In February, the Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) was represented at the Rebellious Lawyering Conference (RebLaw) hosted by Yale University.
|Dwayne Betts and Jessica Sandoval|
RebLaw is the nation's largest student-run, public interest conference. Each year the conference brings together practitioners, law students, and community activists from around the country to discuss innovative and progressive approaches to law and social change. The conference, grounded in the spirit of influential attorney, Gerald Lopez's rebellious lawyering, seeks to build a community of law students, practitioners, and activists seeking to work in the service of social change movements and to challenge hierarchies of race, wealth, and gender within legal practice and education.
I was privileged to participate as a panelist on the “Roper, Graham, and Miller: What Now, What Next?” panel. Youth can no longer be sentenced to death, life without parole for non-homicide offenses, or mandatory life without parole. The panel discussed the larger impact of these decisions. Our panel was facilitated by Dwayne Betts, long-time supporter and spokesperson for CFYJ and a first year law student at Yale. The panelists included: Brandy Buskey, staff attorney at the ACLU; Vinny Schiraldi, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Probation; and Marsha Levick, co-founder, Deputy Director and Chief Counsel of the Juvenile Law Center.
The room was packed full of law students from around the country who asked very insightful and provocative questions pertaining to these cases and juvenile justice reform in general. The discussion was robust and wholly agreed upon that Roper, Graham, & Miller was correctly decided. The panel also discussed that these cases have tightly driven home the message that kids are different and that many factors should be explored before ever considering the adult court as an option. One option explored was that states and congress should consider not housing youth in adult facilities, and all youth should originate in juvenile justice system while the factors of each of their cases are
To read more about the dangers of housing youth in adult facilities, please click here.