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Brooklyn Youth Justice in the Hands of Teens

Teens act as jurors during a session of the Red Hook Youth Court — a program that trains youth in the community to handle low-level offenses such as vandalism, assault and truancy, involving youth ages 10 to 18. The court has the ability to issue sanctions such as community service hours, workshops, letters of apology and essays.

The Red Hook Youth Court trains teens to serve as jurors and judges to handle real-life low-level misdemeanors committed by their peers. These include possession of marijuana, vandalism and assault.

The all-teen jury has the power to impose sanctions such as community service hours, workshops or essays. The program coordinator oversees each proceeding to make sure it is functioning properly and that the sanctions are fair. Continue Reading →

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Prison Punishes Criminals’ Children, Panelists Say

DeShawn Harris and Sandra Kroger

NEW YORK — Sending people to prison punishes not only criminals but their families, especially their children, participants in a program on prison photography say.

“It’s not just about offenders and victims,” said documentary photographer Gabriela Bulisova during the Thursday panel discussion hosted by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s Department of Visual Journalism. “Many of the people affected are children.” Continue Reading →

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NJ Teen Helps Decide Fate of Some Juvenile Offenders


NEW YORK — Jason Pedreros is considered an adult in the eyes of the law. But at 18, he is still a teenager who, as a volunteer on a judicial panel, is deciding the fate of fellow youths in the New Jersey county where he lives.

Pedreros serves on the Juvenile Conference Committees (JCC) in Hudson County that review charges against underage New Jersey residents and make punitive and rehabilitative recommendations to the court. There are six- to nine-member committees in each of New Jersey’s 21 counties. In addition, many municipalities have their own. His handles north Bergen, west New York and Jersey City.

Charges are first reviewed by a juvenile intake probation officer and a Hudson County prosecutor, who decides which cases get sent to committees. First- or second-time minor offenses are eligible. Continue Reading →

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Current Juvenile Justice System ‘Designed to Erode Humanity’: Author

Burning Down the House

Just as the “superpredator” label had unfairly distorted perceptions of her young newspaper staff, writer Nell Bernstein said, youth incarceration as a whole is “a system custom-designed to erode humanity.”

“Once you put someone in an orange jumpsuit and put a label like ‘offender’ or ‘delinquent’ on him or her, it’s very easy to start thinking of that person as a different kind of child,” she said. Continue Reading →

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New Orleans Filmmaker Hopes to Get the ‘91%’ Out of Movie Seats, Into Ballot Box

91%: A Documentary About Guns in America by John Richie

NEW YORK — The filmmaker could not get the number out of his head. Even while he was traveling the country to discuss “Shell Shocked” — a movie about children killing children with machine guns in the streets of his hometown New Orleans — it was a number that kept John Richie up at night.

After a classroom of children were found in a lifeless pile, shot to death by Adam Lanza in Sandy Hook, Conn., with an assortment of guns including a Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle, the country was awash in research and polling and charts about Americans and their guns. Continue Reading →

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Protesters Seek NYPD Policy Change in Spirit of Dr. King

Azra Tahirovic holds a hand-drawn portrait of King.

NEW YORK — The image and words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. could be seen and heard everywhere the Dream4Justice march went, from Harlem to Midtown, Monday afternoon. But as the marchers walked a slow and peaceful four miles over as many hours, King’s voice mixed with the protesters’ now familiar chants: “I have a dream” alongside “I can’t breathe” and “No justice, no peace.”

King’s memory brought organizers and protesters together but the marchers’ demands came from more recent deaths. In memory of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and others who had been killed by police, the march ended near the United Nations to bring attention to police brutality as a human rights issue. Marchers called for immediate policy change at the city and state levels in keeping with King’s philosophy. “We are non-violent but we are not peaceful,” said Tamika Mallory, an organizer and board member of The Gathering for Justice. Continue Reading →

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