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Juvenile Justice

Overview

On any given night an estimated 60,000 youth — the overwhelming majority of whom are accused of minor and non-violent offenses — are incarcerated in a correctional facility or out-of-home placement. Despite research showing that incarceration leads to high juvenile recidivism rates, as well as poor education, employment, and health outcomes for youth, systems often fail to use alternatives to incarceration that have been shown to be more effective at rehabilitating young people. Moreover, an estimated 250,000 youth are tried in the adult criminal justice system annually, and nearly 10,000 youth are housed in adult jails or prisons on any given night. These policies ignore the well-established differences between youth and adults, increase recidivism rates, and expose youth in adult jails and prisons to high rates of sexual abuse and suicide. Youth of color are disproportionately likely to suffer the harms of these failed policies and practices.

Guidelines

The Foundation’s Juvenile Justice Program supports groups working to end the criminalization and reliance on incarceration of youth in the United States. In particular, the Program makes grants to groups that are working to:

Keeping Youth Safely Home

A week-long photo series for the Public Welfare Foundation shows youth advocates at work in Baltimore, MD.

Youth Advocate Programs, Inc., a grantee of the Public Welfare Foundation, is committed to providing community-based alternatives to out-of-home care through direct service, advocacy and policy change. YAP serves more than 13,000 families a year in more than 100 programs across 18 states in rural, suburban and urban areas, including 25 major metro areas. Since it started in 1975, 100 percent of YAP’s programming occurs in the home communities of the people it serves.

Day Five

“I have been coming to @youthadvocateprograms for three years. They provide support and help integrate youth into the community. My mentor is really dedicated and goes out of her way to help me. I just started college and I am planning to study human services so I can do non-profit work. I want to open a group home for foster children.” Meet Dianna. // Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. is committed to the provision of community-based alternatives to out-of-home care through direct service, advocacy and policy change. For more information about Youth Advocate Programs, Inc.: http://www.yapinc.org (Photo by @davidylee for @publicwelfare)

Day Four

“I have been a youth advocate for nine years. I enjoy working with the youth. I want to make a difference in their lives. I am a college graduate and I want to instill those values in them. One of my youth is in college right now and so when he calls me, it feels very good. What I have been trying to tell him is that life is more than hanging on the street. You have to go get it. You have to work hard. You have to try hard to get what you want.” Meet Muka Salako. Youth advocate for nine years. // Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. is committed to the provision of community-based alternatives to out-of-home care through direct service, advocacy and policy change. For more information about Youth Advocate Programs, Inc.: http://www.yapinc.org (Photo by @davidylee for @publicwelfare)

Day Three

“It is essential for any group of men, especially black men, to give back to our youth. That is why I think the @youthadvocateprograms is an excellent program because it allows us to be in touch directly into the lives of young men that face high incarceration. We as men come in to help (youth) process their thoughts. What is that going to lead to? Where do you see yourself five years from now? What other things could you be doing to better your situation? Every day I get up and I am gratified by the work that I am doing. Gratified by the little changes that I see. For instance, a young man that previously wasn’t holding the door open for a young lady when she is coming through. The small, practical things that make men. Eventually they understand and they are able to process and understand the impact of being men. And how they can change their lives in some of the most minute ways.” Meet Jamal Lee. Youth advocate for one and a half years. // Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. is committed to the provision of community-based alternatives to out-of-home care through direct service, advocacy and policy change. For more information about Youth Advocate Programs, Inc.: http://www.yapinc.org (Photo by @davidylee for @publicwelfare)

Day Two

“I saw one of my @youthadvocateprograms guys yesterday morning. He had just gotten a job as a cook. He had just come from orientation. It makes me feel awesome. A lot of the times people in our community don’t get opportunities. The opportunities are just not there. It is hard for the youth to reach out because they constantly get berated with No’s. There is nothing to do. There are no recreation centers. There is no help. There is no assistance. There are no afterschool programs. The opportunities are not there for our youth. So when you get the opportunity to reach out and go in and make a difference, you have to act on it. Because it has to start somewhere. That is all it takes. Somebody cares.” Meet Ray Davis. Youth advocate for three years. // Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. is committed to the provision of community-based alternatives to out-of-home care through direct service, advocacy and policy change. For more information about Youth Advocate Programs, Inc.: http://www.yapinc.org (Photo by @davidylee for @publicwelfare)

Day One

“We did a little research the other day and it takes $88,000 – which I didn’t know – to keep a youth in jail. Yes, $88,000. We were sitting there like, what can we do with $88,000? It makes me upset. Do you know how much money that is? As much money as you are putting into them in the jails, you could have done something else with them as far as putting them into a program or giving their families help or anything else like that. It is ridiculous. They just need a little tough love they are not getting at home. That is where we come in. Help that support.” Meet Sharine Ward. Youth advocate for five months. // @youthadvocateprograms is committed to the provision of community-based alternatives to out-of-home care through direct service, advocacy and policy change. For more information about Youth Advocate Programs, Inc.: http://www.yapinc.org (Photo by @davidylee for @publicwelfare)

Youth First! Tackles Juvenile Justice Reform

DYRS Achievement Center Photo Series

Day One

On any given night, an estimated 60,000 youth are incarcerated in a juvenile correctional facility or out-of-home placement. The overwhelming majority of these youth are accused of minor and non-violent offenses. Because of the well-documented harms of incarceration, the Public Welfare Foundation supports groups that are working to advance policies that restrict the juvenile justice system’s use of incarceration and expand community-based programs for youth in jurisdictions across the country, including Washington, DC. Over the next two weeks, @publicwelfare will share some insights into what youths need through their voices and those of the staff from the DC Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services.

(Photo by @davidylee for @publicwelfare)

Day Two

After a lengthy advocacy effort, DC’s secure facility for youth, Oak Hill, was replaced in 2009 by the much smaller New Beginnings Youth Development Center. In addition to more contemporary buildings and better educational and developmental programming at New Beginnings, DC’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services created DC Youth Link to keep more youth under its jurisdiction out of secure detention and in their communities. From FY 2011 – 2014, DYRS has helped hundreds of youth connect to community-based health and substance abuse treatment services, relationship and mentor programs, and job experiences. Also, more than 100 youth have earned a high school diploma or a GED and two dozen have enrolled in colleges or universities. Most recently, in August, 2014, DYRS opened the Achievement Center in downtown Washington, DC with the mission to inspire and empower court-involved youth through Positive Youth Justice programs that foster career development, life skills and healthy living.

(Photo by @davidylee for @publicwelfare)

Day Three

The Achievement Center offers DYRS youth classes and programming six days a week, 25 hours per week during the school year and more than 60 hours per week during vacation breaks. Since its opening, the Achievement Center has worked with 125 youth and 39 specific service providers. DYRS plans to open another center in Southeast DC in 2015. “The Achievement Center is moving toward answering the questions, ‘What supports do our young people really need to be successful in life and are we giving those to them?’” – Daniel Okonkwo, Executive Director of DC Lawyers for Youth, a Public Welfare Foundation grantee.

(Photo by @davidylee for @publicwelfare)

Day Four

“I grew up really poor. Just getting to where I am now, and just being around the people I am around now, and being the person I am now, I just won’t allow myself to go back. I just can’t. I won’t. It doesn’t matter what I got to do. Just a couple of months ago I was in a group home. Before October, I was going through a lot of stuff. And to know that in just two months, I have a job. I make money. I am doing good. Success is knowing that I worked hard, that I never gave up. There is such a thing as second chances. You have to know the risk of awarding a person second chances. I understand second chances. Me getting this job is a second chance. And I told them that when I interviewed for the job.” – A, 19.

(Photo by @davidylee for @publicwelfare)

Day Five

“[The DC Achievement Center] is very important for me because I had a good childhood. Most of our kids didn’t have the childhood I had, so I want to make sure that they have at least part of the childhood I had. I see myself as the pioneer of their life, as a leader, as a mentor, as someone they can believe in, as someone they can trust. Our youth are looking for love, for someone to support them, for someone who cares about them, for someone that will look out for their life and their well-being. In me, they have someone that will help them reach and achieve goals. Once you have built that trust and bond with that youth, they are always going to look to you. That is why so many youth in the past come back and ask me for help because they know I am going to help and support them.” – Anthony Wilson, Workforce Development coordinator.

(Photo by @davidylee for @publicwelfare)

Day Six

“To me, what is important is where they want to go, not where they’ve been. The past is the past. The cliché is don’t cry over spilled milk. What happens is done. Sometimes you have to break a few eggs to make a nice omelet. In cooking, you got to burn something to realize that you do not do it that way. That is life. We all learn by mistakes and not just by people telling us. I tell them, it is not that I know more than you guys, it is just that I’ve screwed up before you guys did so I know how it is going to end up.” – Diego Rojas, Director of Culinary Programs

(Photo by @davidylee for @publicwelfare)

Day Seven

“Music is something that will connect with them. Working with students at the DC Achievement Center in the music department helps them to have an outlet to express themselves. They are going through a lot as well in their backgrounds, in their dispositions; a lot of them are coming in and out of adverse situations like jail. So giving them this outlet helps them release and express themselves so they can vent through the media of music in a positive way.” – Damu Musawwir, Music Production teacher.

(Photo by @davidylee for @publicwelfare)

Day Eight

“I enjoy listening to and learning from the young people in this program. They are smart and strong, and they want to be heard. I encourage them to dream about what they could accomplish in their life and then think about a plan to achieve it. Most want to do something different, better, but have said that they didn’t know how and they had no one to ask. For some of them, the DC Achievement Center is one of the few places where they can come and ask HOW.” – Judith Johnson, Instructor of Customer Service 101.

(Photo by @davidylee for @publicwelfare)

Day Nine

“Everyone makes mistakes. You learn by process of elimination. You eliminate one thing you were doing wrong and move onto another thing. I don’t think I had one of those life-saving moments like walking into my home and seeing my mom crying, and thinking to myself I can’t do this anymore. I don’t think I had that. I didn’t have that Hollywood moment. In the three-act structure of a film you have the beginning that leads to the trouble, then you have this over tipping, then you have happily ever after. That is not life. Life is a continuous struggle and we all struggle in things. You don’t just have this one moment because that makes you weak, if you live off one moment. Life moves on. If you hold on to that one moment, it can cripple you in a way. I just made a decision as a young man to do something positive.” – R, 23

(Photo by @davidylee for @publicwelfare)

Day Ten

“In the last 10 years, Washington, DC has come a long way in its treatment of young people. We are attempting to move away from a focus on secure detention and toward an effective system of community-based care. On this continued path to becoming the smallest and best youth justice system, it is important that we adults listen to our young people, to their voices, their needs, and their desires.” – Daniel Okonkwo, Executive Director, DC Lawyers for Youth, a Public Welfare Foundation grantee.

(Photo by @davidylee for @publicwelfare)

Katayoon Majd and James Bell

 

James Bell

 

Liz Ryan

 

Juvenile Justice News

03.14.2016

Getting Youth out of the Adult Criminal Justice System

In the past decade, the Campaign for Youth Justice and other Public Welfare Foundation grantees have secured significant policy changes in many states, resulting in fewer youth in adult courts and adult facilities. … Full Story

02.08.2016

Bryan Stevenson Speaks at Public Welfare Foundation

The acclaimed public interest lawyer and advocate for the poor and incarcerated outlined a strategy to change the racial narrative in America. … Full Story

09.29.2015

Too Many Girls in the Juvenile Justice System

A new report examines the significant increase in the proportion of girls being arrested, adjudicated, and locked up, and offers recommendations to reverse the trend.… Full Story

07.01.2015

Locking Up Youth – Bad Policy, Bad Practice

Research shows that youth are being held in secure facilities for extended periods of time, with harmful results. … Full Story

Juvenile Justice Resources

Expert Panel on Juvenile Justice at Council on Foundations - audioLink

Center for Children's Law and Policy Graduated Responses ToolkitLink

Zero Tolerance: How States Comply With PREA's Youthful Inmate StandardLink

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