Five Advocacy Organizations Receive Support to Reduce Youth Incarceration

Posted June 9, 2020
Blog fiveadvocacyorganizationsreceive 2020

The Nation­al Juve­nile Jus­tice Network’s COVID-19 Youth Jus­tice Response Fund recent­ly award­ed $350,000 to five state-based orga­ni­za­tions work­ing to edu­cate pol­i­cy­mak­ers and media about the safe­ty of young peo­ple in the jus­tice sys­tem, a cause made more urgent by the spread of COVID-19 with­in facil­i­ties. The groups will run advo­ca­cy cam­paigns that make the case for reduc­ing admis­sions of young peo­ple to juve­nile jus­tice facil­i­ties or accel­er­at­ing their safe and sup­port­ed release.

COVID-19 has added yet anoth­er dan­ger to the long list of harms that young peo­ple face in res­i­den­tial insti­tu­tions, and rein­forces the need for states to reform juve­nile jus­tice poli­cies and shield young peo­ple, fam­i­lies, com­mu­ni­ties and juve­nile jus­tice pro­fes­sion­als from those harms right now,” said Rob Geen, direc­tor of pol­i­cy reform and advo­ca­cy for the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, which sup­ports the COVID-19 Youth Jus­tice Response Fund. States should use the dra­mat­ic reduc­tion in con­fine­ment — accel­er­at­ed by the pan­dem­ic — to shift resources from res­i­den­tial insti­tu­tions to com­mu­ni­ty-based ser­vices and sources of sup­port that hold young peo­ple account­able and keep them togeth­er with their families.”

The orga­ni­za­tions — the Asso­ci­a­tion for the Pub­lic Defend­er of Mary­land, Eman­ci­pate NC in North Car­oli­na, Legal Rights Cen­ter in Min­neso­ta, the Gath­er­ing for Jus­tice in New York and Youth Art and Self-Empow­er­ment Project in Penn­syl­va­nia — were cho­sen through a com­pet­i­tive process.

The selec­tion com­mit­tee based its deci­sion on the orga­ni­za­tions’ pol­i­cy agen­das to reduce youth con­fine­ment and the extent to which they pur­sued strate­gies for racial and eth­nic equi­ty and involved young peo­ple in their work. The com­mit­tee includ­ed young peo­ple with expe­ri­ence in sys­tems, along with NJJN lead­er­ship and a Foun­da­tion representative.

In Mary­land and Penn­syl­va­nia, the grantee orga­ni­za­tions rep­re­sent a coali­tion of groups that will col­lab­o­rate on the campaigns.

Advo­cates across the coun­try are work­ing tire­less­ly with pol­i­cy­mak­ers to get chil­dren home,” said NJJN Exec­u­tive Direc­tor K. Ricky Wat­son, Jr. This response fund pro­vides crit­i­cal resources to ampli­fy the call for decarceration.”

NJJN will pro­vide tech­ni­cal assis­tance to the award win­ners, draw­ing on their expe­ri­ence with cam­paigns across the country.

Orga­ni­za­tions sup­port­ed by the COVID-19 Youth Jus­tice Response Fund

The fol­low­ing orga­ni­za­tions and coali­tions will pur­sue cam­paigns through the fund:

Asso­ci­a­tion for the Pub­lic Defend­er of Mary­land will launch Mary­land Youth Ris­ing, a youth-led move­ment of indi­vid­u­als who were for­mer­ly incar­cer­at­ed to chal­lenge incar­cer­a­tion poli­cies. Funds will sup­port youth stipends for train­ing and pol­i­cy development.

Eman­ci­pate NC, whose mis­sion is to dis­man­tle struc­tur­al racism and mass incar­cer­a­tion, will mobi­lize and train youth, among oth­ers direct­ly affect­ed by the jus­tice sys­tem, in a fel­low­ship pro­gram called The Jus­tice League.

Legal Rights Cen­ter of Min­neso­ta will coor­di­nate with a coali­tion of racial jus­tice orga­ni­za­tions to review all out-of-home place­ments and cre­ate an online map of com­mu­ni­ty-based resources that serve young people.

The Gath­er­ing for Jus­tice, a move­ment to end both youth incar­cer­a­tion and racial inequities, will offer stipends to young peo­ple with expe­ri­enced in the jus­tice sys­tem to par­tic­i­pate in its Youth Jus­tice Coun­cil, advo­cat­ing for more release orders, resources for reen­try and pre­ven­tive programs.

Youth Art and Self-Empow­er­ment Project, which builds a youth-led move­ment to end the prac­tice of try­ing and incar­cer­at­ing young peo­ple as adults, will launch a cam­paign to reduce youth in out-of-home place­ments. Funds will sup­port youth con­duct­ing research designed to bring about change, mon­i­tor­ing court pro­ceed­ings and launch­ing an inter­ac­tive pub­lic aware­ness campaign.

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