More Than 850 Juvenile Justice Professionals Take Equity Challenge

Posted October 8, 2018
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
More than 850 juvenile justice professionals took part in 21-day equity challenge

A defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic of Amer­i­can juve­nile jus­tice is the over­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of youth of col­or at every lev­el of sys­tem involve­ment. When the Casey Foun­da­tion released JDAI at 25 last year, it report­ed that racial and eth­nic dis­par­i­ties had per­sist­ed or wors­ened in Juve­nile Deten­tion Alter­na­tives Ini­tia­tive® sites, even while those sites had achieved sig­nif­i­cant reduc­tions in both juve­nile incar­cer­a­tion and juve­nile crime.

More than 850 juve­nile jus­tice pro­fes­sion­als dug into the root caus­es of these dis­par­i­ties by tak­ing part in a struc­tured series of activ­i­ties known as the 21-Day Equi­ty Habit-Build­ing Chal­lenge. The effort deep­ened par­tic­i­pants’ under­stand­ing of and will­ing­ness to con­front racial and eth­nic inequities. Race equi­ty is one of the cor­ner­stones of what we do [as juve­nile jus­tice reform­ers] and is just as impor­tant as case pro­cess­ing, con­di­tions of con­fine­ment and every oth­er aspect of our JDAI work,” said Nick Costales, deputy direc­tor of field ser­vices with the New Mex­i­co Chil­dren, Youth and Fam­i­lies Department.

The 21-Day Equi­ty Habit-Build­ing Chal­lenge orig­i­nal­ly was devel­oped by racial jus­tice edu­ca­tor and author Deb­by Irv­ing along with Drs. Eddie Moore Jr. and Mar­guerite Penick-Parks. Their idea: ask Chal­lenge par­tic­i­pants to ded­i­cate them­selves to one action relat­ed to equi­ty dai­ly for 21 days. The dis­ci­pline and inten­tion­al­i­ty required to fol­low 21 days of care­ful­ly cho­sen activ­i­ties was meant to encour­age last­ing prac­tices that would fur­ther equi­ty. Day after day, par­tic­i­pants would give them­selves the time and space to be more mind­ful of pow­er, priv­i­lege, oppres­sion and, ulti­mate­ly, social jus­tice in their com­mu­ni­ties and networks.

A 32-per­son team of JDAI™ Applied Lead­er­ship Net­work alum­ni and JDAI site coor­di­na­tors mod­i­fied the chal­lenge for juve­nile jus­tice stake­hold­ers and brought it to JDAIcon­nect, the free online com­mu­ni­ty for peo­ple inter­est­ed in youth jus­tice reform.

The chal­lenge coor­di­na­tors and I are under no illu­sion that 21 days is suf­fi­cient to undo racial injus­tice in our coun­try,” said Gail D. Mum­ford, a senior asso­ciate at the Foun­da­tion. How­ev­er, with knowl­edge, prac­tice and com­mit­ment, it’s pos­si­ble to make sus­tain­able progress and change.”

Chal­lenge coor­di­na­tors offered a range of activ­i­ties for par­tic­i­pants, including:

For each activ­i­ty, par­tic­i­pants are encour­aged to con­sid­er — and share — how the activ­i­ty and its relat­ed reflec­tion ques­tions chal­lenged their per­cep­tions, assump­tions, ideas and, most of all, the way they do their work. The sta­tis­tics for their dis­cus­sions on JDAIcon­nect con­vey the lev­el of inter­est: 2,050 com­ments and 28,000 views dur­ing the 21 work­days of the chal­lenge among 880 chal­lenge reg­is­trants who hailed from 40 states, two Cana­di­an provinces, Mex­i­co and Brazil.

The peer net­work on JDAIcon­nect was inte­gral to build­ing and main­tain­ing the momen­tum of the chal­lenge. Antho­ny Celes­tine, the assis­tant direc­tor of the Cal­casieu Parish Office of Juve­nile Jus­tice Ser­vices in Louisiana, was among many par­tic­i­pants who cit­ed the trans­for­ma­tive pow­er of hav­ing open con­ver­sa­tions about race. He laud­ed the space to engage in intel­lec­tu­al dis­cus­sions about race with people…to prove that most folks, no mat­ter race or eth­nic­i­ty, gen­der or demo­graph­ics, want the same out of life and share more sim­i­lar­i­ties than they realize.”

Said Ser­gio Cas­tro, a juve­nile pro­ba­tion super­vi­sor and par­tic­i­pant from New Mex­i­co: My biggest take­away is how each of us has to walk the talk every day and have mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tions about race with­out get­ting offend­ed and defensive.”

Relat­ed Equi­ty and Inclu­sion in Juve­nile Jus­tice Resources:

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