Youth Justice Systems Lock Out Families

“The parents and families of court-involved and incarcerated youth love their children and are hardworking individuals with deep ties to, and concern for, their communities. Yet, more often than not, “tough-on-crime” rhetoric and uninformed stereotypes about youth and their families have governed the policies of juvenile justice systems.”

Challenging stereotypes is a key theme of a new report from Justice for Families, called “Families Unlocking Futures: Solutions to the Crisis in Youth Justice.” Justice for Families, a national alliance of local organizations, describes itself as “working to transform families from victims of the prison epidemic to leaders of the movement for fairness and opportunity for all youth.”

The new report, which the Public Welfare Foundation helped support, is based on surveys, focus groups and other data collected by Justice for Families and its research partner, DataCenter.

From all the research, the report finds that, “At every stage of the juvenile justice system, when critical decisions are being made about how a young person is treated, families are outright excluded, disregarded or not provided the information and tools necessary to actively participate in proceedings dominated by legalese and jargon…Making matters worse, youth themselves are similarly excluded from the decision-making process.”

The report asserts the critical need for families to be more actively involved and take the lead in redesigning the youth justice system to ensure safer and more prosperous communities. It also provides detailed recommendations for practitioners, policymakers and community members to reform the system.

To view the report, click here.


The Public Welfare Foundation supports efforts to advance justice and opportunity for people in need. These efforts honor the Foundation’s core values of racial equity, economic well-being, and fundamental fairness for all. The Foundation looks for strategic points where its funds can make a significant difference and improve lives through policy and system reform that results in transformative change. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter or on Facebook.

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