Monday, July 21, 2014

Valuing Family, Community and Youth: Reauthorize the JJDPA

By Shaena Fazal, Esq

This post is part of the JJDPA Mattersblog, a project of the Act4JJ Campaign with help from SparkAction. The JJDPA, the nation's landmark juvenile justice law, turns 40 this September. Each month leading up to this anniversary, Act4JJ member organizations and allies will post blogs on issues related to the JJDPA.  To learn more and take action in support of JJDPA, visit the Act4JJ JJDPA MattersAction Center, powered by SparkAction.

It has been twelve years since Congress reauthorized the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), the nearly 40-year old federal legislation that recognizes the importance of preventing youth involvement in the juvenile justice system and establishes federal protections for youth in the system.

The JJDPA is long overdue for reauthorization.

Despite the many effective reforms spearheaded by the JJDPA, 70,000 youth are still incarcerated in jails and prisons on any given day.  Some are housed outside of their home states and far away from their families, in private facilities with little oversight.

All of these out-of-home placements have high price tags. Incarcerating youth has a fiscal price tag that averages $90,000 per year. The social costs—which include separation from family and community and barriers to education and work that can lead to chronic disconnection—are even higher. And we know that kids of color, kids with developmental disabilities and LBTQ youth are more likely to be incarcerated and be abused in facilities.

The JJDPA was last reauthorized by Congress in 2002. We now know a lot more than we did twelve years ago about what’s best for kids. For example, we learned that delinquent youth are more likely to die violent deaths, and that brain development that helps one understand right from wrong continues until early adulthood. We also have over a decade of additional evidence that incarceration can be harmful to youth and that community-based programs are far more effective.

In June, we at Youth Advocate Programs (YAP) added to that growing body of research with the release of our report, Safely Home.

In this report, we emphasize the need for community-based programs for youth with complex needs and demonstrate that reform is possible by highlighting “bright spots” from around the country where state and county leaders have worked with communities to safely reduce youth incarceration by building continuums of support for youth with varying needs.

In addition, the report finds that 8 out of 10 kids in intensive community-based alternatives to prison or jail ended up arrest-free and 9 and out of 10 remained living in their homes with their families.

If public safety and strengthening families and communities are a priority, Congress will reauthorize the JJDPA so that more programs that produce these outcomes can keep kids safe, at home and out of the system. The entire law is about protecting children and preventing delinquency because we know, and Congress knows, it is best for kids to be with their families, supported and connected to pro-social activities, people and places.

We can serve three to four kids in the community for the same price as locking one up. So why don’t we?
Better outcomes for youth and increased community safety are clearly important priorities, but that’s not all that reauthorizing the JJDPA can do. It would also help shape federal juvenile justice policy and incentivize a more cost effective approach to juvenile justice at a time of budget austerity for Congress and nearly every statehouse in the country. The cost to incarcerate a youth averages $250 per day, although in some places it’s as high as $667 per day. An intensive community-based program, on the other hand, costs on average $75 per day. That means we can serve three to four kids in the community for the same price as locking one up. So why don’t we?

We’ve learned a lot since 2002 and some states have used the JJDPA to implement sensible reforms. Yet for the 70,000 youth incarcerated tonight, their families, and their communities, reauthorizing the JJDPA cannot come soon enough.

For some youth, reauthorizing the JJDPA will mean the difference between whether they get a chance to complete high school and have productive futures or begin an arduous, expensive and wasteful path into the criminal justice system or chronic disconnection that will cost society in other ways. It is incumbent upon us to make sure they have every opportunity to be on the better path.

To really prevent juvenile delinquency, achieve the best outcomes for youth and promote safe communities informed by what we have learned in the last 12 years, Congress must adequately fund and re-authorize the JJDPA.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Homeboy Industries on Capitol Hill

By: Samantha Wiggins, CFYJ Fellow
Homeboy Industries Founder, Father Greg Boyle

On July 1st, the Interfaith Criminal Justice Coalition held Lessons from the Field: Protecting Youth and Stopping the Cycle of Incarceration. The event focused on the importance of rehabilitation in the criminal justice system. The speaker was Father Greg Boyle, the founder of Homeboy Industries, an organization that provides wraparound services for former gang members.Homeboy Industries is the biggest program of its kind in the world. 

In 1988, Father Greg Boyle founded Homeboy Industries to help local gang members, also called "homies", in the poorest parish in Los Angeles, California. The roots of Homeboy Industries started with a school for youth in gangs and a job referral program. Soon after the creation of the school, Father Boyle realized that his homies were having trouble finding jobs. In 1992 Homeboy Bakery was created; the bakery serves as a source of training as well as employment for former gang members. It is one of the most successful social enterprises of its kind. There are other enterprises at Homeboy Industries, such as Homeboy Diner and Homegirl Cafe. 

As Father Boyle began to grow Homeboy Industries he realized that more wraparound services were needed, including case management, employment services, tattoo removal, curriculum and education, and mental health. Today, the program at Homeboy Industries is an 18 month program, in which former gang members receive a wealth of services. Father Boyle believes that finding a job for someone is important but without healing from the pain and receiving counseling it is likely that there will not be any stability in their lives.

His philosophy of care is based on kinship, he believes we are all dependent on each other, thus it is important to help each other. He believes that if we viewed the world through the eyes of kinship that there would be no need for justice because kinship produces justice. Through the many examples he spoke of, I learned the difficulties facing those who have served time and would like to be a productive member of society. Understanding that thousands of youth come in contact with the criminal justice system each year, it is motivating to see someone like Father Boyle continue to advocate for reform in criminal justice. 

The effect of Homeboy Industries reaches farther than Los Angeles, because it also provides technical assistance to other organizations and people who would like to start similar programs. It has helped to start 46 programs in the United States and 8 programs outside of the country. Programs like Homeboy Industries demonstrate that when given the proper services, even long time gang members can be rehabilitated and become productive law-abiding members of society.

To learn more about how you can support Homeboy Industries, visit them online:

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Senators Paul and Booker Envision Better Options for Youth, Congress Takes Concrete Steps for Change

This week, Senator Cory Booker  (D-NJ) and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced the REDEEM Act (The Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment Act) which addresses several problematic areas of America’s  current criminal justice system.

What does the REDEEM Act hope to achieve? 

With financial incentives as the carrot, the bill:

1)       Incentivizes states to increase the age of criminal responsibility to 18-years-old: Currently 10 states (Louisiana, New York, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Georgia, South Carolina, Michigan, Missouri, and Texas) have set the original jurisdiction of adult criminal courts below 18-years-old. This sends countless kids into the unforgiving adult criminal system.

The REDEEM Act incentivizes states to “raise the age” by giving preference to grant applicants for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) to those states that have set 18 or older as the age of original jurisdiction for adult criminal courts.  While this sends a strong message to jurisdictions to “raise the age” the bill does not penalize states in the COPS application process for having other avenues in which youth can enter the adult criminal justice system. For example, the 15 states that allow prosecutors to “direct file” youth to the adult criminal justice system for certain offenses and the majority of states that allow a judge to transfer youth to the adult system are still given preference if their age of original court jurisdiction begins at 18 years of age.

2)      Offers adults way to seal non-violent criminal records: Presents the first broad-based federal path to the sealing of criminal records for adults. Non-violent offenders will be able to petition a court and make their case. Furthermore, employers requesting FBI background checks will get only relevant and accurate information - thereby protecting job applicants - because of provisions to improve the background check system.

3)      Allows for sealing and expungement of juvenile records: The REDEEM Act improves juvenile record confidentiality, automatically expunges nonviolent juvenile offenses that are committed by a child before they turn 15, and automatically seals nonviolent juvenile offenses that occur after a child has reached the age of 15. The automatic sealing and expungement occurs at the age of 18, or three years after the offense, whichever happens later. The REDEEM Act provides an incentive for states to do the same by allowing preference to be given to Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant applications that originate from states that have enacted similar or stronger juvenile confidentiality, sealing and expungement provisions.

4)      Restricts use of juvenile solitary confinement: The REDEEM Act bans the use of room confinement for discipline, punishment, retaliation, staffing shortages, administrative convenience, or any reason other than as a temporary response to behavior that poses a serious and immediate risk of physical harm to the juvenile or others at any facility to which a federally adjudicated juvenile is sent. The REDEEM Act provides an incentive for states to follow suit by allowing preference to be given to Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant applications that originate from states that have enacted similar or stronger juvenile room confinement provisions.

This provision in the bill protects a very small population of youth that enter the federal system, offering very similar protections as the recently introduced Protecting Youth from Solitary Confinement Bill. With the newly found interest and urgency around solitary confinement increasing Congressional action, language should be stronger to ban all solitary in all facilities, especially for vulnerable populations of youth in adult jails and prisons.  

5)      Lifts ban on SNAP and TANF benefits for low-level drug offenders: The REDEEM Act restores access to benefits for those who have served their time for use, possession, and distribution crimes provided their offense was rationally related to a substance abuse disorder and they have enrolled in a treatment program.

Efforts Increase at the Federal Level

The REDEEM Act brings the issue of juvenile justice to the forefront of the bigger issue of criminal justice reform. With the imminent introduction of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, the newly comprised bipartisan Crime Prevention and Youth Development Caucus in the House of Representatives,  and the myriad of reforms the REDEEM Act envisions, Congress joins the voices of hundreds of advocates, families, and youth to recognize the ultimate value of young people and allow for more prevention, intervention, and rehabilitative opportunities.

We hope to see this kind of momentum continue in the coming months and hope that states share Congress’ reemerged enthusiasm in justice reform. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

JOY Campaign and Allies Raise Awareness on the Criminalization of DC Youth

By: Paige Bettge, CFYJ Fellow

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On Thursday, June 26, Judge Our Youth (JOY) Campaign advocates - Campaign for Youth Justice, DC Lawyers for Youth, and other allies, joined Black Youth Project 100, the DC chapter of the Black Youth Project, for a peaceful demonstration at the District's Central Detention Facility. The event focused on raising awareness of the criminalization of black youth in DC and is part of BYP’s larger campaign, the #CriminalizedLives Project, which seeks to collect stories from people that have been impacted by the criminal justice system, and specifically, the experiences of youth with law enforcement. 

Daniel Okonkwo, spoke on behalf of the JOY Campaign to discuss the changes we need in the nation's capital in order to improve public safety and promote the rehabilitation of youth. Okonkwo enumerated upon how currently, in the DC jails, youth are denied access to regular family visits and do not have educational programs readily available - resulting in difficulties returning to their families and schools upon release.

Other speakers discussed the importance of fighting racially disproportionate sentencing and arrests for all age levels. Preston Mitchum specifically spoke about how the school-to-prison pipeline criminalizes LGBTQ youth in schools and impacts their educational growth. Nikki Lewis, from Jobs for Justice, spoke further upon the difficulties for black youth in finding vocational opportunities, which is extremely challenging for youth upon their return to the community after being placed in the adult criminal justice system. Finally, we heard two returning citizens discuss the violence within the jail walls, emphasizing the need for immediate change.

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The Judge Our Youth Campaign will continue to participate in events this summer to raise awareness around youth justice issues here in DC. To stay connected on upcoming events contact: Angella Bellota, CFYJ Field Director, at

For more information regarding Black Youth Project 100 and their mission, visit them here

For more pictures and info from the rally, follow hashtags: #JOYDC #CriminalizedLives 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Latino Voices: The Impacts of Crime and Criminal Justice Policies on Latinos.

 By Jessica Sandoval

A new report shows that Latino voters support less incarceration and more rehabilitation.  This week the Californians for Safety and Justice released a report, Latino Voices: The Impacts of Crime and Criminal Justice Policies on Latinos. The new report reveals that Latinos have surpassed whites to now make up the largest share of California’s population, yet are faced with unequal treatment at every stage of the justice system. 

For Latinos in the justice system, the report reveals that they are less likely to be released from jail on their own recognizance while awaiting trial, and if they were offered bail, it is set at higher amounts than for African Americans and whites with similar charges.  Latinos also were more likely to be incarcerated than whites when convicted of similar property and drug crimes, as well as more likely to be re-incarcerated if convicted for a repeat offense upon release.

The report finds that because of these disparities, Latinos increasingly support changes to the criminal justice system.  Among the public opinion research in the report is a new survey (conducted by David Binder Research in May/June 2014) that finds that 47% of California Latino voters want officials to focus on policies that are less, not more (40%), reliant on incarceration. Eight in 10 Latinos (78%) support the state in shortening longer criminal sentences and using the savings in reduced prison costs to invest in education, health services and prevention.

Additionally, respondents believe the state should focus more on supervised probation and rehabilitation (51%), compared to those believing we should send more people to jail/prison (11%) or that the current mix is about right (32%). These findings are similar to those of a 2013 survey of Latino crime victims in California that found they wanted, by a two-to-one margin, California to focus more on supervised probation and rehabilitation than more prison and jail terms.

These report findings also echo the polling that we at the Campaign for Youth Justice have commissioned over the last several years.  We applaud California for collecting this important information that will ultimately aid in moving the dialogue forward and promote progressive policy changes that are influenced by Latino voices..

To access the full report, visit

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Campaign for Youth Justice Introduces Our 
2014 Summer Fellows

Meet CFYJ's Summer Fellows, pictured left to right: Samantha Wiggins,
Paige Bettge, Calvin Jackson, and Samuel Wilkins.
The Campaign for Youth Justice is pleased to introduce our 2014 Summer Fellows:

Paige Bettge- College of William & Mary
Paige was born and raised in Fairfax, Virginia, and currently attends the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. She is a rising junior and is studying philosophy and psychology. During her time at college, Paige has volunteered as a mentor for residents of a nearby juvenile detention facility. This experience has motivated her to work towards being an advocate for youth in the criminal justice system. Paige’s other interests include animal welfare, reading, and trips to the beach!

Calvin Jackson- Georgetown University
Calvin Jackson is a rising senior at Georgetown University. He is majoring in Sociology and a double minor in Media & Film studies as well as African American studies. He was a youth participant for 8 years at the local Art and Media Center. A product of DC schools and urban city, these experiences expanded his horizons and allowed him to channel his energy into social advocacy. He has worked with the Black Student Alliance, Georgetown's film department and Office of Communications to produce short films or promotions. He is the producer of Georgetown's first student video platform: Georgetown Buzz. At Georgetown, He worked in conjunction with many education diversity and advocacy groups such as Leaders in Education and Diversity, DC Reads Advocacy committee , One World Youth Project, and leading this year's Male Development Association.  He also volunteers at the community art center where he grew up.

Samuel Wilkins—Georgetown University
Samuel is currently a rising junior at Georgetown University double-majoring in Government and Theology. Although his majors sound like a combination of two things that should never come together, he hopes to incorporate both fields in his advocacy for the marginalized and pursuit of implementing a more just social order. At Georgetown, Samuel is currently serving as a coordinator of a program that works to mentor, tutor, and advocate for youths in the juvenile court system. This program intensified Samuel’s passion to work with and for court-involved youths. Samuel, a textbook case of an extrovert, feels most at home when he is talking with his friends and family. He also enjoys reading Russian literature, watching his hometown Phillies, playing basketball, and attempting to sing while playing guitar.

Samantha Wiggins - Georgetown University Law Center
Samantha is a rising third year student at Georgetown University Law Center. Her hometown is Potomac, MD. She currently holds a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy, as well as a certificate in Political Economics, from Temple University. While at Temple University and living in North Philadelphia, one of the poorest areas in Philadelphia, she was inspired to pursue a legal career to learn tools to create social change. While in college she worked with civil rights organizations to create change on campus and in the community and brought those same interests and passions to law school.

Samantha comes to CFYJ eager to be a part of the policy effort in juvenile justice reform and be a part of an important movement to change the juvenile justice system. Additionally, she hopes to learn how to get active in this movement after her internship. Graduating in May of 2015, Samantha hopes to work in youth advocacy or criminal justice reform post-graduation.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Newly Released Report "Safely Home" Finds That Community-based Programs are More Effective, Less Expensive Than Youth Incarceration

By Jessica Sandoval 

 Youth Advocate Program (YAP) released new report today that shows community based programs are more effective and less expensive that locking up youth. As states continue to grapple with the fiscal impact of incarceration there seems to be smarter, more effective and less costly way of doing business. The Safely Home report highlights how youth have been safely and successfully supported in their homes and with their families in many jurisdictions around the country. 

The report draws upon a series of recent briefs by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice Research and Evaluation Center on the public safety and permanency outcomes of thousands of youth served by YAP, and a survey of 300 young people served by community-based programs instead of incarceration. The report finds that more than 8 out of 10 youth remained arrest free and 9 out of 10 were at home after completing their community-based program, at cost that is a fraction of what it would have cost to incarcerate these youth. 

The findings highlight how high-need youth have been safely and successfully supported in their homes with the help of intensive community-based programs like YAP. Intensive community-based programs can serve three to four high-need youth safely in the community for the same cost as incarcerating one child, the report found. 

 At the Campaign for Youth Justice we support these types of reforms and encourage states to reinvest dollars to serve youth in the community rather than in an institution that more often than not produces the opposite of what we would all like to see. This report is a roadmap to reinvesting dollars into proven practices that work to keep kids in the community and produce better more effective outcomes.

 To view the entire report, visit