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Winner of 2017 Beth Arnovits Gutsy Advocate for Youth Announced

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Josh Gordon, 217-801-2009

gordon@njjn.org

@NJJNetwork

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.

 
About the Award

Created by the NJJN Executive Committee to honor one of NJJN’s founders and a true leader in the juvenile justice reform movement, this award is designed to both acknowledge other leaders in the field and to create a communications platform for justice reform work. Each year, we will honor an individual advocate for youth justice who embodies the tenacity, vision, fearlessness and wisdom of Beth Arnovits. (See below for more about her.) 

Please note: only NJJN members, partner organizations, and staff are eligible to nominate folks for these awards, though anyone affiliated with a member or partner organization may nominate themselves for an award. 

Elizabeth (Beth) J. Arnovits (1950-2011) -- pictured at right -- was executive director of the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency for 36 years and one of the founders of NJJN. She spent most of her life working to reform the justice system for both youth and adults. Beth’s heart for second chances made a huge difference in the lives of youth, and her adventurous approach to life inspired those who worked beside her. Before she died, she received recognition as a Greater Lansing Woman of the Year 2011 Finalist. NJJN is honored to sponsor this award in remembrance of Beth, who was nothing if not gutsy.





Past Winners:

- 2016 -

Carmen Perez, of Gathering for Justice. Learn more.

- 2015 -

Jody E. Owens, III, of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Mississippi office. Learn more here

- 2014 -

Ernest Johnson, of Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children.

- 2013 - 

Elizabeth "Betsy" Clarke of the Juvenile Justice Initiative in Illinois. Learn more

- 2012 -

Kim McGill of the Youth Justice Coalition (CA). Watch Kim McGill talk about winning the Gutsy Youth Advocate for Youth Award.


Photo of Beth Arnovits by Michelle Weemhoff