Youth Justice Action Month Blog

This Is America: Can it be the Year to #VoteYouthJustice?

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

This Is America: Can it be the Year to #VoteYouthJustice?

By Aprill O. Turner, Communications Director

2018 has already been another year of tension in cities across the country between police officers and young black males.

The headlines of these incidents never seem to cease. In March, officers in Sacramento, Calif., opened fired and killed Stephon Clark for standing in his own backyard holding a cellphone. Then in April, Brooklyn police officers shot and killed Saheed Vassel, an unarmed black man with mental disabilities when they mistakenly mistook the pipe he was holding for a gun.

Philadelphia police officers arrested Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson in Starbucks in April for simply sitting in the store and waiting for their business partner for a meeting. And in May, a young black man, Anthony Wall — dressed in a tuxedo after having just taken his little sister to prom — was seen in a viral video getting choked by a police officer in Warsaw, N.C. at a Waffle House.

Youth Justice Action Month is October – Just 2 Months Away!

Tuesday, 04 August 2020

Youth Justice Action Month is October – Just 2 Months Away!

The challenges of this crisis-packed year have at times been overwhelming, but it is important to remember that all the emergencies of 2020 have significantly impacted youth justice. 

There have been campaigns to free children from juvenile or adult detention facilities where the risk of contracting COVID is disproportionately high, campaigns to free our schools from the harmful presence of police officers whose actions widen the school-to-prison pipeline, and campaigns to confront racist violence in our bloated and over-funded police departments – violence that is often directed at our children.

The usual campaigns to reduce or end the practice of prosecuting and incarcerating children as adults have also continued this year; these campaigns have proven to be inextricably intertwined with urgent efforts to decarcerate children and protect them from law enforcement abuses; as always they do most harm to black and brown children.

This October, Youth Justice Action Month (YJAM) provides an opportunity to highlight all these campaigns, energize them, connect them, and grow our movement for youth justice. 

As you may already have heard, the Campaign for Youth Justice will be closing down its operations at the end of this year. We initiated  a national YJAM in 2008, and it has grown every year. We want it to continue growing beyond 2020, but that will depend on YOU!

For this last YJAM in which CFYJ will play a role, we believe a major theme for YJAM 2020 should again be #VoteYouthJustice. The elections on November 3 will have a profound impact nationally, while statewide and local elections will determine the direction youth justice takes.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, masking, social distancing, and prohibitions on large gatherings are likely to still be the rule in October, but that does not mean there should not be a large number of virtual or online YJAM events this year. You can also push for youth justice resolutions at the local or state government level. And, of course, register people to vote.

CFYJ will not be able to provide the kind of support for YJAM events we have in past years, but we still want to hear from you, and support your efforts in every way we can. Please let us know what you are planning this October for YJAM!

Get Your Candidates Talking About Youth Justice

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

By Rachel Marshall, Federal Policy Counsel

We’re a little less than 5 months away from 2018’s crucial midterm elections, but before we can get there, states across the country are voting in packed primary elections. Here at the Campaign for Youth Justice, we’re using this opportunity to make sure local communities are getting out to vote and getting their local candidates to talk about youth justice. That’s why we were thrilled to hear Pod Save the People host DeRay McKesson talk to two out of the three candidates for Baltimore State’s Attorney on a recent episode of the podcast ahead of Maryland’s June 26 primary election (he invited all three candidates, but the third candidate did not respond).

Is 2018 the Year of Women in Politics?

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

By Jill Ward, Senior Advocacy Consultant, Youth First Initiative

“We're half the people; we should be half the Congress.” - Jeannette Rankin of Montana, first woman to hold federal office in the United States

That was the vision of the first woman elected to Congress in 1916, four years before the 19th amendment secured (white) women’s right to vote and another 45 years before African American men and women were able to exercise their right to vote.

We are not there yet, but 2018 promises to be a seminal year for women in politics. Today, there are 84 women in the House of Representatives and 23 in the Senate – roughly 20% of the Congress. Of the 107 women serving in Congress, 38, or 35.5%, are women of color. An improvement over time, but still far from half the Congress.

Justice, Fairness, and Power: Why District Attorney Races Matter on Ballots in 2018

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

By Gianna Nitti, Public Interest Communications and State Campaigns Fellow

In our country one of the elected officials that holds the most power, and often for long terms, is the District Attorney (alternative titles include commonwealth's attorney in Kentucky and Virginia, state's or county attorney in Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Vermont, and circuit solicitor in South Carolina). DA’s have a crucial role in the criminal justice system – they are responsible for deciding whether or not to prosecute a case and the level of charges and sentences that they are going to pursue.

Unfortunately, 85 percent of DA’s run unopposed, and there are many who have “tough-on-crime” beliefs, which are increasingly being promoted by the likes of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. These beliefs have a negative impact on those who come in contact with the criminal justice system, especially youth, as well as on public safety through higher recidivism rates.

The Importance of Women’s Engagement in Our Political Process

Wednesday, 07 March 2018

By Gianna Nitti, Public Interest Communications and State Campaigns Fellow

March celebrates International Women’s Day, a time where we collectively take a look around the world and throughout history to recognize the groundbreaking social, economic, cultural and political contributions of women to our country and the world. Ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, CFYJ is looking at where and how women in our country are serving in elected office, especially in positions that can benefit youth justice, as well as potential for increased engagement in this regard.

Of the roughly 42,000 elected offices in the United States, from the presidency down to local offices, women hold about 12,180 positions, or 29% of these positions.

Elected officials are instrumental in creating and implementing laws that govern our towns, cities, counties, states, and country. When our elected officials do not represent the backgrounds and experiences of their constituents, critical issues that impact those who are unrepresented are pushed to the wayside and forgotten. When women and minorities are left out of the conversation, our progression forward into the future stalls, and we fall behind as a nation.


Vote Local: #VoteYouthJustice

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

By Marcy Mistrett, CEO

Justice is local and voting matters. The health of a democracy rests on the ability and interest of its citizens to vote. Yet, the U.S. history on voting rights is spotty.

The Campaign for Youth Justice joins the many other national organizations and movements in calling for our local communities to come out and VOTE in local elections; because voting for youth justice matters.

While public safety often makes it onto the public polls and local political platforms, we spend a lot less time reimagining justice for our young people. However, by getting local candidates to talk about youth justice as part of their platforms—we can hold them accountable to a more fair and balanced justice system.

YouthJustice, Inc.: Using Legal Education to Disrupt the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Monday, 30 October 2017

By Dionna Y. Shinn, Esq., Founder, CEO of Youth Justice, Inc.

Currently, youth around the country face unprecedented challenges in schools. The creation of zero-tolerance discipline policies, increased police presence in the form of School Resource Officers (SROs), excessive suspensions for minor infractions and misuse of expulsions have created an antagonistic and intimidating education environment. Youth find themselves treated more like punitively controlled agents, rather than students in need of academic and socio-emotional support. These occurrences have created a disturbing movement known as the School-to-Prison Pipeline.

Businesses Building a Better Way for Formerly Incarcerated Youth

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

By Rachel Kenderdine, Operations & Human Resources Manager

This week, as a part of October’s Youth Justice Action Month (YJAM), we are celebrating Alternative Pathways out of the adult system. For many youth prosecuted and incarcerated in the adult criminal justice system, life after release is challenging. Adult criminal charges can often act as a prison sentence, even once youth are no longer behind bars—opportunities to get a job, especially one with a livable wage, to attend college, and even to find housing are limited, since many establishments will not even consider an applicant if they have a past felony charge. Since 90% of incarcerated youth return home before their 25th birthday, these young people often feel that their hopes for a future are dashed before they have a chance to show their potential.

Should Troubled Teens Go to Wilderness Programs or Boot Camps?

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Should Troubled Teens Go to Wilderness Programs or Boot Camps?

This blog was originally posted on Multisystemic Therapy' Services's website. We are reposting it with their authorization. 

If you're thinking of sending your teen to a wilderness program or boot camp, think twice.

It's not uncommon for an overwhelmed parent to say, “I need to send him [or her] someplace else.” Whether a young person is running away, refusing to attend school, using drugs or is involved in crime, many parents come to believe military-style boot camps or wilderness programs are the only options left. Heavily marketed and popularized in the 1990s, some parents see boot camps as the way to send a clear message to their kids that their behavior will no longer be tolerated.

Girls' Justice Day

Friday, 20 October 2017

Girls' Justice Day

By Cherice Hopkins, Esq. and Hayley Carlisle

Today is Girls’ Justice Day, a day during Youth Justice Action Month that serves as a reminder to uplift and reflect on the unique experiences of girls in the juvenile justice system. It is particularly significant that Girls’ Justice Day also takes place during Domestic Violence Awareness Month because for most justice-involved girls, their paths into the juvenile justice system begin with abuse. 


Tuesday, 17 October 2017


Let’s break the chains of the black youth’s mind

So that they will remain devine

We were never monkeys swinging from vines

So never look down on own kind

National Coming Out Day for LGBTQ Youth In Detention?

Thursday, 12 October 2017

By Pepis Rodriguez

This week we recognized National Coming Out Day (NCOD), a celebration of living your truth about who you are, and whom you love.

But as “bathroom bills”, military transgender bans, and elimination of protections for LGBTQ federal employees demonstrate, we are still a long way from a society in which coming out is a realistic option for all. The truth of this likely hits youth the hardest, who still risk family rejection, bullying, even homelessness for coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer.

“Open Your Eyes!”

Thursday, 12 October 2017

“Open Your Eyes!”

About twenty of us laid in the grass in front of guard tower 13. Some were cuffed others had their arms thrown out above their heads. It was difficult to say who was maced or bruised as we were forced to lay on our stomachs & plant our faces in the earth. Some of the guards coughed from the mace that lingered & yelled at us to “stay the fuck down.” The struggle to maintain obedience was a challenge for some as they couldn’t stop themselves from grasping for air & trying to relieve their burning skin.

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