven that childrens’ brains handle decision-making, impulsivity, and causal relationships differently from adults.  Furthermore, they show great capacity to change. Not taking these differences into account is a gross injustice to our children.
  • Failing to provide children with appropriate protections at their arrest and during trial.  Children who are charged as adults are not afforded the protections of having their parents or guardians present during police interrogation.  Research has demonstrated that youth are much more likely to sign confessions, admit guilt, and feed law enforcement the answers that “they want” in order to go home. Despite having the greatest influence and support for their children, parents are often times left out of the equation which rehabilitation is considered.    
  • Treating children differently based on their race and ethnicity.  Children of color are much more likely to be prosecuted, sentenced and incarcerated as adults than their white counterparts.   These disparities are gross and unacceptable (African American youth are 9 times more likely to be sentenced to adult prison than white children for the same crimes; latino youth are 4 times more likely; and Tribal youth are nearly twice as likely).
  • Incarcerating children in adult facilities.  Children charged and sentenced as adults are housed in adult facilities.  They have very little access to developmentally appropriate education, mental health, substance abuse, or vocational services.  Rather, children are often held in solitary confinement to “protect” them from the adult population, isolating them 20-22 hours/day.
  • Punishing children the rest of their lives for poor decisions made in their childhood.  We know that a critical aspect of adolescence is learning to make good decisions; and having the opportunity to right the wrongs we make.  Children who are sentenced as adults carry their conviction the rest of their lives. 

For the past decade, the Campaign for Youth Justice has partnered with states, advocates, and impacted youth and families to challenge these practices.  We have seen the impact that unified voices can have in challenging injustices.  In fact, in the past ten years, 30 states have changed nearly 50 laws making it more difficult to prosecute, sentence and incarcerate children in the adult criminal justice system.

As we enter the 2016 legislative session, we encourage you to get involved in the local, state or federal campaigns that challenge this practice.  Legislation has already been introduced in Florida, Michigan, Missouri, New York, and South Carolina.  We expect several other states to introduce legislation in upcoming weeks to decrease the number of youth entering the adult criminal justice system.  We can only change these laws if communities are willing to stand for justice, and we need your help.

There are many ways to take a stand against injustice:

  • Sign on to your local campaign’s listserve to stay abreast of progress;
  • Call or tweet policymakers to show your support for reform;
  • Leverage your networks to learn more about this issue—host a discussion in your home, or community center, or house of faith to share with others the injustices being harbored against our youth;
  • Raise your voice in support—offer to write op eds or letters to the editor to call on policymakers to do what is right for children.

Justice is a fight well worth fighting for.  In the great words of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”  We hope to gain your support during this legislative session. For more information contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Congress Passes Education Reform for Justice-involved Youth; Next up—Comprehensive JJ Reform

Friday, 11 December 2015 Posted in 2015, Federal Update

ESSA

 By Jenny Collier, Chris Scott, and Marcy Mistrett

Yesterday, President Obama took a step toward improves access to quality education for young people involved in and returning from the juvenile justice system by signing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law, a bill that reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). 

Established in 1965 as part of the war on poverty ESEA has provided services to schools, communities, and neglected and  low-income children over the decades.  Title 1, aimed at improving outcomes for disadvantaged children as well as the primary source of federal funding for schools and districts, has been the cornerstone of the Act. Title 1, Part D was established to provide prevention and intervention programs for children and youth who are neglected, delinquent or at risk of dropping out of school.  Part D was created in part to help ensure that the educational needs of youth who come in contact with the law are addressed, since these young people often are behind in school, have higher rates of learning differences from the general population, and can fall behind in their education during periods of detention and reentry. To help address these educational needs, Title 1, part D provides funding for state agencies and districts to assist in the educational transition of students from correctional systems back to their home communities to help ensure that they get access to the same quality education as provided in the local community.

New provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Law will help improve the success of youth involved in the juvenile justice system and strengthen their reentry outcomes by providing increased access to education and supports upon reentry. Under the reauthorized and improved law, states receiving Title 1, Part D funding for prevention and intervention programs for children and youth who are neglected, delinquent or at risk, must promote:

1. Smoother education transitions for youth entering juvenile justice facilities, including records transfer, better planning and coordination of education between facilities and local education agencies, and educational assessment upon entry into a correctional facility, when practicable;

2.  Stronger reentry supports for youth returning to the community, including requiring education planning, credit transfer, and timely re-enrollment in appropriate educational placements for youth transitioning between correctional facilities and local educational agencies and programs, and requiring correctional facilities receiving funds under the law to coordinate educational services with local educational agencies so as to minimize education disruption;

3. Opportunities for youth to earn credits in secondary, postsecondary, or career/technical programming, and requiring transfer of secondary credits to the home school district upon reentry;

4. Prioritizing achievement of a regular high school diploma not just a GED;

5. Supportive services for youth who have had contact with both the juvenile justice and child welfare systems.

These critical provisions fill significant gaps in the existing education law that will complement pending reentry and education reforms and provisions in the proposed Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) reauthorization bill; hopefully the next bill to get passed that supports justice involved youth.

Jenny Collier is Project Director of the Robert F. Kennedy Juvenile Justice Collaborative, a joint youth reentry policy project of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps.

Chris Scott is a senior policy analyst at the Open Society Foundation, where he advocates for criminal, civil and racial justice.

Marcy Mistrett is CEO at the Campaign for Youth Justice that advocates for the removal of youth from the adult criminal justice system, and co-chair of the Act-4-JJ initiative that advances the reauthorization of the JJDPA.

Giving Thanks

Marcy Mistrett Thursday, 26 November 2015 Posted in 2015, CFYJ Updates

Gratitude

As I reflect on the upcoming holidays, I am struck by how much gratitude is shared among juvenile justice reformers.

  • For the young people who courageously and repeatedly share their very personal stories in public—on paper, in the news, through blogs, in tweets, on panels and through imagery and artwork.  Your truth—often raw and trauma filled-- and yet, always hopeful about the possibility that tomorrow might be different.  Grateful that you have courage that most adults would never have nor be expected to share; you are changing the dialogue.
  • For the legislators who say “we are better than this”—and who make bold policy step--whether that is raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 21; calling for the end of solitary confinement for our young people; or committing to end the racial disparities that are so pervasive in our ‘just-us’ systems. Thank you; doing what’s right is often more important than what is possible.
  • To the family members who show up. Again and again. To labor through another legislative session; another promise for bipartisan reform; another year of trying to make children a legislative priority. While their own children sit, behind bars, far away from family support, hugs, and holidays. Grateful that you keep fighting when we know how tired you must be.
  • To the system administrators, and judges, and law enforcement who stand against the tide and remind us that these are OUR children.  For not taking away family visits as punishment; for pushing to close facilities knowing children need to be raised in families and communities; for citing “love” as a policy goal; for a willingness to turn over power; for acknowledging that harm is being done, we give you thanks. 
  • To the philanthropists who take risks, fund innovation, push for documentation and research. Who fund the unpopular and risky; that invest in tomorrow with dollars today. Who use their platforms to call for the closure of youth prisons; or transformative justice; or ending the practice of criminalizing children. We are grateful that you fill gaps; shout loudly; study, educate, and learn.
  • To the advocates—who never rest, who are often unsung heroes, behind the scenes tinkering. Who fight boldly and strategically to make the world better for our children and communities. Who think outside the box, who build from the community up and educate from policymakers down.  Who turn one dollar into fifty; and who achieve the “unbelievable.”  We are grateful for your impatience, unwillingness to compromise for children, for tolling the moral line, and reminding us all that these children are OUR future.

Honored to work among you—in this short year alone, on the one issue of removing youth from the adult criminal justice system you have introduced more than 20 bills, changed 7 state laws, educated hundreds of policymakers, moved the national dialogue, championed 13 bipartisan supporters on a federal bill, changed thousands of youth lives, made a difference. #Gratitude.

Marcy Mistrett
CEO
Campaign for Youth Justice

 

Reducing Recidivism and Improving Other Outcomes for Young Adults in the Juvenile and Adult Criminal Justice Systems

Council of State Governments Justice Center Tuesday, 24 November 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center has just released Reducing Recidivism and Improving Other Outcomes for Young Adults in the Juvenile and Adult Criminal Justice Systems, an issue brief designed to help state and local officials better support young adults in the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems. Research has shown that young adults ages 18 to 24 stand out as a distinct developmental group with heightened impulsive behavior, risk taking, and poor decision making; and many young adults are disconnected from school and work. These factors increase the odds that a young adult might come into contact with the justice system. Of course, the majority of young adults are not involved in any criminal activity, and those young adults who have committed a crime most often have committed a minor offense. Still, young adults drive a disproportionately large share of criminal justice activity and therefore should be an important focus of juvenile and adult justice systems alike. 

This issue brief describes young adults’ distinct needs and summaries the limited research available on what works to address these needs. In addition, recommendations are provided for steps that policymakers, juvenile and adult criminal justice agency leaders, researchers, and the field can take to improve outcomes for these young people. For more information about the brief or the CSG Justice Center’s work on young adults, please contact Emily Morgan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Youth in Adult System at Highest Risk of Early Death

Nils Franco, CFYJ Intern Tuesday, 17 November 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

Written by Nils Franco, CFYJ Intern

Mortality rates at each stage of the juvenile justice system compared with transferred youth and the general population
A new study calls for preventive approaches on youth crime after examining mortality rates for youth offenders. The study finds that long-term early mortality rates are highest among youth in the adult criminal justice system.

The article, published Thursday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, examines mortality under the scope of various socioeconomic factors and the severity of justice-system involvement – for instance, whether the youth was tried as an adult or simply arrested.

The study is the largest-scale effort to examine the link between the severity of involvement and youth offender mortality rates. Across race and gender, youth at each higher level of involvement have a greater mortality rate in the time span studied.

To obtain these findings, the study’s authors tracked the records of almost 50,000 youth offenders (that is, people arrested under the age of 18) in Marion County, Indiana, over the course of more than a decade. Of the sample of youth offenders, 518 died during the study period. The most common causes of death for these deceased – homicide, suicide, and overdose – are indicative of troubles that haunt young offenders into adulthood.
 The causes of death among arrested, detained, incarcerated, or transferred youth.

The authors broke up their sample into four groups: youth who were only arrested, youth detained pre-trial but never incarcerated, youth incarcerated in the juvenile system, and youth transferred to the adult system. Overall, these young offenders’ mortality rates measured 48% higher than the rates of the general community over the study period.

With each increment in justice-system involvement, mortality rates increased: mortality rates for youth detained pre-trial measured 83% higher than arrested youth, incarcerated youth mortality measured 140% higher than arrested youth mortality, and transferred youth mortality rates measured 247% higher than the rates of arrested youth.

The study corroborates another disturbing trend in racial disparity: black youth represent 47% of Marion County’s youth arrests, though only 28% of the county is black. That disparity grows at each level of involvement, from 47% in arrests, to 52% in pre-trial detention, to 58% in juvenile prison, to 68% in transfers to the adult court. Notably, adult-system involvement represents the greatest jump in the gap between black youth and white youth.

The proportion of youth who are black in each stage of the juvenile justice system compared with the general population.

The limited data prevents the study’s authors from drawing conclusions about the role of the justice system’s treatment of youth in these outcomes, but the authors still call for more evidenced-based practices to lower crime and improve violence prevention services for youth in detention centers. Past studies have suggested a causative link between sentencing youth to adult prison and future criminal behavior.

 

DISTRICT 13: STAND UP FOR YOUTH JUSTICE!

Friday, 13 November 2015 Posted in 2015

LINK- http://goo.gl/forms/wUFplr1A7C

d 13

The Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) is happy to partner with the Elite Group of Rebels for the District 13 Scavenger Hunt!

Thank you for visiting us. 

A little about us... research—and common sense—tell us that kids are different than adults. They aren't permitted to vote, drive a car, get drafted, buy alcohol and more because society has deemed them too young to handle these incredible responsibilities. Despite these facts, the U.S. continues to be a global outlier by treating our kids like adults in the criminal justice system. In 23 states, kids as young as age 7 are allowed to be prosecuted as adults.

That’s why CFYJ believes that kids should be treated like kids who are worth more than their worst decision, and that holding them accountable means we do so in developmentally appropriate ways. 

We advocate for kids to be treated like kids, and not be locked up in dangerous facilities made to punish adults.
 
Thank you for checking us out. Feel free to follow us on Twitter @justiceforyouth, also shout us out with the hashtag, #YouthJustice
 
Happy Hunting!

NEW REPORT on the Impact of the 2012 Colorado Reforms and Recommendations

Sheryl Dublin, American University Law Student, CFYJ Intern Thursday, 12 November 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

Witten by Sheryl Dublin, American University Law Student, CFYJ Intern

Colorado Juvenile Defender Center (CJDC) recently released Justice Redirected: The Impact of Reducing the Prosecution of Children as Adults in Colorado and the Continuing Need for Sentencing Reform. This report provides a look into the reality of Colorado’s criminal justice and juvenile justice systems since the State’s progressive juvenile and criminal reforms.  Data from April 2012 to April 2015 were collected and analyzed to determine the impacts. This special report is beyond just an update, but an elaborate capture of the progress the State has made. It also lists recommendations for the Legislature to consider in its continued commitment to youth.
 

Colorado’s criminal and juvenile laws, as they pertain to children, have gone through several changes throughout the last four decades.  Laws in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, expanded the number of children that could be prosecuted as adults. The age of children eligible to be tried as adults was also lowered. Most notably, in 1993, Colorado enacted a “direct-file” statute that made it substantially easier to try a child in adult court. The direct-file provision gave Colorado prosecutors the original and final authority in deciding under which jurisdiction to prosecute a child—the criminal justice system or the juvenile justice system. This prosecutorial discretion drastically increased the number of children incarcerated in adult prisons during 1994-2002 from three children to 265.

From 2008 to 2012, adamant advocacy by CJDC and other reformists prompted these statutory changes. Among the reforms, of which Colorado can proudly boast, include the removal of several crimes from direct-file eligibility; the ability of a child to request a case be returned to juvenile court; and the raise in age from 14 to 16 for direct-file eligibility. The new report details each of the relevant reforms that changed the State’s juvenile code in 2012.

CJDC was determined to study the impact of those reforms thus far. And, in addition to these statistical findings, the report also discusses some supplemental findings. The data collected from April 2012 to April 2015 in Colorado reveal twelve key findings:
 

1.      Fewer children are detained in adult jails while awaiting trial. Pre-trial detention has dropped 99%.

2.      Fewer children are tried as adults. The number of children prosecuted in adult court dropped from 27 in 2012 to just six in April, 2015.

3.      The gender disparity is substantial. Boys make up 98% of the children that prosecutors direct-file in adult court.

4.      The average age of children direct-file prosecuted is 17.54. The youngest child to be prosecuted since 2012 was 13 when the alleged offense was committed and 14 at the time that charges were filed.

5.      Racial disparities have not improved. From 2012 to 2013, 30% of the children direct-filed were Black and 27% were Hispanic. This is up from 2004-2008, when 16% were Black and 18% were Hispanic. The demographic has roughly been 4.4% Black and 21.2% Hispanic. (The percentage for the Hispanic ethnicity is difficult to calculate because Hispanic children are often identified as “white” without the input of the child or the child’s family.)

6.      Only 16 of the 68 Colorado counties have prosecuted children. Though the 16 counties have roughly similar populations, Adams County, Douglas County, Denver County, and El Paso County accounted for 75% of these cases.

7.      Most of the cases tried in adult court were for serious offenses: homicide, robbery, assault or kidnapping. Many reformists urge that direct-file be reserved for the most egregious cases. Prior to reforms, only 12% of the cases were for homicide. In 2012, this serious offense made up 37% of all cases.

8.      Prosecutorial discretion leads to the criminal prosecution of children at a far greater rate than that of judicial discretion. Eighty-three percent of juvenile cases tried in adult court were direct-filed, whereas, only 17% were transferred by court order, or by “judicial-transfer”.

9.      Only 23 of the 79 children tried as adults actually went to a hearing before a judicial officer. This seems to counter the idea that direct-filing will lead to lengthy hearings.

10.  Most children enter plea deals. Children are faced with the possible imposition of sentences that had been originally contemplated for adults. Sixty-five perfect of cases resulted in plea deals from 2012 to 2015. Often children plea out to avoid the possibility of long and harsh criminal sanctions.

11.  Most children convicted as adults have been incarcerated in adult facilities. Some of these facilities include the Youthful Offender Service (YOS) which provides for Department of Corrections’ inmates that are ages 14 to 25. Only eight percent of direct-filed children were sentenced to serve time in adult facilities that do not include YOS.

12.  Those children sentenced to YOS were convicted on serious offenses. Out of the 41 cases in which juveniles were sentenced to YOS, 31 were convicted of a Class 2 or Class 3 felony, 18 convicted on homicide charges, and 10 were found guilty for robbery.

In sum, Colorado has seen some impressive changes over the past three years. The State’s policies are not perfect and are still in need of reform, but the results are very promising. As the 2012 report, “Re-Directing Justice: The Consequences of Prosecuting Children as Adults and the Need for Judicial Oversight,” was very successful in influencing change, CFYJ is confident that Colorado will consider the policy recommendations offered in the new report.

Some of these recommendations include raising the age of eligibility for judicial transfer from 12 to 14; creating a uniform sentencing statute for children convicted as adults; collecting complete data for future analysis; limiting the use of the information provided during transfer hearings in future proceedings; and evaluating the facts that are to be considered at these hearings. For more information on Colorado reforms, please visit our Colorado page here.

LOCKED OUT: Improving Educational and Vocational Outcomes for Incarcerated Youth

Thursday, 05 November 2015 Posted in 2015, Research & Policy

The Council of State Governments Justice Center released a report analyzing data collected from a nationwide survey of state juvenile correctional agencies. The following is the introduction to their report.

Policymakers across the political spectrum agree: all young people should have access to a high-quality public education. Within the past two decades, particular emphasis has been placed on ensuring that students receive instruction that prepares them for college and careers, and that schools are held accountable for realizing these goals.

There is perhaps no subset of young people whose need for a quality education is more acute—and whose situation makes them especially challenging to serve—than incarcerated youth. Of the more than 60,000 youth who are incarcerated on any given day in the United States, nearly 36,000 are committed to state custody,* two-thirds of whom are youth of color. The majority of these youth are over-age and under-credited,† several grade levels behind their peers, more likely to have a disability than their peers,2 and have been suspended multiple times and/or expelled from their local schools.3

In 1997, the majority of incarcerated youth were housed in state-run facilities; as of 2013, almost two-thirds of incarcerated youth were held in privately or locally run facilities. [See Figure 1] In most states, an array of state and local agencies and nonprofit and private organizations are responsible for overseeing and delivering educational and vocational services to incarcerated youth. As the proportion of youth incarcerated in privately or locally run facilities has grown, this has evolved into an increasingly complicated patchwork of government and nongovernment agencies. This shift means that any combination of state, local, nonprofit, and private entities now manage educational and vocational services for incarcerated youth. 

 

Read the full report here!

YJAM Recap 2015: SHARING STORIES, Why we start with stories, and move them to Action

Thursday, 29 October 2015 Posted in 2015, CFYJ Updates

recap yjamwrd

 

The balloon launch at the end of a strenuous 200+ mile “Journey for Justice” bike ride across Missouri was symbolic as much as it was ceremonial.  Tracy Wade McClard launched Youth Justice Awareness Month (YJAM) in memory of her son, Jonathan, who took his life when he was incarcerated as an adult at age 17. Seven years later—YJAM has grown exponentially and Tracy’s fight to end the prosecution of youth as adults continues.  As the balloons released, so did the stories of the hundreds and thousands of youth who have been tried, sentenced and incarcerated in the adult criminal justice system.

 

Throughout October, youth, communities, advocates and policymakers from 23 states in 70 events have shared stories of youth in the adult criminal justice system, because the first step to change often begins with the power of a story. Stories this month culminated across four major themes—the adolescent brain, racial and ethnic disparities, solitary confinement, and family engagement.  Stories relayed through poetry, video, research, and art highlighted the need for change.

 

·         Dr. Abigail Baird from Vassar College shared the research on brain science, “We prohibit young people from engaging in a whole host of things because we feel that they lack the maturity to fully grasp the potential consequences of their actions. In spite of this, we support the idea that an adolescent who commits a violent act has somehow overcome the well-known cognitive and behavioral limitations of their age and should now, in the eyes of the court, been seen as an adult.”

 

·         A young man who has been incarcerated as an adult since he was 16 wrote : “In many ways, I was raised in the prison system. I first learned to shave in the county jail at 16, A 65-year old crack dealer showed me how. I learned to tie a tie at age 27, and my boss, a cool sergeant, showed me how it was done. I grew up in here, and I am fortunate that I was taken in by older guys who were positive people. It could have been worse for me, and for many children now entering our prisons, it is worse. “

 

·         Public defenders across the country shared stories of racial and ethnic disparities in the system, “My job is to fight for [them]. Little do they suspect that when I say fight, I don’t just mean the battle that is their case, but the larger war against racial injustice.”

 

·         Reverend Laura Downton called upon the stories of the 80-100,000 youth and adults housed in solitary confinement each day, “To address the moral crisis of solitary, we must affirm that there are no throw away people, and no throw away children. Where cycles of trauma persist, we need interventions that lead to restoration and life. Children should never be placed in solitary confinement. And our young people should not be subjected to confinement in jails and prisons designed for adults. We owe their future, the future God dreams for each of them, an opportunity to flourish.”

 

·        Family member, Keela Hailes, shared her story as a parent, “In my eyes, my son went from a sixteen-year-old-child to a thirty-year-old-man overnight, absent the completed brain development.  In his own eyes, he had no other choice but to go from a child to a man overnight to cope with his new surroundings.  He served out his sentence, came home and tried to be a productive member of society; however, two years later, he reoffended and was sent back to jail. I believe kids should be held accountable and am advocating for common sense measures that hold youth accountable and give them an opportunity to rehabilitate. Studies have shown us that this can, and should happen in the juvenile justice system.”

Stories prompt us to take action.

 

President Barack Obama signed a proclamation this month declaring October 'National Youth Justice Awareness Month' and called on Americans to "observe this month by getting involved in community efforts to support our youth, and by participating in appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs."

 

Policy makers on every level joined his call—state governors also issued proclamations in support of YJAM—including Governor Gary Herbert of Utah and Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan.  So did Mayor Ashton Hayward of Pensacola, Florida .

 

Members in the US House of Representatives held a hearing on juvenile justice, and the US Senate saw the introduction of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, a bill that would limit solitary confinement for youth in federal custody, allow for expungement of certain federal crimes committed as youth, and allow for sentencing review for youth sentenced in the federal system to life without parole.

 

States filed legislation this month to reduce the number of youth prosecuted as adults in Wisconsin (Assembly and Senate), Florida (House and Senate) and Michigan.

 

As we close out October, I leave you with the call to action from youth advocate, Morehouse Student, and formerly incarcerated youth, Alton Pitre, “As fellow caring human beings and advocates for justice, now is the time to challenge ourselves to get involved in this movement. We must use our personal stories and experiences to change the minds and hearts of those in power. Our children deserve to be treated like the children they are.”


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