More than five years of lobbying, arm twisting and a fair dose of shaming finally paid off. North Carolina voted Monday to end its status as the only state in the country that still automatically charges 16-year-olds as adults, no matter the crime.
We have set up a world where we — the professionals, the middle class, the white … pick your mark of privilege — are the gatekeepers. What we should be doing is supporting communities in leading conversations about justice reforms. Families should be deciding whether we merit an invitation; not the other way around.
Our organization has just completed three straight years of doing our in-school violence and bullying prevention program in middle schools and high schools throughout the United States, reaching 9,436 youth. Data and statistics aside, we adults associated with the program learned quite a bit about youth and violence.
According to the professionals attending the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative's 25th anniversary celebration in Orlando, Florida, initiating positive, developed relationships with youth in the justice system requires patience, tenacity and understanding.
Today's reformers have taken a different approach to defend against those who use fear as a political tool to quash the trend of de-incarceration.
Reformers are creating a network of reforms that are so intertwined they can withstand getting “clobbered” again.
While immersed in child protection work, it never occurred to me that preventing delinquency was also a part of my job.
When I paused to listen to the stories of young adults who were charged as youth, I realized how doors to graduation, employment and stable housing were shut for them because of decisions they made as a child. When I read the research on trauma and understood how it manifests in delinquent behaviors, and how juvenile justice involvement can exacerbate the trauma, I recognized the harm that can be done within that system.
The case is a half-century old this week, a landmark decision that merged jurisprudence, common sense and fortunate timing to reshape juvenile justice and give children many of the same due process rights long held by adults charged with crimes.
The mother never wanted to talk in public about what happened to her son.
For 24 years — since her then-17-year-old son Ronald was pulled off a bus in Washington, D.C., charged and eventually convicted of murder — Donna Heyward always avoided recounting the pain of losing her oldest child to the criminal justice system.
"Just because someone is driving without a license or ends up in jail for a minor traffic violation ... [they] should not have to be deported," said Colotl, who is now 28. "I think that's a cruel and usual punishment that's actually against the Constitution."
ByShay Bilchik, Michael Umpierre and Rachael Ward |
Earlier this year, we urged the Trump administration to continue federal investments in juvenile justice. In the last three decades, the field has benefited greatly from federal support of research, innovative programming and evidence-based approaches designed to improve outcomes for youth, families and communities.
The Los Angeles County Office of Education boasts that scores of young people who were at risk of dropping out of high school get their high school diplomas or their GED credentials while they’re in LA County’s juvenile probation camps each year. It’s a monumental and pivotal moment for students who often have fallen behind in school and so might not expect such an accomplishment.
The renewed focus on adolescent development in juvenile justice is welcome and overdue. Adolescence is potentially the best opportunity to intervene effectively with youth to help them develop empathy, impulse control and good decision-making skills.
Should youth incarcerated in California juvenile halls and camps be entitled to new underwear? Should family and friends be assured that their visits to youth in detention facilities be in person rather than through video screens? Should these youth be guaranteed more time outdoors for exercise and fresh air?