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The Voices of Youth Justice Reform

Posted in 2013, Across the Country, Voices Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Voices of Youth Justice Reform

In the last ten years, we have seen growing momentum in youth justice reform. Foundations, policymakers, child advocacy organizations, the legal community, and researchers have worked to educate the public and improve the juvenile justice system, but also the adult criminal justice system, where too many of our youth end up because of draconian state laws.

As critical as all of these allies are to the movement, the heart of the fight lives in our communities. There are too many examples of families who lose their children to the adult system who go it alone, to demand fairness and accountability from local and state leadership. And too many formerly incarcerated young people who return to their communities with adult records and find an antagonistic environment that is set up for them to fail instead of being directed to opportunities for a new start. Yet in the face of opposition, it is those most affected who take on the fight for justice, refuse to treat children as throwaways, and are courageous enough to put a face to the issue and to be messengers for reform.

During Youth Justice Awareness Month, we have tried to provide a platform for many of the current issues within the movement. We have highlighted both the state reform efforts that give us all optimism for what can be done when individuals come together and demand better for youth. We have also highlighted national policy, like PREA and the JJDPA, as opportunities for allies to engage and push for more wins, so that more of our youth can have the protections they need, and can be re-directed to never return to the criminal justice system.We have also partnered with advocates on the ground to bring attention to this issue in their cities, university campuses, and state legislatures. It is during these YJAM events where many families, youth, and formerly incarcerated youth blossom into leaders and decide to carry on the fight past the month of October.

In the CFYJ blog this week, we hope to provide you with opportunities to learn directly from youth, in their own voice. Youth Voices week is about taking the time to listen to youth speak of what it's like to be incarcerated, but also what it's like to be thought leaders, community organizers, and messengers. It should be a reminder to all of us that we need to change the way we do business - reform efforts must include young people as they are the future of this field. As you follow the YJAM efforts during October, we hope you will walk away with this message: youth and families are the experts when it comes to knowing what is best for youth who come into contact with the criminal justice system. It is your job and ours, to be good, active, supportive partners in the fight.

Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, using:

#YouthVoices #YJAM #YouthJustice

And don't forget to check out, Real Life for more on the Case Profiles Project