Youth Justice Action Month Blog

Coming Out for LGBTQ Youth in the Justice System

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Coming Out for LGBTQ Youth in the Justice System

By Molly Tafoya

Tomorrow, October 11th, is National Coming Out Day —a day to celebrate and support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) people—and young people in particular. And so today, as part of Youth Justice Action Month (YJAM), the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) and several other groups are highlighting the experiences of LGBTQ youth in the juvenile and criminal justice system.

Letter to my Mom

Thursday, 05 October 2017

Letter to my Mom


Hello! How are you? I know it’s been a while, But I do think about you all the time. Thanks for the card and money order back in may. I would have writ back then, however, I’ve been dealing with some things. 

Create Justice

Thursday, 05 October 2017

By Kaile Shilling

What do you get when you bring together over one hundred juvenile justice activists, youth leaders, artists, and representatives from major foundations?  You get a powerful couple of days of dialogue and action around the intersection of arts and youth justice reform. 

An Adult Burden For My 13 Year-Old Son

Tuesday, 03 October 2017

By Heidi Nuttall

Since he was 13 we’ve fought a never ending battle. How do you protect a young boy from the justice system – a system that, now, we as a family feel we must fight?

Why must we? Our understanding had always been so different.

Youth Justice Action Month (YJAM) is here!

Monday, 02 October 2017

Youth Justice Action Month (YJAM) is here!

By Brian Evans, State Campaign Director

Youth Justice Action Month (YJAM) is here!

Last year, Youth Justice Awareness Month turned into Youth Justice Action Month in recognition of the remarkable growth in action oriented activism and advocacy that has emerged in recent years. For the past nine years, YJAM has encouraged people to organize events that raise awareness, strengthen coalitions, build campaigns, and encourage advocacy on behalf of young people in contact with the justice system.

Fight with Evil

Monday, 25 September 2017

Fight with Evil

By Joshua Aston

His name was Evil. He was the fourth cellie in my first month of being locked up. It was the first time I’d been locked up & was definitely going to be the last, and the process of meeting new people in this stressful environment was exhaustive. The first cellie of mine lasted a day while I went through orientation. Neither of us really slept; I suspect we didn’t know or trust eachother well enough. I got moved to another pod full of new & wild kids the next afternoon. The next cellie was a white boy that was full of excitement & drama. That only lasted a month before I got sent to the hole, a punishment for handling a situation wrongly. The concept of the “hole” was terrifying & I was obviously scared shitless; especially when I walked into a cell with my new cellie. He was a big white boy they all called ‘Big Country.’ I met him as he crawled out of the mattress. We wore only our boxers & were given no bedding when placed on the bread loaf program, but we got along well together & enjoyed each others company for the next week. After that I met Evil. 

Guest Column: Redeemed Juveniles Like Me Are Not the Exceptions

Sunday, 23 October 2016

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.

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

Sunday, 23 October 2016

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.


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

Sunday, 23 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?

Chalking for Justice During Youth Justice ACTION Month

Monday, 17 October 2016

Chalking for Justice During Youth Justice ACTION Month

#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

Monday, 17 October 2016

A Mother's Story: Transforming Tragedy into Action

By Tracy McClard

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.

#JuviePodcast Youth Justice Awareness Month – Marcy Mistrett Interview

Thursday, 13 October 2016

This post was taken from Juvie Podcast and the full article and podcast can be found here.

A summons to Action in spreading Awareness about juvenile justice!

Did you know that in the United States, children who commit crimes, whatever their age, start out automatically in the adult criminal justice system, and that most defense attorneys who work with children and youth have no specialist knowledge or training in child and adolescent developmental factors? Did you know that a 12-year-old will be completely cut off from any parental access if they are processed through the adult system? If you would like to know what really goes on when children and youth come into contact with the American criminal justice system, listen in. You are bound to learn a thing or few that will surprise, and even shock you. We talk to Marcy Mistrett, CEO at the Campaign for Youth Justice in Washington DC, a national advocacy organization committed to ending the prosecution, sentencing, and incarceration of children and youth in the adult criminal justice system. Every year, in October, CFYJ  promotes Youth Justice Awareness Month. We talk about some of the juvenile justice issues important for public awareness.

Listen here.

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

Friday, 07 October 2016

 GirlsJusticeDay Yellow 

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, 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 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.

Take Action to Protect Youth in Adult Facilities Using Our PREA Action Kit

Friday, 07 October 2016

PREA Week:

October 10 - 14, 2016

#ImplementPREA #EndPrisonRape #NoExcuses



How can you help?

We need you to encourage your Governor to certify your state’s compliance with PREA by October 15th .   If your Governor can not certify, he or she should release a statement of what it will take for the state to certify compliance with PREA during the next audit cycle. In addition to working to eliminate sexual assault in prisons, PREA has a Youthful Inmate Standard to protect youth under 18 in adult facilities.

Take Action: Contact your Governor Today!

Use our sample tweets to encourage your governor to certify PREA compliance on October 15th.

Sample Tweets

  • @GovernorX The Prison Rape Elimination Act was passed to end sexual abuse behind bars. Act now to #EndPrisonRape
  • @GovernorX Youth are 36x more likely to commit suicide in an adult jail than in a juvenile detention facility #ImplementPREA
  • @GovernorX 65% of Youth reported being victimized more than once in adult facilities #ImplementPREA
  • @Governor X Jails & prisons are not equipped on their own to protect youth from the dangers of adult facilities. #ImplementPREA 
  • @GovernorX PREA incentivizes states to detect, prevent & respond to sexual abuse in jails and prisons #ImplementPREA
  • @GovernorX No More Excuses! To protect youth from dangers of adult facilities we must #ImplementPREA TODAY! #youthjustice


Governor Twitter Handles

AL – Robert Bentley @GovernorBentley

AK – Bill Walker @AkGovBillWalker

AZ – Doug Ducey @dougducey

AR – Asa Hutchinson @AsaHutchinson

CA – Jerry Brown @JerryBrownGov

CO – John Hickenlooper @GovofCO

CT – Dannel Malloy @GovMalloyOffice

DE – Jack Markell @GovernorMarkell

DC – Muriel Bowser @MayorBowser

FL – Rick Scott @FLGovScott

GA – Nathan Deal @GovernorDeal

HI – David Ige @GovHawaii

ID – Butch Otter @ButchOtter

IL – Bruce Rauner  @GovRauner

IN – Mike Pence @GovPenceIN

IA – Terry Branstad @TerryBranstad

KS – Sam Brownback @govsambrownback

KY – Matt Bevin @GovMatBevin

LA – John Bel Edwards @LouisianaGov

ME – Paul LePage @Governor_LePage

MD – Larry Hogan @LarryHogan

MA – Charlie Baker @MassGovernor

MI – Rick Snyder @onetoughnerd

MN – Mark Dayton @GovMarkDayton

MS – Phil Bryant @PhilBryantMS

MO – Jay Nixon @GovJayNixon

MT – Steve Bullock @GovernorBullock

NE – Pete Ricketts @GovRicketts

NV – Brian Sandoval @GovSandoval

NH – Maggie Hassan @GovernorHassan

NJ – Chris Christie @GovChristie

NM – Susana Martinez @Gov_Martinez

NY – Andrew Cuomo @NYGovCuomo

NC – Pat McCrory  @PatMcCroryNC

ND– Jack Dalrymple   @NDGovDalrymple

OH – John Kasich @JohnKasich

OK – Mary Fallin  @GovMaryFallin

OR – Kate Brown @OregonGovBrown

PA – Tom Wolf @GovernorTomWolf

RI – Gina Raimondo  @GinaRaimondo

SC – Nikki Haley @nikkihaley

SD – Dennis Daugaard  @SDGovDaugaard

TN – Bill Haslam @BillHaslam

TX – Greg Abbott @GovAbbott

UT – Gary Herbert @GovHerbert

VT – Peter Shumlin  @GovPeterShumlin

VA – Terry McAuliffe @GovernorVA

WA – Jay Inslee @GovInslee

WV – Earl Ray Tomblin @GovTomblin

WI – Scott Walker @GovWalker

WY – Matt Mead   @GovMattMead


Take Action: 

Sign on here to the Campaign’s Petition to the National Sheriff’s Association to support the removal of youth from adult jails and lockups.

Take Action: Share your experience

In order to understand first hand and support recommendations for change, we need to hear about the experiences of those affected by the current system. If you or a member of your family has been impacted by juvenile and criminal justice policies, please tell us your story using our online toolkits, which can be accessed at toolkits contain everything you need to effectively tell your story, including consent forms, writing tips and topics to address, and example stories

The Campaign for Youth Justice is also deeply committed to cultivating spokespersons to tell the world why children should not be treated the same as adults in the criminal justice system. If you are interested in learning more about CFYJ or interested in joining our Spokesperson Bureau you can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (202) 558-3580.

Contact Us

National Juvenile Justice Network
1200 G St. NW, Suite 800
Washington, DC 20005, USA

Coalition for Juvenile Justice 
1629 K St. NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20006-1631