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Articles tagged with: YJAM

Thank You for #YJAM 2016!

Tuesday, 01 November 2016 Posted in Campaigns

YJAM Thank You 11


As another Youth Justice Awareness Action Month draws to a close, there are at least two very important things left to do:


First: VOTE!
Organizing events, webinars, and online chats is vital for raising awareness and building support for positive changes to the way we approach youth justice, but on November 8, we can put that awareness into action. Folks in California can vote #YesOnProp57, and end the power of prosecutors to direct file kids into the adult court. In other states, voters can choose who prosecutes and/or judges our youth in courts of law, as well as legislators to pass and Governors to sign laws that reform flawed youth justice practices.


Second: Tell your Senator to vote to update the Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA).
The JJDPA has been providing support for our country’s youth for over 40 years, and the new version (which has already passed in the U.S. House), will do even more to set standards and protections for youth in state juvenile justice programs. Tuesday, Nov 15. Call Sen McConnell 202-224-2541 and Sen Reid 202-224-3542 and ask them to pass JJDPA this Congress!


Let’s close #YJAM 2016 with a bang, by taking action in these two very important ways!

Guest Column: Empowering the Unheard

Rahim Buford, Organizer for the Child Defense Fund, The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth Monday, 31 October 2016 Posted in Campaigns

By Rahim Buford, Organizer for the Child Defense Fund, The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth

I spend my days working to reform our justice system and volunteering in prisons and juvenile detention centers because my experience is similar to that of many youth who enter of justice system.

When I was 18, I was sentenced to life in prison, plus 20 years after I was convicted of felony murder. Despite the horror of that situation, my story neither begins nor ends with it.

 

Guest Column: Redeemed Juveniles Like Me Are Not the Exceptions

Xavier McElrath Bay, Youth Justice Advocate, The Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth Thursday, 20 October 2016 Posted in Campaigns

By Xavier McElrath Bay, Youth Justice Advocate, The Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth

Today is special for me for several reasons.

For starters, I will have the honor of spending much of the day in a symposium at San Quentin State Prison in California. I especially look forward to sharing time with the members of KID C.A.T. (Creating Awareness Together), a group of individuals who were sentenced to life without parole when they were children. After years of incarceration, they created their own support group with a mission to organize acts of community service and goodwill.

During my first two visits to San Quentin earlier this year, I learned about the group’s past activities, which have included conducting food and hygiene product drives for the homeless, fundraising to sponsor youth involvement in community programs, raising awareness and money for cancer research, and folding hundreds of origami hearts for kids at Oakland’s Children’s Hospital. All these activities took place behind the walls of San Quentin and were facilitated by people once considered to be heartless, remorseless monsters as a result of the now-disproven “superpredator theory.”

 

Guest Column: Youth Justice Awareness Month: Transforming Awareness into Action

Jody Kent Lavy, Executive Director, The Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth Thursday, 20 October 2016 Posted in Campaigns

By Jody Kent Lavy, Executive Director of the Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth

October is Youth Justice Awareness Month — as proclaimed by President Obama — and we are celebrating and honoring all of the hard work of community leaders, advocates, coalition builders, legislative champions, judicial officials, defenders, and directly impacted individuals who seek to ensure that our country holds children accountable in age-appropriate ways that account for their experiences with trauma and their capacity to grow and change.

Our partners at the Campaign for Youth Justice started Youth Justice Awareness Month in 2008 to draw attention to the need to end the prosecution of youth in the adult criminal justice system. As awareness has grown, so have opportunities to create change, so the founders have decided to focus this year and in the future on transforming awareness into action. We are thrilled to join them in their efforts.

Guest Column: Words that Hide the Reality of the Juvenile Justice System

Laurie Spivey, MST Expert, Multisystemic Therapy Services Thursday, 20 October 2016

By Laurie Spivey, MST Expert, Multisystemic Therapy Services

A look behind the euphemisms that proliferate the system

Imagine that you are sitting in court with your teenage son or daughter. The judge orders your child to six months living in a “training school” to address the concerns of the court. What would you imagine that to be? Something like a military school or a boot camp? A cluster of cabins in the woods where kids do ropes courses and practice trust falls?

The truth is that most training schools are thinly veiled youth prisons. Commonly referred to as “secure placements,” they are actually cinder-block buildings behind barbed-wire where children wear orange jumpsuits, rubber shoes and handcuffs. They live in cellblocks and behind bars, get limited contact with their families and are at high risk of sexual and physical abuse. There is an intentional glazing over of the horrors within these facilities, under-reporting of crimes against young people behind bars and a number of creative euphemisms aimed at shielding us from the truth.

 

Support of Michigan's Bill Package to Raise the Age

Jeree Thomas, CFYJ Policy Director Monday, 17 October 2016

 

Senator Rick Jones, Committee Chair

Judiciary Committee

Michigan State Senate

P.O. Box 30036

Lansing, MI 48909-7536

Re: In Support of HB 4947- HB 4966 – “Youth in Prison” Bill Package

 

Dear Chairman Jones and Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee:

The Campaign for Youth Justice strongly supports HB 4947 through HB 4966.  This comprehensive bill package will protect youth by raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction, funding developmentally-appropriate rehabilitative services, and prohibiting the placement of youth in adult facilities where they are vulnerable to physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.  We encourage all members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to vote in favor of these bills, so the full Senate may put Michigan one step closer to positive youth justice reform.

The Campaign for Youth Justice is a national non-profit that supports state efforts to reduce and eventually eliminate the need to prosecute, sentence, and incarcerate youth in the adult criminal justice system.   As a result, we have seen the powerful impact of policies that raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction, limit the use of juvenile transfer to the adult court, remove youth from adult facilities, and ensure that youth in adult facilities are safe from physical, sexual, and mental abuse.   Since our founding 10 years ago, 30 states have passed legislation to reduce the prosecution, sentencing, and incarceration of youth in the adult system.

New York Case Example: Why Fully Implementing the Youthful Inmate Standard of PREA Means Removing Youth from Adult Jails and Prisons

Maya Williams, Juvenile Justice Fellow Thursday, 13 October 2016 Posted in Research & Policy

Wednesday, September 21, 2016, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and Legal Services of Central New York (LSNY) filed a class action lawsuit against the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office and Syracuse City School District on behalf of six named plaintiffs—Black and Latino youth ages 16 and 17 jailed at the Justice Center—and a class of similarly situated youth.

The suit’s charges are over the use of solitary confinement for youth in the adult jail citing, “the use of solitary confinement violates the children’s rights and that the sheriff and school district are denying them an appropriate education in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Eighth Amendment, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.”

Chalking for Justice During Youth Justice ACTION Month

Jade Kendrick Thursday, 13 October 2016 Posted in Take Action Now

 

#YJAM has started off with a bang! Voices across the nation are raising awareness about youth justice. But there is another more artistic form of activism: Chalking! Chalk is a fun, harmless way of creating art while also sending a message. It's a perfect way to engage all ages into #YJAM festivities! So help us hit it the pavement and chalk up phrases and images to spread the #YJAM message. Then take a picture of your creation, share it on social media, and use the hashtag #YJAM.  No action is too small to bring awareness! Its as simple as chalking!

A Mother's Story: Transforming Tragedy into Action

Tracy McClard Tuesday, 11 October 2016 Posted in Voices

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By Tracy McClard, Founder of FORJ Missouri

My involvement with the juvenile justice system began in July of 2007. My son, Jonathon made a poor decision causing another young man to be left with a gunshot wound. Jonathon was sixteen at the time. While I believe my son should have been held accountable for his actions, the process that followed was anything but proportional justice. Jonathan was eventually placed in an adult facility where he experienced violence, emotional trauma and constant fear. At any point in time he could be subjected to physical and sexual violence and was consistently threatened with solitary confinement. Throughout this process Jonathan remained a young sixteen years old and was forced to be surrounded by inmates who were much older and much more powerful. He was forced to give up his education to focus on remaining safe in prison.

Girls Justice Day! Why Now is the Time to Act for Justice-Involved Girls

Maheen Kaleem, Esq. Staff Attorney, Rights4Girls and Jeree Thomas, Esq. Policy Director with the Campaign for Youth Justice Friday, 30 September 2016

 

Authors: Maheen Kaleem, Esq. Staff Attorney, Rights4Girls and Jeree Thomas, Esq. Policy Director with the Campaign for Youth Justice

 
October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It also marks Youth Justice Action Month.  As we spend this month focusing on the necessity to protect vulnerable women and girls from abuse, we must not forget our girls behind bars.
 
In January of 2016, Latesha Clay was sentenced to nine years in prison for armed robbery.  Latesha is 15 years old. The “victims” in the case were two adult men who had responded to an online ad for sex with a teenager on Backpage.com, a website that traffickers use to sell sex with children.  When two men, at least one of whom had a history of inappropriate involvement with minors, arrived at the hotel to engage in sexual acts with 15 year-old Latesha, two individuals came out of the bathroom and threatened the buyers to give them more money. Latesha was not holding the gun, nor was she aware that the robbery was going to take place.
Under federal law, any individual who solicits a sexual act with a minor in exchange for any material good is guilty of human trafficking, and any child who exchanges sex with an adult for anything of value is a victim. Those who facilitate the sale of teens for sex on websites like Backpage.com are also guilty of human trafficking.  Despite the fact that Latesha is only fifteen, that her adult “boyfriend” convinced her her to post the ad, that she knew nothing of the robbery, and that at least two adult men exchanged money in order to commit acts of sexual abuse against her, she was deemed the perpetrator in this case, and her buyers, the “victims.” What’s worse—Latesha was charged and sentenced as an adult, and must serve her nine year sentence in adult prison.
What We Know About Girls in the Juvenile & Adult Criminal Justice Systems
 
This summer, the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) released No Place for Youth: Girls in the Adult Justice System.   The report summarized data and research on girls in the adult criminal justice system and includes a new survey conducted by NIC and the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) of members from the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA). 
Despite the absence of sufficient data and research on girls in adult facilities, the little information we do have is cause for concern. According to the NIC/ NCCD survey, only 40.9% of correctional administrators responded that that they could safely serve and house youth, while 42.9% marked that they did not agree when asked if they had assessment tools to appropriately identify the specific needs of girls in adult facilities, let alone age and gender-appropriate programming for children in their care. Girls tried and sentenced as adults confront a system that was not designed to meet their developmental, social, mental health, or safety needs. Furthermore, girls in the adult system are denied the opportunities for rehabilitation that the juvenile justice system is expressly designed to provide.
Unfortunately, the neglect of justice-involved girls is not limited to the adult system. Girls in the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems are more likely to have experienced past physical and sexual abuse, trauma, and mental health challenges. In fact, the behavior that results in girls is often related to trying to escape, survive, or cope with extensive abuse. These drivers disproportionately result in the detention and commitment of girls of color, LBTQ girls, and girls who are gender non-conforming.  In the most extreme circumstances, girls are actually criminalized because of their victimization.
The pathways that gendered violence creates for girls into the justice system were highlighted a 2015 report by Rights4Girls, The Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, and the Ms. Foundation for Women entitled, The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline: The Girls’ Story. According to the report, across the country, girls in the juvenile justice system had extremely high rates of sexual violence, sexual abuse, and family violence.  In South Carolina, 81% of girls reported experiencing sexual violence, and in Oregon 76% reported sexual abuse.  In Florida, 84% of girls reported being victims of family violence.  The report also emphasized the lack of understanding, data, and appropriate responses to the unique needs of girls.
The Abuse to Prison Pipeline is the result not only of the high prevalence of physical and sexual abuse among girls, particularly marginalized girls, but also our inability to appropriately respond to girls’ behaviors when they are a direct result of the trauma they have endured. A recent report by Francine Sherman, Unintended Consequences: The Collateral Consequences of Mandatory DV Laws, highlights the increase in girls being charged with simple assault for instances of intra-familial violence. Instead of providing families with appropriate interventions, children who are often victims of domestic abuse are instead criminalized.  
Subjecting girls to the Abuse to Prison Pipeline is not the way to help girls grow, mature, and rehabilitate to meet their incredible potential.  Too often, our most traumatized and victimized girls end up behind bars when they should be met with services. In Ohio, Bresha Meadows currently sits in juvenile detention facing a charge for shooting her father in an effort to protect her mother and herself from domestic violence. Imagine if her family had received the appropriate interventions so that Bresha and her mother were safe from the domestic abuse they endured for years.   
In honor of Bresha, Latesha, and the countless girls behind bars around the country, we encourage families, advocates, and those who work in the juvenile or adult criminal justice system to take action on today, Girls Justice Day.  Tweet, write, and/or meet with members of Congress and tell them to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) by voting in favor of H.R. 5963.  The bill passed the House on September 22nd and is now in the Senate.  The reauthorized bill includes important protections for girls including:
  • Incentives for states to create prevention programming for girls at-risk of entering the juvenile justice system
  • Screening girls in the juvenile justice system for child sex trafficking and diverting them towards community-based programming wherever possible
  • Ending the use of unnecessary restraints on pregnant and post-partum girls
  • Encouraging states to limit use of the Valid Court Order exception, which has led to the disproportionate detention of girls who commit non-violent offenses
  • Ensuring that state juvenile justice advisory groups involve individuals with specific expertise in addressing the needs of girls
In addition, encourage your state and local policymakers and system administrators to implement practices and programs that result in better outcomes for girls.   Fund prevention programs that keep girls from being physically or sexually abused.  Divert girls who have been subject to the Abuse to Prison pipeline away from the juvenile and adult justice system whenever possible, and toward more community-based supports.  To the extent possible, girls should be kept in their homes or as close to their homes as possible in settings that provide trauma and gender-responsive programming, education, and therapeutic support.   In those rare cases when girls must be in secure care, girls and all youth under 18, should always be held in juvenile settings and not in the adult system.
Finally, and most importantly, we need to take the time to ask girls in the system what their needs are—they are the experts on their own lives. When they tell us—we need to listen. Only then will we be able to stop the Abuse to Prison Pipeline and ensure that all of our girls have the opportunity to thrive.
 
 
 
 
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