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Embracing the Rights of the Child

Brian Evans Sunday, 10 December 2017 Posted in CFYJ Updates

By Brian Evans, CFYJ State Campaign Director 

On December 10, 1948, in San Francisco, in the aftermath of the most brutal war the world had ever seen, a group of delegates gathered to sign the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a simple 30-article document outlining the basic rights to which all humanity is entitled and which all governments should respect, protect, and fulfill. Over the years, the principles of this Declaration have been fleshed out by more detailed treaties called Conventions. No Convention has more universal endorsement (at least on paper) than the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC), ratified by every country in the world – except the United States.

Study Details Benefits to Missouri of “Raise the Age”

By Brian Evans Thursday, 07 December 2017

By Brian Evans, CFYJ State Campaigns Director

Over the past two years, four states have “Raised the Age” of criminal court jurisdiction to 18 – Louisiana and South Carolina in 2016, and New York and North Carolina earlier this year. While these recently passed laws have yet to go into effect, there are only five states that still charge all 17 year olds as adults no matter how minor the offense. Missouri, which has had a reputation for being a leader in juvenile justice because of its “Missouri model” of youth detention facilities, is one of those five states.

Northern Ireland: A Human Rights Approach to Youth Crime

By Rachel Marshall Thursday, 30 November 2017 Posted in CFYJ Updates

By Rachel Marshall, Federal Policy Counsel

In 1998, the Good Friday Agreement brought an end to three decades of conflict in Northern Ireland known as “The Troubles.” Even after the peace process, many in Northern Ireland harbored a deep distrust in police and the larger justice system. As part of the healing process, the government realized a complete overhaul of the justice system was needed. From this realization emerged a focus on restorative justice. In 2002, the Northern Ireland Justice Act created a statutory scheme for juvenile justice establishing a restorative justice model as the primary mode of intervention for justice-involved youth. While the model was initially established for 10-16 year olds, in 2005 the statute was expanded to include 17 year olds. Restorative justice is used both in pre-sentence diversion, as well as court-based intervention, with most low-level offenses dismissed with only a “caution.”

Happy Thanksgiving from CFYJ - Thanks for Your Giving

Marcy Mistrett Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Happy Thanksgiving From CFYJ

By Marcy Mistrett, CEO

We hear from young people and their families every day who are impacted by the injustices of the adult criminal justice system, about the barriers they face, and the urgency for reform. This Thanksgiving, we would like to THANK some of the families and young people who were incarcerated as adults for all that they keep GIVING to the movement.

Vote Locally

Brian Evans Monday, 06 November 2017 Posted in Across the Country

EDBy Brian Evans, State Campaigns Director

It is said that all politics is local. It’s also true that all – or at least most – criminal justice is local, and that’s especially the case when it comes to youth involved in the justice system. So while Presidential election years and even-numbered years when members of the U.S. Congress are up for re-election may draw the most attention, off years like this one should not be ignored.

This November 7, mayors, city and county government officials, judges, and local prosecutors, are up for election across the country, and the winners and losers of these races will have a profound impact on local criminal justice policies and practices.

TRICK OR TREAT: Why Treating Children Like Adults is S-C-A-R-Y

Marcy Mistrett Monday, 30 October 2017 Posted in Across the Country

By Marcy Mistrett, CEO

October 31 is Halloween.  It is a time when some communities celebrate the childhood joys of fantasy and play, dressing up as our favorite heroes or villains, and confronting our fears of the darkness.  Witches, ghosts and goblins remain stories whose monsters go away for a year once Halloween ends. Parents and children trek out to the pumpkin patch, carve pumpkins and drink warm apple cider. Children get to explore their neighborhoods, and later enjoy a pumpkin head full of treats.  

In other communities—Halloween is not something children celebrate.  It’s a time when you hunker down inside with your family, when you make sure your doors are locked because people who are out, are looking to do harm.  There are places where monsters are real and where safety is jeopardized, sometimes daily; where “tricks” far outnumber “treats” and where childhood play ends at a much earlier age.

California: Here’s What’s Moving in Youth Justice in 2017

Monday, 25 September 2017 Posted in Campaigns

By Abigail Appel, Juvenile Justice Fellow

Historically, children who are involved in the justice system at a young age are much more likely to be arrested again as adults. In an effort to dismantle this correlation and increase the likelihood that justice-involved youth have positive outcomes, California has recently passed a number of bills. These bills address various hurdles that make it much harder for youth with criminal records to be successful upon release. All of the bills move away from the “one size fits all” logic in order to give children better opportunities for rehabilitation and judges more leeway to determine a fair punishment.

September is #SuicidePrevention Month

Thursday, 21 September 2017 Posted in Voices

By Aprill Turner, Communications & Media Director

September is national suicide prevention month. Throughout the month, individuals and organizations alike will be drawing attention to the problem of suicide and advocating the prevention of this terrible tragedy. Suicide is a national health problem that is also one of the leading causes of preventable death in our nation. As we reflect on this month and what we can do help with prevention, we must remember a very vulnerable population-- young people in adult jails and prisons.

Guest Column: Don’t Give Up on Latinx Youth

Thursday, 14 September 2017 Posted in Voices

September 15 marks the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month, a month dedicated to celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

It also marks a dark time in our Nation’s history, where the federal government and Congress are increasingly calling for the closure of US borders; and targeting immigrant youth and families for deportation under the guise of “public safety.” This week, the US House of Representatives will vote on HR 3697, “The Criminal Alien Gang Removal Act”. If passed, the bill will create new vague and overly broad grounds of removability based on a sweeping new definition of "criminal gang," triggering racial profiling and putting the United States in violation of its international obligations to protect asylum seekers. This follows on the heels of the administration’s repeal of DACA in the next 6 months, a decision that will impact 800,000 young people and their families who have lived in this country since they were young children.

In solidarity with all the families and young people who are being unjustly targeted and in honor of National Hispanic Heritage month, we asked one of our spokespeople, Jesse De La Cruz, to write about his story and about what it means to be a justice-involved Latino youth in the United States.

I’m Jesse De La Cruz, a full-time college student and worker who grew up in the underserved community of South Central Los Angeles. I work smart and hard, both at school and work. This may be in my genes: I come from an immigrant family. My parents fled Mexico to the United States of America in the 1980’s to get opportunities towards a better life. They strongly believe in the American Dream, and so do I. But in this search for a new life, they quickly realized that the two jobs they had to work to keep up with the ever rising costs of living in our impoverished neighborhood in Los Angeles was far from the dream they had in mind.  But our family was well aware that diligence and intelligence were keys for immigrants like us, especially youth, to defeat the sad incarceration statistics that far too many immigrant youth face.  Unfortunately, I too succumbed to the gang violence, drug abuse, and crime wave that hit Los Angeles during my youth. Growing up in the Nickerson Gardens Housing Projects in Watts and South Central Los Angeles, these “activities” were sadly common. Today, as we kick off National Hispanic Heritage Month, and as a Latino youth facing increasing disenfranchisement and discrimination, it is critical for everyone to keep in mind that mass incarceration is a way of building a caste system and strip minorities from their rights; particularly immigrant youth. At the age of 15, I committed a carjacking in Los Angeles. I’m the sole responsible person for committing such regrettable hurtful act on a human; it’s a decision I will have to live with the rest of my life. I entered the Juvenile Justice system after going through a broken school system, a neglectful household, a crime-infested neighborhood, and a broken foster care system. Immediately, I realized that I committed an act on impulse and poor-decision making based on my youth; however, the court system didn’t recognize this. My probation officer recommended for me to be penalized as an adult. I was LUCKY to beat a Juvenile Fitness Hearing that determined if I would go to adult prison or a juvenile detention center; instead I was sentenced to 8 years in the California Youth Authority. As I entered this system, I quickly realized that youth here faced similar experiences of abuse growing up. There seemed to be a relation between crime and abuse. Meanwhile in the California Youth Authority, I quickly developed a love for education.

As I became involved in the justice system, I soon realized that most of the other youth in there with me had had similar experiences and trauma as mine, if not worse. The vast majority of them were also youth of color. From there, it was very easy to put the pieces together and understand how so many Latinx youth across the country wind up behind bars. Compared to white youth, Latinx youth in the juvenile system are 4% more likely to be petitioned, 16% more likely to be adjudicated delinquent, 28% more likely to be detained, and 41% more likely to receive an out-of-home placement. The most severe disparities occur for Latinx youth tried in the adult system. Latinx children are 43% more likely than white youth to be waived judicially to the adult system and 40% more likely to be admitted to adult prison. And I learned first-hand that it doesn’t get easier once you get out.

Re-entering society has been an ongoing struggle. Employment, housing, resources and support were hard to come by as I was labeled an “at-risk” youth. Racial profiling by the LA police has also been a part of my daily life since I was a kid, and it continues today as I get regularly pulled over for “routine stops” when I’m just trying to get from point A to point B with my car.

Like me, many Latinx youth have to face many hardships very early on, much more than most people ever endure in their lifetime, and end up getting in trouble because they don’t know any other way. But when offered opportunities and care, they can also accomplish amazing things and turn their lives around, like I did. Today, I am proud to stand as a young leader in my community, trying to push for reforms in the school system, policy, and community engagement. Thanks to the support of many people and organizations like the Campaign for Youth Justice, I have developed a new perspective on life and have grown a strong mental fortitude to apply in life and continue building my future.

Headed Back to School… In the Justice System

Tuesday, 05 September 2017 Posted in Voices

By Marcy Mistrett, CEO 

With the conclusion of Labor Day Weekend, summer is officially “over”—and hundreds of thousands of children return to school this week.  Across the Internet, we see families readying themselves for the year—buying school supplies, new shoes, and happily attending ‘meet your teacher days.’  Discussions on standardized tests, teachers unions, shortages in school budgets, and achievement gaps begin to fill social conversations.

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