Juvenile Justice Project Takes Families on “A Walk Through the Juvenile Justice System”

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Since 1997, the CA’s Juvenile Justice Project (JJP) has coordinated the New York Juvenile Justice Coalition (JJC) to advocate and lobby for fair and effective responses to youth crime. Over the years, JJC has developed into a strong network of over 35 organizations and hundreds of individuals. “Our Coalition’s advocacy has been so successful because we are a large and diverse group—we include the voices of court-involved youth, child advocacy groups, legal service providers, alternative sentencing programs, community-based organizations, and other professionals working in the juvenile justice field,” explained JJP Director Charisa Smith. “We realized our membership was missing an important component—parents, family members, and friends of youth involved in the system.”

The Juvenile Justice Project is undertaking a new initiative to engage these critical stakeholders in its advocacy. Since November, staff have been contacting individuals conducting outreach at detention centers and inviting families and allies of incarcerated youth to participate in an interactive workshop—″A Walk Through the Juvenile Justice System.”

The workshops give a brief overview of the complexities of youth incarceration. Participants role-play to learn about the different ways youth move through the juvenile justice system and explore all possible outcomes. Along the way, players receive critical information on how the juvenile justice system operates, whom to speak with about their child’s issues, and what type of programs work best for youth. JJP also invites participants to attend coalition meetings and different advocacy events. “Families have been very receptive. We have had several sign-ups for our upcoming advocacy day to support closing youth prisons,” Charisa commented. “There is a lot of frustration about the system, and JJC provides an opportunity to make change and join a support network of other families and allies.”