Monday, December 9, 2013
By Liz Ryan
Several times a year, our organization meets with delegations of juvenile justice experts from around the world. We always start the conversation with a show of hands. How many of your countries prosecute children in adult criminal court? How many of your countries put children in adult jails and adult prisons? How many of your countries sentence children to decades behind bars or life in prison without the possibility of parole? My hand is always the only one raised in response to these questions.
As we share our orange wristband bearing the message, "Join the Movement for Youth Justice" with these experts, we tell them about the 100,000 children who languish in adult jails and prisons and the 250,000 children prosecuted in adult criminal court every year. We share the astronomical statistics about the $6 billion the U.S. spends to incarcerate children in the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems every year and the grim facts on the inhumane conditions of confinement that children are exposed to in the justice system.
I always see the same look of shock on their faces. They tell us that they had not heard any of this from their U.S. State Department hosts on their trip to date. "I'm not surprised," I tell them. Their State Department Hosts reflect a common thread in American society: a view that the U.S. is the beacon of human rights, and other countries must measure up to the U.S. The U.S. does not abuse human rights, especially not when it comes to children. Rather, the U.S. is the human rights standard bearer and will withhold foreign aid when other countries violate human rights.
In reality, the U.S. is number one when it comes to children in the justice system, but not because we have the highest standards in the world. The U.S. is the world's leader in the incarceration of children. We stand out above the rest as the only country in the world that routinely prosecutes children in adult criminal court and places children in adult jails and prisons, where they are the most at-risk of violence, sexual assault, and suicide. For the youth who are convicted in adult criminal court, the consequences are serious, negative, life-long, and in some cases, deadly.
On this Human Rights Day 2013, we must remember the children in the United States who languish behind bars in juvenile detention centers, juvenile prisons, adult jails and adult prisons.
U.S. policy and state laws do not adequately protect these children from harm or ensure rehabilitative programs or regular access to their families. And, the United States does not adhere to international human rights conventions - such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) - that would protect the human rights of the children in the justice system.
The good news is that the American public strongly rejects the incarceration of children. According to the latest polls, they favor their rehabilitation and treatment. Americans overwhelmingly oppose the placement of youth in adult jails and prisons, and strongly favor individualized determinations on a case-by-case basis by juvenile court judges in the juvenile justice system rather than automatic prosecution in adult criminal court.
It is past time to recognize that we are not a world leader when it comes to the human rights of children in the juvenile and criminal justice systems. We lag behind the rest of the world. Rather than always focusing on taking other countries to task for their human rights abuses, U.S. officials and state policymakers must focus on addressing the human rights of children in the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems here at home.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
By Christine Brugh
Last week, the Justice Policy Institute released a new brief titled, “Virginia’s Justice System: Expensive, Ineffective, and Unfair.” The brief examines trends in incarceration in Virginia, delving into topics such as racial disparity and drug laws. According to the brief, Virginia has the 8th highest incarceration in the United States, making it even more pertinent that these disparities be addressed.
During Governor Allen’s tenure, prisons in Virginia have become even tougher, and have earned a reputation for being one of the most severe systems in the United States. Over-incarceration has contributed to this reputation and has serious consequences for communities and taxpayers in Virginia. The increased use of incarceration has been justified by the goal of reducing crime through the incapacitation of law-breakers. However, this comes at the expense of disproportionate incarceration of African-Americans and African American youth.
The brief reports that the cost to incarcerate a young person in a juvenile facility is approximately $100,000 per year. Virginia’s policies on juvenile justice falls behind those of other states; youth as young as 14 year- old can be transferred to criminal court for certain offenses, and in some cases, the transfer is automatic. According to the brief, Virginia is unnecessarily transferring many of these youth to adult court: a majority of these adolescents do not receive sentences requiring placement in adult prison.
Also highlighted in the brief are some positive trends, as well as suggestions for improvement of juvenile justice proceedings. Overall, the number of incarcerated youth in Virginia has declined from 2001 to 2010. This shows some progress toward the goal of creating community based programs in Virginia. The brief suggests that juvenile justice resources showed be allocated toward therapeutic model of residential, close-to-home facilities for when confinement is necessary. This is in response to research which demonstrates that youth respond better to environments where educational and social needs are met.
Take Action Today! Sign a petition urging Governor McDonell to do more to protect juveniles from sexual assault in adult jails and prisons, click here for more information.
Also check out CFYJ's newest report, State Trends 2013, as we take a look at states that have, and are taking steps to remove children from the adult criminal justice system.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
|Panelists: Peter Edelman, Karen Baynes-Dunning, Kim Selvaggi, and Kathy Szafran|
By: Carmen Daugherty
The event focused on the importance and implementation of trauma-informed approaches to girls in the system, while providing an opportunity to learn about programs that have proven effective across the country. Mr. Robert Listenbee, Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) reaffirmed his office’s commitment to developing more information and tools about girls in the justice system in order to better meet their unique needs. The event featured Dr. Stephanie Covington, Co-Director at the Center for Gender and Justice, and her work on trauma-informed approaches to girls. As a nationally recognized clinician, Dr. Covington articulated the need for more gender-responsive and trauma-informed treatment services for women and girls in the public, private, and institutional settings.
During YJAM’s Girls Justice Day, we shared that girls are an invisible part of the juvenile justice system but sadly their numbers have increased steadily over the past several decades, rising from 17 percent in 1980 to 29 percent in 2011. Most of these girls, up to 73 percent, have histories of physical and sexual violence, which precedes their entry into the criminal and juvenile justice system. We are thrilled to be partners with the sponsoring organizations and look forward to working with each in the future to address the needs of girls in the criminal justice system.
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Have you ever wanted to ask a question about how to achieve success on a youth justice campaign? Or why youth are automatically prosecuted in the adult court for stealing a bag of chips? Or you just want to do more for youth justice?
In an effort to elevate awareness about youth in the adult criminal justice system and the detrimental effects of youth incarceration on family members, kids, and the general public, the Campaign for Youth Justice is hosting an online forum.
Join us for a conversation about our organization and the work we are doing to remove youth from the adult court in our state. We will be joined by other state advocates and community organizers to discuss the trends in youth justice and how to take action wherever you are.Join us on Thursday, November 7th at 2 p.m. EDT on Facebook!
If you cannot make it, send questions to Jessica at firstname.lastname@example.org beforehand, and consider taking action in your state.
Here are 3 ways you can make a difference:
1.) Like us on Facebook
2.) Share this announcement
3.) Contact us about how to get involved
We look forward to hearing from you on November 7th!