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Louisiana Activist Wins National Award for Outstanding Youth Advocacy

June 6, 2017


Josh Gordon, 217-801-2009



Louisiana Activist Wins National Award for Outstanding Youth Advocacy
NJJN Honors Verna Carr for supporting youth in trouble with the law

WASHINGTON, July 6, 2017—Verna Carr, Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC) member, is being recognized this month for her tenacious work on behalf of young people in trouble with the law.

Carr is the sixth recipient of the Beth Arnovits Gutsy Advocate for Youth Award, which is given annually by NJJN to an individual who advocates for juvenile justice reform and embodies the tenacity, vision and wisdom of Beth Arnovits, one of NJJN’s founders.

“Verna is such a deserving recipient of the Gutsy Youth for Advocate award,” said Sarah Bryer, NJJN president and executive director. “She is a fearless defender of New Orleans’ youth and has inspired a grassroots movement seeking to reform our broken juvenile justice system.”

Carr first became involved with FFLIC 6 years ago when her then 13 year old son faced multiple school suspensions, beginning his trajectory into the school to prison pipeline. FFLIC stepped in to provide Carr with advocacy assistance as she navigated the juvenile justice maze to ensure her son received due process. Carr didn’t just receive assistance from FFLIC, however, she became a leader within the organization and received training so that she in turn could help other families.

Carr’s work to improve the justice system again translated personal tragedy into state-level policy when she helped advocate for the raising of juvenile court jurisdiction in Louisiana to include 17 year olds. She called, sent letters and talked with state legislators to make her voice be heard. Carr herself had been fighting to have her then 17 year old son who had committed a nonviolent offense removed from the adult facility, Orleans Parish Prison (OPP).  Until the passage of the law, youth who had committed minor offenses were being sent to adult facilities like OPP, where they were subject to great personal harm. Luckily, using her training from FFLIC, Carr was able to have her son released from OPP.

Carr is committed to elevating youth and family voices at the policy table. She successfully made the case with New Orleans Councilmember Susan Guidry, resulting in community representatives being included in a new Youth Transfer Working Group, a committee charged with developing  alternatives to incarceration.

Carr’s drive for system reform is connected to her deep caring for youth in the system.  She provides weekly mentoring for girls confined in the local detention facility, empowering them to rise above their circumstances and to strive for success.  She vows to give her last breath to protect children from a system that profits off of their mistakes rather than investing in better future for them.

“FFLIC’s goals are to provide leadership development for families experiencing the juvenile injustice system and help them advocate for themselves and their children,” says Gina Womack, FFLIC executive director. “Although Ms. Verna was fighting an exhausting fight for her own son, she still found the strength to be a relentless advocate for others. Her ability to model leadership through her own adversities has moved other family members to do the same.”

The award will be given in Washington, D.C., July 18, 2017 at an NJJN’s annual gathering of youth justice advocates.

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The National Juvenile Justice Network is composed of coalitions, organizations and alumni of the Youth Justice Leadership Institute across 44 states and the District of Columbia, all of whom advocate for a fairer justice system for children and teens. For more information, visit www.njjn.org.

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