Resource jjmessagingtoolkit 2017

Juvenile Justice Messaging Tool Kit

A Guide for Public Agencies
by the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Support Justice Reform


Your clear and compelling messaging is what builds and sustains support for juvenile justice reform. This toolkit guides you in making the case for juvenile justice reform, using data to back up your talking points and putting a human face on the numbers. Find sample messages and scenarios that prepare you to interact with key audiences, which might be policy makers, impacted communities, the media or people within your own agencies. The guidance is based on research by Fenton and Global Strategy Group and the expertise of communicators and public information officers.

Some juvenile justice professionals think they can put their heads down and just do the work. But we know that misunderstandings about the juvenile justice system persist in the public’s mind — like the falsehood that youth crime is soaring — and can impede reform efforts or jeopardize hard-won gains. We want you to be prepared to engage, which is why this toolkit includes short, simple talking points in a message bank, ready for you to grab and go.

JDAIconnect is home to this toolkit. JDAIconnect is a place for you to share your communications-related experiences with your colleagues across the network and ask for advice and inspiration. It’s a good place to turn the next time you’re wondering how to express the nuance of a decision or get ahead of anticipated pushback. It’s a brain trust at your disposal.


Nate Balis, Director
Juvenile Justice Strategy Group

Situation Analysis

There is an emerging awareness among policy leaders that the juvenile justice status quo does not work for America’s kids, and not just from typical voices. Bipartisan voices, including conservatives like Newt Gingrich and the organization Right on Crime, have advocated for better approaches for youth in trouble with the law. These approaches, like JDAI, contend that alternatives to detention and incarceration are more effective than confinement in protecting communities and changing the trajectories of kids’ lives for the better.

To push farther and achieve greater fairness and impact, we need to reach both JDAI insiders and outside audiences. This means undertaking a more proactive effort to educate and inform — using targeted messages, data, engaging visuals, and most importantly, stories of individuals, families and communities. We need to share what works because research shows that most Americans form their opinions of the juvenile justice system from TV, movies and social media. When that’s their source of information, they develop false impressions, such as youth crime increasing over the past decade, which we know to be untrue.