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2019 Janet Reno Forum Explores Building the Ideal Juvenile Justice System

Washington, DC (July 18, 2019) -- Researchers, policymakers, advocates and youth services practitioners gathered at Georgetown University this week for the 2019 Janet Reno Forum: Building the Ideal Juvenile Justice System—Guiding Principles and Strategies for Reform. The McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR) forum, sponsored by Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc., sought to answer the question: what exactly does the ideal juvenile justice system look like and how do we get there? Forum discussions were guided by A Roadmap to the Ideal Juvenile Justice System, a white paper commissioned by CJJR, authored by Tim Decker on behalf of the Juvenile Justice Leadership Network.

Forum moderator CJJR Director Shay Bilchik was joined for opening remarks by McCourt School of Public Policy Dean Maria Cancian; YAP CEO Jeff Fleischer; and Decker, former Director, Missouri Department of Social Services Division of Youth Services and Children’s Division.

Experts from around the U.S. shared promising practices and research to support guiding principles and strategies for building the ideal juvenile justice system, including key approaches designed to achieve equitable treatment and fairness; promote developmental approaches; engage and empower youth and families; and collaborate across systems of care, including education, behavioral health and child welfare.

YAP Chief of Public Policy Shaena Fazal outlined how the 44-year-old YAP model of hiring neighborhood-based Advocates who provide intensive mentoring and holistic family support serves as an alternative to out-of-home placement. “As we consider the question before us— how to realize a youth justice system centered around youth, families, communities and racial equity and not youth prisons— we have to make sure our response is one that doesn’t harm kids or engage in family separation, even for young people who commit serious and violent offenses,” she said.

Fazal highlighted the nonprofit’s work as part of Chicago’s Choose to Change (C2C) program, where the YAP model is combined with Children’s Home and Aid’s trauma-informed cognitive behavioral therapy. Preliminary results from a randomized controlled trial undertaken by the University of Chicago Crime and Education Labs suggest that participation in C2C leads to a dramatic decrease in arrests. “Our model works because it uses the power of human connection, authentic love and unconditional caring to address the effects of trauma. Positive relationships are an antidote to trauma.”

As part of the forum, Maggy Hurchalla, sister of the late Janet Reno, joined Dean Cancian to present the forum’s third annual Janet Reno Endowment Women’s Leadership Award to Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center. The award honors women leaders who demonstrate a commitment and ability to effect change to benefit youth, particular those at risk of entering youth justice and/or child welfare systems. Goss Graves, whose work is central to gender justice, has advanced educational opportunities for girls and changed understanding of the challenges that girls of color experience in school, including the school-to-prison pipeline.

Forum participating panelists, per guiding principle and strategy are listed below.

Achieving Equitable Treatment and Fairness

Moderator: Shay Bilchik, Director, Center for Juvenile Justice Reform • Diana Becton, District Attorney, Contra Costa County, California • Kevin Bethel, Founder and Executive Director, Law Enforcement Juvenile Justice Initiative • Ana Bermudez, Commissioner, New York City Department of Probation • Hon. Louis Trosch, District Court Judge, 26th Judicial District, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina

Promoting Developmental Approaches

Moderator: David Muhammad, Executive Director, National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform • Shaena Fazal, Chief of Policy, Advocacy and External Communications, Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. • Clinton Lacey, Director, District of Columbia Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services • Dr. Monique Marrow, Founder, Youth Trauma and Justice Solutions

Engaging and Empowering Youth and Families

Moderator: Macon Stewart, Deputy Director for Multi-System Operations, Center for Juvenile Justice Reform • Jeannette Bocanegra, Director of Family Partnership, Justice for Families • Ja’Vaune Jackson, Youth Justice Advocate; Member, Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission • Dr. Ryan Shanahan, Research Director, Center on Youth Justice, Vera Institute of Justice

Collaborating with System Partners

Moderator: Michael Umpierre, Deputy Director for Juvenile Justice System Improvement and Communications, Center for Juvenile Justice Reform • David Domenici, Executive Director, Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings • Karli Keator, Director, National Center for Youth Opportunity and Justice, and Vice President, Policy Research Associates, Inc. • Macon Stewart, Deputy Director for Multi-System Operations



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