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.

YJAM 2020: Celebrating 15 Years of the Campaign for Youth Justice

Thursday, 01 October 2020

YJAM 2020: Celebrating 15 Years of the Campaign for Youth Justice

Today YJAM (Youth Justice Action Month) begins again. Since 2008, youth justice advocates around the country have come together to organize events and online activities to raise awareness and inspire action on behalf of young people impacted by our criminal justice system.

When the Campaign for Youth Justice was born 15 years ago (2005), as many as 250,000 children a year were being prosecuted as adults across the country every year.  The incarceration of children in adult jails had increased more than 200% since the mid 1990s; and 3:4 of children sent to adult prison were youth of color.  CFYJ’s first report, The Consequences Aren’t Minor, highlighted federal opportunities such as the Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) and key states such as California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin as key jurisdictions that represented the many opportunities for policy change.  Research on adolescent brain development was just emerging, and the U.S. Supreme Court had only just issued its decision in Roper v. Simmons to end the death penalty for children under age 18. 

Fifteen years later, through the unwavering commitment of children who had been sentenced as adults, their families, advocates, legislators on both sides of the aisle, the philanthropic community, and researchers—many of the goals of the Campaign have been met, including:

  • 80% of the states and DC have changed more than 100 laws making it harder to prosecute, sentence, and incarcerate children as if they were adults. This includes laws passed in many of the states highlighted in our fierst report: California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina and Virginia (Wisconsin is the last hold out!). 
  • The number of youth in adult jails has dropped 50%, while the overall jail population has dropped only by 10%. The federal Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act (reauthorized in 2018) calls on states to get this number to zero by 2021. 
  • The number of youth in adult prisons has dropped an astounding 70%. The Prison Rape Elimination Act’s Youthful Inmate Standard ties federal dollars to ensuring youth under age 18 are separated from adults in prison, and requires extra protection for their safety. 
  • Racial disparities remain egregious, but there are many fewer Black youth going to the adult system.   In 2008, it was estimated (based on 2002 data) that Black children were nine times more likely to be committed to adult prison than white youth; by 2012, Black youth were four times as likely to be incarcerated in an adult jail or prison. Despite this reduction in disparity, youth of color still made up 88% of the children incarcerated as adults that year.
  • Research continues to find that children placed in effective juvenile justice systems have better life outcomes, more age appropriate interventions, and lower recidivism than those that are pushed into the adult system.
  • Practices exist across the country that show that the vast majority of children who are charged as adults are able to be treated effectively in the community.
  • Public opinion consistently finds that the American public wants children to receive services and second chances when they engage in delinquent behavior, this includes the opinions of victims.  

Join us over the next few weeks, during the month of YJAM as we roll out these wins through whiteboards, new reports, and videos. As a matter of fact, check our video on the impact of 15 years of work. 

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We also invite you to amplify this video and YJAM all month long, please find our social media toolkit here

These  wins couldn’t have happened without each and every one of you joining this movement. While the work is not finished—there are still far too many children entering the adult criminal justice system—the tools now exist to fight these battles locally. We welcome you to continue fighting for our young people and ensuring they receive equal protections regardless of where they live. 

We also invite you to save the date for our Virtual Farewell Party on Friday, Oct. 30th at 2 pm ET. We will come together to celebrate our victories as we say our goodbyes to CFYJ. Please RSVP here.

Beige Leaves Bordered Funeral Invitation

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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