Home News Center Meet the New Members: Kansas, Missouri

Meet the New Members: Kansas, Missouri

January 20, 2015
Zoe Schein

We at NJJN are happy to introduce two of our newest member organizations! Kansas Appleseed expands NJJN’s reach into Kansas. a state previously unrepresented by NJJN, and Families and Friends Organizing for Reform of Juvenile Justice (FORJ) joins as NJJN's newest Missouri member. We spoke with representatives from each about their current and upcoming work in youth justice reform, and why they chose to join NJJN.

Kansas Appleseed is a nonprofit, nonpartisan justice center dedicated to vulnerable and excluded Kansans that focuses on advocating for systemic solutions to problems of social, political, and economic inequality.

“Like other NJJN members, we’re committed to advancing policy reforms that reduce incarceration for kids and increase support for alternatives to get kids back on the right path quickly and safely,” said Kansas Appleseed Executive Director Benet Magnuson.

“In Kansas, that takes the form of advocating with policymakers regarding the role of state law in these issues, and the effects of incarceration and out-of-home placement on young people.”

In the coming months, Magnuson said, Kansas Appleseed will focus primarily on issues of deincarceration and exclusionary school disciplinary practices.

“Kansas ranks eighth to worst [in the country] for out of home placement,” Magnuson said. “We still send kids to our state secure facilities for misdemeanors. Huge numbers of kids are expelled from school or suspended out of school for low-level misbehavior that poses no risk to safety. Our plan is to make sure that policymakers know the cost of these policies, both financially and in human terms. And we want them to know there are stronger policies out there.”

Looking toward NJJN membership, Magnuson expressed excitement at the prospect of making connections with other youth justice reformers across the country. “We value collaboration because it leads to stronger, more sustainable reforms. In Kansas, policymakers are always curious to know what’s going on in other states. Being a member of NJJN helps us have active engagement in those conversations and to ensure that they’re aware of how dynamic the national juvenile justice reform community is.”

Magnuson encourages readers who see connections between theirs and Kansas Appleseed’s work to get in touch with him. You can find contact information here.

Families and Friends Organizing for Reform of Juvenile Justice (FORJ) is a Missouri-based organization created and run by Tracy McClard.

“I created FORJ-MO in 2010 to bring a voice to impacted youth and their families, and to use that voice to help change policy,” McClard said. “Once FORJ-MO was created, a coalition with a mix of families, allies, state agencies, and champion legislators followed.”

McClard’s career in advocacy began in response to the tragedy of losing her son to suicide while he was held in solitary confinement in an adult correctional facility. Her advocacy eventually resulted in the 2013 passage of Jonathan’s Law, which provided new guidelines for Missouri that increased use of "dual jurisdiction" for youth in the adult justice system—meaning young people could remain in youth facilities despite being charged as adults.

From there, FORJ’s advocacy has only grown. “FORJ has had a deep, guiding hand in the passage of Jonathan's Law in 2013 and the creation of the state's legislative juvenile justice task force in 2014,” said McClard. “Two companion bills have just been filed: one is to raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction, and the other deals with removing youth from adult jails pre-trial.”

McClard is excited to connect with other organizations and advocates working for change through NJJN, and hopes to share the skills and knowledge she’s gained through her work. “I have been able to initiate and maintain strong relationships with legislators, the media, state agencies, and others who help FORJ push for legislative change,” she said. “These are skills that I have learned over the past several years and I'd be happy to share what’s worked for me.”

<- Go Back