On September 10, 2014, Congressman Tony Cardenas welcomed Youth Advocate Programs (YAP) and the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) as co-hosts of the briefing, "Building Safe and Strong Communities: A Conversation about Community-Based Alternatives for Juvenile Justice Involved Youth." Robert Listenbee, Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention attended the briefing along with 50 others.
In a House committee room, Rep. Cardenas, who sponsored the briefing and is co-chair of the new bi-partisan Crime Prevention & Youth Development Caucus, gave moving opening remarks about his commitment to kids in the juvenile justice system. He noted how important it was for advocates to keep on pushing for our kids, saying that without help, kids will be “pushed into a system that doesn’t want to let them go; doesn’t want to let them live.” He ended his remarks by encouraging people who advocate for youth to be “tireless, relentless, brave and also forgiving.”
Mary McClymont, the President of the Public Welfare Foundation spoke briefly about the Foundation’s commitment to juvenile justice reform, including advocating for more community-based alternatives. She also commented on the harms of youth incarceration, and noted that as a nation, we spend more than $5 billion dollars a year on incarcerating youth.
The panelists represented juvenile justice leaders from various lenses, including:
- Steven L. Gates, Program Director, Chicago Youth Advocate Programs
- Judge Denise Navarre Cubbon, Lucas County Juvenile Court Administrative Judge
- Dr. Angela Irvine, Research Director at the National Council on Crime and Delinquency
- Shaena Fazal, National Policy Center, Youth Advocate Programs
- Randolph Stone, Moderator, Professor at University of Chicago Mandel Legal Aid Clinic and Board Member of Youth Advocate Programs
The panelists shared their expertise and research, including YAP’s recently released report, Safely Home, and NCCD's report Stakeholders' Views on Reducing Youth Incarceration, (co-authored by Antoinette Davis, Dr. Irvine, and Jason Ziedenberg). Both reports were funded by the Public Welfare Foundation.
Judge Cubbon noted that Lucas County, Ohio's (Toledo), juvenile detention center has space for 125 kids but only 17 youth are detained there because they rely on a robust continuum of community-based services for most other kids instead. Steve Gates shared his experiences working directly with youth, noting that “kids don’t care what you know until they know that you care.”
The briefing came just three days after the bedrock juvenile justice legislation, the Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Act (JJDPA) turned 40. Advocates are hopeful that the Act will be reauthorized this year.
You can read more about the briefing in this article, Community-Based Alternatives for Troubled Youth Gaining Ground, by Gary Gately at jjie.org.
The Chronicle of Social Change also highlights the briefing in this post by John Kelly: In Beltway, Juvenile Justice Convo Moves from "What Not to Do" to "What to do Instead."