Home News Center Press Release: New Publication Catalogs Reform Efforts in the Youth Justice System

Press Release: New Publication Catalogs Reform Efforts in the Youth Justice System

June 2, 2020
Courtney M. McSwain


For immediate release on June 2, 2020

Contact: Courtney McSwain, National Juvenile Justice Network, 202-792-9915

Advocates Say Reforms Create Momentum for Long-Term Reduction of Youth Incarceration

Washington, D.C. – The National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) released today its annual publication, “NJJN Member Youth Justice Advances” the 2019 edition. The report catalogs youth justice system policy changes passed across the states, which collectively advance efforts to transform the way young people are treated by justice systems across the states by reducing confinement, interrupting the school-to-prison pipeline and promoting restorative justice and community-based practices. NJJN stated its hope that reform efforts can elevate a public health approach to youth justice by emphasizing the need for young people to have adequate healing resources in their communities.

“Our members are working hard every day to promote policies that bring kids out of detention. We’re seeing more policymakers agree with the importance of keeping young people out of the justice system altogether and focus more on getting them the resources they need to heal in their own communities. Although there is much to be done, we are encouraged that the narrative is changing in at least some places,” said Melissa Goemann, NJJN’s senior policy counsel.

Among the policy trends elevated in this report are:

1. Keeping youth away from the front door of the justice system with laws that expand access to court appoint counsel, grant authority for police to issue warnings instead of arrest and tackling the school-to-prison pipeline among others.

2. Preventing youth from being locked up with policies that reduce detention.

3. Moving youth out of the adult system with more states raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction and complying with the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act mandate that youth charged as adults be removed from adult jails pretrial by December 2021. 

NJJN noted the report’s release also comes against the backdrop of national crises around COVID-19 and the killing of unarmed black people, like George Floyd, at the hands of police.

“Our country is battling COVID-19, which has exposed the systemic disparities in health resources for communities of color. And we are now seeing cities in flames as a result of racism within our policing system. There is a sense of urgency right now – and we certainly feel it in our work. A review of the progress our members made in 2019  demonstrates that, as advocates, we are right there in the trenches fighting for change—not just to change specific policies, but to create an overall shift in how we view youth justice. We are fighting for a system that helps young people find hope for their future – not fear for their lives,” says K. Ricky Watson, Jr. executive director for NJJN.

To read NJJN’s 2019 NJJN Member Youth Justice Advances, visit www.njjn.org.


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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