Summit to Bring Together Juvenile Justice Pros, Youthful Advocates

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CJJ_Summit“Building the next generation of juvenile justice leaders” will be the focus of a two-day summit in Washington co-hosted by the nonprofit Coalition for Juvenile Justice and the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

The second annual Juvenile Justice Youth Summit, which begins Thursday, will bring together 130 youth advocates from throughout the nation and will feature remarks by CJJ Executive Director Marie Williams and OJJDP Administrator Robert Listenbee, who will also moderate a panel.

The summit is geared toward younger advocates who are involved in or aspire to become involved in juvenile justice-related work, Lisa Pilnik, deputy executive director of CJJ, told JJIE from her Washington office.

“We look at it as a way to cultivate youth engagement, youth leadership in juvenile justice,” Pilnik said. “Whether or not someone wants to make this a career, we think it’s always wonderful if youth are engaged in trying to change the [juvenile justice] system for the better.

“It’s really for just anyone who’s interested in learning more about the field and interested in helping to improve the juvenile justice field in their own community or nationally.”

Pilnik said that could include those working in mental health and child welfare as well as in after-school or sports programs. She noted some of the children served by these specialists are or may become entangled with the juvenile justice system.

“In any youth-serving field, understanding the way the juvenile justice system works and working to improve it is really a useful thing,” Pilnik said.

Jennifer Rodriguez — executive director of the Youth Law Center, a San Francisco-based public interest law firm that works to protect children in the nation’s foster care and juvenile justice systems from neglect — will deliver a keynote address Thursday. Rodriguez will talk about her unlikely path from a former foster youth who also spent time in juvenile justice institutions to becoming an attorney and youth advocate.

Also Thursday, those attending the summit will see a screening of a new PBS documentary, “15 to Life: Kenneth’s Story,” focusing on Kenneth Young, who was sentenced in Florida at age 15 to four consecutive life sentences for a series of armed robberies. The film, directed by Nadine Pequeneza, will be followed by a discussion. The film premiered Monday evening on the PBS television series “POV.”

Delivering a second keynote address Friday, on improving the juvenile justice system, will be the U.S. Education Department’s Jonathan Brice, deputy assistant secretary for policy in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The summit, which Pilnik said organizers hope to continue each year, also will feature:

  • “Justice for All: Juvenile Justice 101,” a workshop exploring basics of the juvenile justice system and the core requirements of the 1974 Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA): deinstitutionalization of status offenders, or those who commit offenses that wouldn’t be crimes for adults (like truancy or alcohol possession); limits on placing youths in adult jails and lockups; separation of juveniles from adults in secure adult facilities; and a reduction of disproportionate minority contact with the juvenile justice system.
  • A workshop focusing on youth involvement in State Advisory Groups (SAGs), which are appointed by governors in all 50 states and chief executives in U.S. territories and are charged with monitoring state compliance with the core requirements of the JJDPA. Formula grants from OJJDP are tied to compliance with the requirements.
  • “Tools for Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline” will introduce the phenomenon and provide strategies for reform, presented by youth organizers.
  • A “speed networking” session will enable conference participants to meet in rotating small groups with professionals in juvenile justice and related fields.

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