Casey Foundation Forms Advisory Council of Youth for Juvenile Justice Work

Posted September 29, 2015
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog caseyfoundationformsadvisorycouncil 2015

Casey’s Juve­nile Jus­tice Strat­e­gy Group (JJSG) has launched a sub­stan­tive, new part­ner­ship with young peo­ple cur­rent­ly and for­mer­ly involved in the juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem. Alexan­dra Frank, who is lead­ing JJSG’s work on youth part­ner­ship, not­ed that young peo­ple who have expe­ri­enced the jus­tice sys­tem are often absent from pol­i­cy reform efforts. We hope to change this, start­ing with how we part­ner with young peo­ple in JJSG,” Frank said.

So in 2015, JJSG launched a 14-per­son advi­so­ry coun­cil of young peo­ple who have expe­ri­ence in juve­nile jus­tice. Frank not­ed that although JJSG had col­lab­o­rat­ed with young peo­ple on an ad-hoc basis before, we had fall­en short in estab­lish­ing an ongo­ing and mean­ing­ful partnership.” 

Plan­ning for the coun­cil began last year when Casey con­vened a group of sev­en young peo­ple who had expe­ri­ence serv­ing on youth jus­tice advi­so­ry coun­cils across the coun­try. These youth con­sul­tants, who had seen the best and worst of youth-adult part­ner­ships, helped advise JJSG and the Coali­tion for Juve­nile Jus­tice (CJJ) on an appli­ca­tion process. 

The advi­so­ry coun­cil was cho­sen from a pool of more than 100 pas­sion­ate young peo­ple ded­i­cat­ed to reshap­ing the youth jus­tice sys­tem. After an ini­tial meet­ing in April 2015, the coun­cil has ramped up quick­ly with sev­er­al in-per­son meet­ings and ongo­ing con­nec­tions from their respec­tive states. The coun­cil mem­bers are focused on sup­port­ing Casey’s reform work by shar­ing their insight and exper­tise in areas such as pro­ba­tion trans­for­ma­tion and suc­cess­ful reen­try. The mem­bers bring a unique view of what reform looks like, which is enhanc­ing and ener­giz­ing the Foundation’s work. Beyond Casey, the found­ing mem­bers are influ­enc­ing reform by speak­ing at forums, such as the Con­gres­sion­al Black Cau­cus Annu­al Leg­isla­tive Meet­ing and the Coun­cil of State Gov­ern­ments’ 50-State Forum. 

Her­nan C., a coun­cil mem­ber based in New York, described how he hopes this coun­cil will be dif­fer­ent. More often than not, I would see adults lead­ing con­ver­sa­tions while spe­cif­ic young peo­ple were select­ed to sit at the table with­out prop­er men­tor­ship or train­ing on how to effec­tive­ly inte­grate their life expe­ri­ences into sol­id rec­om­men­da­tions for the field,” he said. 

Her­nan said what mat­ters to him and his peers is that the adults hear and respect the youth mem­bers’ per­spec­tives. One of his pos­i­tive expe­ri­ences with the coun­cil so far has been the adults allow­ing room for con­ver­sa­tion and debate with young folks before com­ing to a decision.” 

The sense of com­mu­ni­ty among the youth has been pal­pa­ble from the start. Cal­i­for­nia-based mem­ber Kyeisha T. affirmed how empow­er­ing it has been to bond with oth­er young peo­ple who share her pas­sion for juve­nile jus­tice reform. We bring each oth­er up,” she said. Robert W., from Ore­gon, echoed that sen­ti­ment. Every time I speak with anoth­er coun­cil mem­ber, it is pos­i­tive, upbeat and stim­u­lat­ing and, in a way chal­leng­ing,” he said. I say chal­leng­ing not mean­ing stress­ful, but in a friend­ly way that urges me to push oth­er mem­bers to do bet­ter and strive more, and for me to do the same.” 

The found­ing mem­bers are emerg­ing lead­ers in jus­tice reform. Their coun­cil work is designed to build their skills and expe­ri­ence with the sup­port of Casey staff. By neces­si­ty, they will be nav­i­gat­ing group dynam­ics, pol­i­tics and com­plex issues. 

Her­nan C. spoke about how much he and his fel­low coun­cil mem­bers want to devel­op cre­ative solu­tions to the prob­lems cur­rent­ly impact­ing youth. I want youth to be looked at as experts and lead­ers in their own right, rather than being looked at as tokens and missed oppor­tu­ni­ties,” he said. 

With its youth advi­sors, Casey intends to devel­op a nation­al strat­e­gy for part­ner­ing with young peo­ple for­mer­ly or cur­rent­ly involved with the juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem. Toward this end, JJSG will be col­lab­o­rat­ing with coun­cil mem­bers and CJJ to issue a youth part­ner­ship prac­tice guide in 2017.

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