At every stage of the process, families are locked out of decisions that drive their children further along the school-to-prison pipeline. Where families try to participate, they are far too often disrespected, disregarded and blamed for their family member’s involvement in the system. Making matters worse, youth themselves are similarly excluded from the decision-making process and poor families are required to pay burdensome fees, fines and other systemic costs. These systemic flaws not only prevent families from being effective advocates for their children but also reinforce cycles of poverty and racial inequity.
J4F works to change the power dynamic at each of the critical decision-making points along the school-to-prison pipeline. Together, by acting on behalf of all families, we will redirect the pipeline toward opportunity for all youth. Below, we present examples of families producing better outcomes for system involved youth.
Partnering With Families
At every stage of the process, families are locked out of decisions that drive their children further along the school-to-prison pipeline. Where families try to participate, they are far too often disrespected, disregarded and blamed for their family member’s involvement in the system. Making matters worse, youth themselves are similarly excluded from the decision-making process and poor families are required to pay service burdensome fees, fines and other systemic costs. These systemic flaws not only prevent families from being effective advocates for their children but also reinforce cycles of poverty and racial inequity.
J4F works to change the power dynamic at each of the critical decision-making points along the school-to-prison pipeline. Together, by acting on behalf of all families, we will redirect the pipeline toward opportunity for all youth. Below/Above, we present family testimony about the need for a Family Bill of Rights, examples of successful programs that partner with families to produce better outcomes for system involved youth, and invite you to take action with families working to unshackle opportunity.
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Close Tallulah Now!
It was once described as by the New York Times as the worst youth in prison. The Swanson Correctional Center for Youth was known more commonly as ‘Tallulah,’ for the small northeastern Louisiana town in which it was located.
A coalition of groups including Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC) and the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana (JJPL) helped lead campaign to close this notoriously abusive youth prison and usher in a series of reforms impacting the state’s entire juvenile justice system. FFLIC and JJPL helped pass the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2003 (Act 1225) which not only led to the closing of Tallulah but also included added periodic juvenile placement reviews to ensure that youth are kept in the least restrictive setting, and promoted the development of nationally recognized and accepted standards of practice for local juvenile detention facilities. One reform that did not ultimately pass was FFLIC and JJPL’s attempt to transform the closed youth prison into a satellite of one of Louisiana’s community colleges. For More Information.
Connecticut Case Review Team
Connecticut’s Case Review Team (CRT) conferences are designed to explore all options before any young person is committed to residential custody as well as explore alternatives for supervising and safely caring for the young person at his or her home or in the community. The conferences include family members, probation staff, school personnel, social workers, mental health providers, and the young people themselves. Of the 597 CRT meetings convened during the first two years Connecticut employed this process (2005 – 2007), 72 percent of participating youth avoided out-of-home placement. A substantial share of these youth avoided any subsequent contact with the justice system, or had only very minor involvement. This is a shining example of involving families in the critical decisions that impact their children.
Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project
The Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project (ACJP) in San Jose, California is a grass-roots community-based initiative supporting families of youth and adults at risk of prosecution in the juvenile, criminal justice, or immigration system. Participating families gather weekly to discuss cases, educate families on their rights, strategize, and apply pressure on public officials and on defense attorneys to resolve cases favorably. For example, ACJP helped the mother of Joshua Herrera mobilize hundreds of community members to convince a judge to no longer consider a life sentence for unfounded gang enhancement charges.
ACJP also launched and won a campaign to ensure that defendants have representation at all misdemeanor arraignment hearings. Previously, low income defendants were agreeing to plea bargains without consulting an attorney while not understanding the implications of their plea or even their basic rights to challenge inaccurate or false charges. As a result, many community members faced consequences regarding their immigration status, employment, housing, and other important aspects of maintaining a stable life that could have been avoided had they been offered and received competent counsel with an attorney. This is a change we San Jose community members can believe in and rely on thanks to ACJP contributing families.
Child Welfare Organizing Project
In 2006, The Child Welfare Organizing Project (CWOP), a grassroots parents’ support and advocacy organization, piloted the use of life-experienced parent advocates as community representatives participating in family team conferences convened by New York City’s public child welfare agency Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) in situations where protective removal of a child was being considered. Since 2007, CWOP and ACS have agreed (through a memorandum of understanding) that whenever ACS is considering the protective removal of an East Harlem child, ACS will first contact CWOP and invite a community representative to a family “Child Safety Conference.”
A June 2012 evaluation of the East Harlem Child Safety Conference project by the National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections revealed a 36 percent or better difference in the foster care placement rate between East Harlem and the comparison site, Central Harlem (where CWOP is not present in Child Safety Conferences). The study also confirmed and revealed high levels of satisfaction with the Child Safety Conferences from parents, parent advocates, and ACS child protective personnel. As a result of the success, the initiative has received a recommendation for citywide implementation.
Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children
Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC) is a statewide membership-based organization that fights for a better life for all of Louisiana’s youth, especially those involved in or targeted by the juvenile justice system. FFLIC has participated in the monitoring of the New Orleans’s local detention center and the state’s youth prisons through its participation on the Calascieu Parish Children and Youth Planning Board. FFLIC meaningfully participates in monitoring efforts and represents one of the largest and most ambitious youth justice advocacy and peer-support organizations in the nation. With four chapters around the state, FFLIC contacts dozens of new families each month. Some come for individual advocacy support while others donate time and energy to helping others in need, even leading advocacy campaigns.
In 2003, efforts by FFLIC and the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana were pivotal in passing landmark legislation—the Juvenile Justice Reform Act (Act 1225)—which led to: (i) the closure of the state’s infamous Tallulah Correctional Center for Youth, (ii) a substantial reduction in youth incarceration, and (iii) new efforts to transform residential placements in the state. FFLIC’s work demonstrates that family-centered advocacy organizations can partner and collaborate with jurisdictions to help ensure the fair treatment of youth in juvenile justice systems.