Our Work

Justice for Families (J4F) is a national alliance of local organizations committed to ending the youth incarceration epidemic. We are founded and run by parents and families who have experienced the juvenile justice system with their children.

Research demonstrates that children who have gotten into trouble with the law fare better when supported by non-criminal justice systems and when their families are allowed to support them. Today, juvenile justice systems lock down poor youth and youth of color — tracking them toward adult prisons while locking out their families from the decisions that drive youth further along the ‘school-to-prison’ pipeline.

J4F works toward two primary goals: 1) to transform how juvenile justice systems operate so that families have voice and power in both how and what decisions are made and 2) move resources away from youth incarceration toward direct investments in the youth, families, and communities most harmed by these policies.

J4F organizes families to build the alliances necessary to win justice reinvestment campaigns. We hosts action camps and organizational exchanges for families seeking to hone their skills as organizers and advocates. We also partner with and provide consultancy to local and state governments seeking to improve outcomes for youth through partnership with families. Together, we can move the vast sums currently spent on youth incarceration toward ensuring a healthy start and equal opportunity for every child.

To find out more about our work, download our report, which details why our work is necessary and the various solutions we promote and implement.

Our Work

Justice For Families (J4F) is national network of family leaders, impacted by the justice system, working to end mass criminalization, particularly of youth and in communities of color.

Justice for Families is the only national juvenile justice reform organization that is founded and run by families who have been directly impacted by the juvenile justice system. We are working to advance systemic policy and practice change while also building a base of those directly impacted, so they can individually help other families, and collectively sustain the reforms needed at the national and local levels. J4F raises the visibility of meaningful family engagement, and demonstrates the success and importance of constituent-led organizing strategies.

Our primary goals are 1) to transform justice systems so that they are driven by the interests of youth and families, and 2) to move resources away from incarceration based on failed “tough on crime” policies and towards direct investments in young people, their families and the communities. The organization has relied on three inter-related core strategies to achieve our goals.

  1. Leadership Development
  2. Strategic Partnerships
  3. Policy Advocacy 

Leadership Development and Technical Assistance

Through relationships, support, intensive trainings and a shared learning environment, J4F is developing a national cadre of families to staff and develop family-led organizations or create family-led components to existing organizations that work externally to reduce youth incarceration. Using similar methodology, we also create leaders that work internally within the juvenile justice system framework to change culture and share the family voice and perspective.

Strategic Partnerships

Justice For Families was founded upon a spirit of collaboration and we strongly believe that our work, with a broad array of diverse groups, has made it possible to reach many of our initial organizational goals. We began our first project, the “Families Unlocking Futures” report, by partnering with 13 organizations. We have continued to utilize and build that network to serve as local hubs where our members coalesce around issues such as the over-criminalization of our communities, racial and ethnic disparities, and push and hold accountable local officials for the reinvestment of currently wasted dollars spent on incarceration.

Policy Advocacy

Justice for Families recognizes the need to hold elected and appointed officials accountable for policies and practices that result in the exclusion of families and the lock- up of far too many youth. Throughout our history, the staff and members of J4F have supported numerous local, state and national campaigns by sharing their experiences with the public and policy makers.

Through family focused reforms and justice reinvestment campaigns, families educate their representatives and partner with allies invested in securing local economies and national priorities that ensure fairness and opportunity for all youth. Families will continue to build alliances and engage elected officials to ensure that policy changes last beyond election cycles.

We believe that to be successful at challenging the deep systemic problems in the youth and adult justice systems, there must be a core constituency rooted in impacted communities that will advance reforms over the long haul. The members of Justice for Families are families and young people who have been directly impacted by the youth or adult justice system. In five years, our list-serve has grown to 3000 individuals and 30 plus organizations. The amplification of our message and amount of success thus far belies the fact that J4F is a small, but growing, national non-profit with a few staff. It is a testament to the legions of support behind our cause and the determination and heart of our families.

Families Unlocking Futures:
Solutions to the Crisis in Juvenile Justice

This extraordinary … must read … comprehensive study examines our youth prison system from the perspective of those who are most impacted — young people and their families.”
~ Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow

Download Report

Families Unlocking Futures:
Solutions to the Crisis in Juvenile Justice

This extraordinary … must read … comprehensive study examines our youth prison system from the perspective of those who are most impacted — young people and their families.”

~ Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow

View Report
10 Tips for Building Effective Youth-Family-Defender Partnerships

In partnership with the National Juvenile Defender Center, Justice For Families created a tip sheet for juvenile defenders. http://njdc.info/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/10-Tips-for-Building-Effective-Youth-Family-Defender-Partnerships.pdf

Justice For Families provides technical assistance and tools to help juvenile justice agencies partner with youth and families? Read more.