Home News Center National Juvenile Justice Network Announces New Executive Director Ricky Watson, Jr.

National Juvenile Justice Network Announces New Executive Director Ricky Watson, Jr.

October 21, 2019


October 21, 2019

Courtney McSwain

K. Ricky Watson, Jr., a graduate from NJJN’s Youth Justice Leadership Institute, will take the helm on January 2, 2020.

(Washington, D.C.) – The National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) is pleased to welcome K. Ricky Watson, Jr. as our next Executive Director.

Mr. Watson joins NJJN from his current position as the Regional Manager for the Vera Institute’s Center on Immigration Justice, Unaccompanied Children Program. Before that, he served as the Co-Director of NJJN’s North Carolina member organization, the Youth Justice Project of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, where he advocated for policy changes to disrupt the cradle-to-prison pipeline.

He began his professional career as an Assistant Public Defender for the Guilford County Public Defender’s Office in Greensboro, North Carolina, where he represented hundreds of indigent adults and juveniles charged with misdemeanors and felonies. He earned his Juris Doctor degree from Elon University School of Law and his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Wake Forest University.

“It is our responsibility as advocates and as a society to ensure that young people across the country can live lives filled with opportunity, compassion, and hope,” Mr. Watson says. “I will do everything in my power to ensure that NJJN utilizes all of its resources, including its phenomenal and wide-reaching membership base, YJLI alumni, allies, and connections with the broader community to build a brighter and more equitable space to protect and empower young people. I'm thrilled to be given this opportunity, and I can't wait to get started!"

“Ricky will help us move into our next phase of development as an anti-racist organization and one that centers the voices of those most impacted by the injustices of the youth legal system, including young people and their families,” says John Williams, NJJN’s Board President. “It’s especially rewarding that Ricky comes from within the NJJN family as an alum of our Youth Justice Leadership Institute, a program established eight years ago to support and elevate people of color as leaders within the youth justice movement. The fact that we can see the fruits of that effort among our executive staff is inspiring."

Mr. Watson will officially begin his role as Executive Director on January 2, 2020, permanently succeeding NJJN’s Founding Executive Director Sarah Bryer. Alyson Clements, NJJN’s Director of Membership and Advocacy, currently serves as Interim Executive Director through January 1, 2020.


The National Juvenile Justice Network leads a membership community of 54 state-based organizations and numerous individuals across 44 states and D.C. We all seek to shrink our youth justice systems and transform the remainder into systems that treat youth and families with dignity and humanity. Our work is premised on the fundamental understanding that our youth justice systems are inextricably bound with the systemic and structural racism that defines our society; as such we seek to change policy and practice through an anti-racist lens by building power with those who are most negatively affected by our justice systems, including young people, their families and all people of color. We also recognize that other vulnerable populations - including LGBTQIA+, those with disabilities and mental illness, girls and immigrants - are disparately and negatively impacted by our justice systems, and thus we also seek to center their concerns in our policy change work.

For more information, visit www.njjn.org.

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