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CFYJ Updates

Youth Justice Action Month is October – Less Than a Month Away!

Brian Evans Wednesday, 12 September 2018 Posted in 2018, Across the Country, CFYJ Updates

By Brian Evans, CFYJ State Campaigns Director

Youth Justice Action Month (YJAM) is October – less than a month away!

Whether you are just starting to organize, or are already planning something, please Sign up today so we can work with you to make YJAM as impactful as possible!

CLIA’s Just Kids Campaign and Changing Public Views on Incarcerated Youth

Wednesday, 08 August 2018 Posted in 2018, CFYJ Updates

By Eric Rico, CFYJ Research & Policy Legal Fellow

For our fourth and final event in our Summer Guest Speaker Series, we had the opportunity to speak with Sarah Wall, the Government Relations Manager for the Just Kids Campaign at CLIA (Community Law in Action). CLIA’s Just Kids Campaign was formed in 2010 as an advocacy group made up of youth and adult partners who are devoted to ending the automatic prosecution of youth as adults in Maryland. The youth leaders generally range from 16-24 year-olds and have been involved in the justice system and charged as adults. The campaign provides educational and job opportunities that benefit youth, such as life skills training, ex-offender employment, and GED programs. Although these programs are important, one of the most crucial aspects of the campaign is that is allows these youth leaders to be effective advocates in the process of ending youth transfer. These young leaders are given a platform to meet with legislators, conduct public outreach, and share their stories, working to change public attitudes towards youth who are charged (or treated) as adults.

Major Updates on State-Level Legislation

Brian Evans Thursday, 25 January 2018 Posted in 2018, CFYJ Updates

By Brian Evans, State Campaigns Director

At the start of what promises to be a very political year, and in the midst of difficult debates about budgets and taxes, state legislators are moving forward (or in some cases backward) with legislation affecting youth in contact with the adult criminal justice system. The following is a legislative update of what is happening across the country:

Ending 2017 on the Right Note: Happy Holidays From The Campaign Youth Justice

Aprill O. Turner Wednesday, 20 December 2017 Posted in 2017, CFYJ Updates

By Aprill O. Turner, Communications Director 

What a year it has been! We are so thankful to all of the families, state partners, researchers, journalists, fellows, policy champions, and funders who have contributed to ending the adultification of youth this year. Now, more than ever, we know the power of and need for our movement.

Meet Our 2017 Summer Interns

Monday, 26 June 2017 Posted in 2017, CFYJ Updates

The summer has officially begun, and the Campaign for Youth Justice couldn’t be more excited to introduce its interns! 

New York Passes Raise the Age!

Monday, 10 April 2017 Posted in 2017, CFYJ Updates

By Brian Evans, State Campaign Director

Over the weekend, the New York State Assembly and Senate passed legislation to Raise the Age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18.  This is a huge change that will affect thousands of young people who will enjoy the developmental and educational benefits of the juvenile justice system and avoid exposure to the permanent harms of the adult system and the scarlet letter of an adult criminal record.  This effort was a heavy lift that took the tireless work of hundreds of advocates, legislators, and executive staff. 

CFYJ 2016 Year in Review

Marcy Mistrett Monday, 19 December 2016 Posted in 2016, CFYJ Updates

2016

By Marcy Mistrett, CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice

2016 was quite the year to celebrate the IMPACT of ending the adultification of youth by the justice system. States continue to lead reform efforts, thanks to the stellar work of advocates and impacted youth and their families in championing these reforms as: a bipartisan issue, that makes sense for young people, public safety, and states’ bottom line.  We can absolutely say this year's reforms happened nationally: From Vermont to South Carolina and Louisiana to Indiana, Arizona to California and Washington, DC -- legislators are passing, with wide margins, reforms that take into account that children are different from adults. At the federal level, we got farther on the reauthorization of the JJDPA than we have in 15 years--with strongly supported bipartisan bills that passed in the House, and almost through the Senate-- that would call for removing youth certified as adults from adult jails while they pend trial. And the POTUS took notice, and paid a lot of attention to young men of color in our justice system, using his executive powers to leverage change.

Reflecting on the past and looking forward to the future

Wednesday, 30 November 2016 Posted in 2016, CFYJ Updates, Voices

By Jessica Sandoval and Roger Ghatt

As the Campaign for Youth Justice commemorates 10 years of advocating on behalf of youth, we are also reflective of our tenure at the Campaign.  Ten years ago we started from scratch, with not even an office to call home, but one thing has remained the same: we continue to be guided by urgency.  There are still too many youth transferred to and prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system.  We aspire to continue changing that.  We have made significant progress and are very proud of our contributions to the work; this year we have celebrated our 10 years of impact. It has been wonderful to be able to celebrate of all the reforms we have been a part of over the past 10 years. Now is a good time to acknowledge all of our accomplishments and to consider new strategies for continuing to build a movement that advances nationwide reforms in removing youth from the adult criminal justice system.

Fighting for justice

Friday, 12 August 2016 Posted in 2016, CFYJ Updates

By Ashley K. Speed, William & Mary Alumni Association

This story was originally published on the William & Mary Alumni Association's blog

From the courthouse to the jailhouse to the General Assembly, Jeree Harris Thomas ’08 is an advocate for children’s rights. It’s a passion so imbedded in her DNA that she self-designed her undergraduate major while at William & Mary to ensure her future advocacy work.

Thomas, an attorney, was recently named the recipient of the inaugural Youth Justice Emerging Leader Award given by the National Juvenile Justice Network. The award was given to Thomas for her advocacy work on issues related to the school to prison pipeline and reforming Virginia’s juvenile justice system. 

The characteristics of the award recipient are described as “an advocate for youth justice who embodies passion, boldness and perseverance, and who is committed to raising up the voices, experiences and expertise of system-involved youth and people of color to ensure that those most directly impacted by injustice are at the forefront of the youth justice movement.” 

“It was a huge surprise, but a really big honor,” Thomas said. “To be held in such high regard was really an honor.” 

Thomas, is a former fellow of NJJN’s Youth Justice Leadership Institute. She was one of 10 juvenile justice fellows selected nationwide. Thomas was previously an attorney with the JustChildren program of the Legal Aid Justice Center in Richmond, Va. Thomas began her work at JustChildren in 2011, with a two-year award from the Skadden Fellowship Foundation. 

“I worked with kids who experienced educational or mental health issues to make sure they had the services they needed while incarcerated and services they needed when they reentered their community,” said Thomas, whose work also entailed drafting legal briefs to show a child’s progress in hopes of swaying judges to lighten an imposed sentence. 

Thomas is currently the policy director at the Campaign for Youth Justice in Washington, D.C. Her role is to advocate for youth who are tried as adults. She works with state advocates to change laws that push youth into the adult criminal justice system. 

“In some states, it’s about giving youth an opportunity to have a hearing in front of a judge to determine what is appropriate instead of youth ages 16 or 17 being automatically treated as adults, and in other states it’s about keeping youth, some as young as 13 and 14 from being incarcerated in adult facilities,” Thomas said.  

While at William & Mary, Thomas earned an interdisciplinary degree in social justice and community advocacy. 

“My degree at William & Mary focused on the intersection of race, education, gender and poverty and how those things impact people,” Thomas said. “I was very happy to be able to create a degree around my interests. That helped me leverage that knowledge when I went to law school.”

Thomas also said her involvement with the university’s Sharpe Community Scholars Program shaped her career path and influenced her focus on child advocacy work.  

“I decided to do a self-designed major in social justice and community advocacy as a result of the Sharpe Program,” Thomas said. "As a result of my major and a real commitment to service-learning, the College created a “Community Studies” minor program."

Thomas doesn’t know what the future holds for her professionally, but is committed to being a lifelong learner.

“I honestly thought my last job was my ultimate career goal, and it was incredibly fulfilling work,” Thomas said. “But I realize now that I have to leave myself open to learn about new opportunities and to continue to push myself to grow professionally and do as much good as I can.”

Visiting the Youth Services Center: A reminder of why youth should never be incarcerated in an adult facility

Monday, 01 August 2016 Posted in 2016, CFYJ Updates

By Anne-Lise Vray and Francesca Sands

Last week, the CFYJ interns, new CFYJ Policy Director Jeree Thomas, and other summer interns from the juvenile justice field went to visit the Youth Services Center, an 88-bed secure residential facility for detained male and female youth. Our group was welcomed by a well-trained staff that shared with us their experiences working at the facility, and reminded us once again why it is so important for incarcerated youth to serve their time in juvenile facilities rather than adult prisons. The staff told us about the facility’s broad range of programs, activities, and treatments available for the kids, but most importantly, they told us about the kids themselves. They gave us a glimpse of the personal relationship they work every day to build with each child, and explained to us how they learn to respond to each specific, individual need. Some kids are so young that they are still afraid of the dark, and need to sleep with the light on. Some have never left their parents or community/neighborhood before, and are completely lost and scared when they first come in. “They are like our own children,” one of the staff members told us. When our group explained to another staff member that our work mainly consists in advocating  against trying, prosecuting and incarcerating youth under 18 in the adult justice system, she thanked us and encouraged us to continue, because “it is so important for the kids,” she said.

The facility focuses its efforts on rehabilitation, and not only do staff provide schooling for children in their absence at their regular schools, but they also teach the kids how to positively contribute to society and fulfill their duties as community members. This is achieved by designing age-appropriate programming that includes activities as serious as short-term goal setting and journaling to as fun as having spa days with the teenage girls. Children respond positively to such attention and care, and will internalize the lessons implicit in such practices. A child, whose experience in society is so limited, will certainly not receive such individualized attention and age-appropriate treatment in an adult facility. Adult facilities don’t allocate any time, money, or thought to child- or adolescent-specific needs. In such facilities, the fragile stage unique to young people is disregarded, leaving kids floundering in a world for which they are neither developmentally prepared nor mentally equipped to handle. As a humanitarian, civil rights, and public safety concern, it is crucial to treat all prisoners as human beings. But it is equally as dire to treat incarcerated kids appropriately as kids.

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