A Guide for Youth Justice Leaders

Building a neW
vision of justice.

ABOUT THIS PROJECT

Building a New Vision of Justice

TAKING ON TRANSFORMATION is a multimedia project of the Columbia Justice Lab’s Youth Justice Initiatives. It provides a resource for system leaders looking to push transformation, as well as other stakeholders who either have decision-making power or are hoping to influence those who do. This work cannot happen without foundational values, which are embedded in every aspect of this project.  

We must begin with the well-being of all young people, valuing equity and racial justice, creating opportunities and recognizing the strengths of young people, and centering communities, families, and the youth themselves in every aspect of the work. With those values always at the fore, Taking on Transformation can serve as a hub and catalyst for change, as we push for real transformation of what justice looks like for young people in our country, and achieving a vision of community-based supports that do not include punishment and confinement.

About Catalyze Justice

Catalyze Justice is a non-profit organization that partners with leaders nationwide — system actors, advocates, community groups, foundations, and other TA providers — who want to dismantle the youth prison model and imagine a future where youth have abundant opportunities to dream and thrive. Catalyze Justice helps partners assess, align, and accelerate the existing and emerging opportunities within their ecosystems to implement deep youth justice transformation.

About Columbia Justice Lab

The Justice Lab seeks to foundationally reconceive justice policy through actionable research, community-centered policy development, and the sustained engagement of diverse constituencies. Leveraging the experience and expertise of community-based experts, researchers, practitioners, policymakers, and advocates, the Justice Lab envisions a community-centered future for justice in which healing and resiliency, rather than punishment and surveillance, are used to solve social problems often rooted in racial and economic inequity.

About Youth Correctional Leaders for Justice

Youth Correctional Leaders for Justice unites current and former youth correctional administrators to build a national movement, one that aims to shift systems away from the use of punitive sanctions and incarceration and focus instead on a more youth-, family-, and community-oriented vision of youth justice. YCLJ brings together people who have run those facilities and understand what it takes to change systems, so that we can call for a new model of youth justice.

CONTACT US

If you have any questions or would like to inquire about partnering with Columbia Justice Lab and Youth Correctional Leaders for Justice, please fill out the contact form on the Contact page and we will be in touch soon.

Design by Jack Duran

The case
for transforming
youth justice

Over the last 25 years, youth corrections systems in the United States have experienced a sea change in role and functioning, with profound impacts for young people and families. Read about the movement to transform youth justice from within.
EXPLORE

LEARN.

Deepen Your Understanding
Through Desk Guide chapters, expert discussions, curated resources, and more, everything here will add to your knowledge of how to truly transform youth justice.

APPLY.

Put Theory Into Practice
In each topic section and chapter of the Desk Guide you’ll find tips, strategies, checklists, and other ways to take what you learn here and apply it to your own work.

BUILD.

Take Action & Build Community
Update us on how you’ve used Taking on Transformation and the Desk Guide, what questions you have or what information you wish you had, and stay in touch as we build a community of change-makers.

Choose a journey to explore.

For a learning path curated to you, explore one or several journeys toward youth justice transformation.
DRAG | SWIPE LEFT
JOURNEY

I'm a
SYSTEM
leader

EXPLORE THIS JOURNEY
JOURNEY

SYSTEM LEADER

Not sure where to start?
This whole guide is geared towards system leaders who are pushing for transformation, but the topics, resources, and videos below are our suggestions for a starting point specific to system leaders.
WEBINARS
Watch highlight clips from different webinars below. Navigate directly to each webinar's page to watch the full panel and learn more information about it.
RACIAL JUSTICE & EQUITY
WATCH FULL WEBINAR
HARNESSING DATA FOR TRANSFORMATION
WATCH FULL WEBINAR
SETTING THE STAGE FOR TRANSFORMATION
WATCH FULL WEBINAR
EXPLORE ALL WEBINARS
JOURNEY

I'm a
YOUTH
leader

EXPLORE THIS JOURNEY
JOURNEY

YOUTH LEADER

Not sure where to start?
While this guide is mostly geared towards senior youth justice leaders, we hope that the information will be useful to you as a youth leader, and help you understand how you can be part of transformation. The topics, resources, and videos below are some that we think might be most useful to you.
WEBINARS
Watch highlight clips from different webinars below. Navigate directly to each webinar's page to watch the full panel and learn more information about it.
CREATING A SHARED VISION
WATCH FULL WEBINAR
CENTERING YOUTH & FAMILIES
WATCH FULL WEBINAR
COMMUNITY SUPPORT FOR YOUTH 
WATCH FULL WEBINAR
EXPLORE ALL WEBINARS
JOURNEY

I'm aN
ADVOCATE

EXPLORE THIS JOURNEY
JOURNEY

Advocate

Not sure where to start?
While this guide is mostly geared towards senior youth justice leaders, we hope that the information will be useful to you as an advocate, to help you understand what system leaders need to do to make change, and how you can work with them. The topics, resources, and videos below are some that we think might be most useful to you.
WEBINARS
Watch highlight clips from different webinars below. Navigate directly to each webinar's page to watch the full panel and learn more information about it.
CREATING A SHARED VISION
WATCH FULL WEBINAR
SHIFTING RESOURCES TO COMMUNITIES
WATCH FULL WEBINAR
COMMUNITY SUPPORT FOR YOUTH 
WATCH FULL WEBINAR
EXPLORE ALL WEBINARS
JOURNEY

I'm aN
ELECTED 
OFFICIAL

EXPLORE THIS JOURNEY
JOURNEY

ELECTED OFFICIAL

Not sure where to start?
While this guide is mostly geared towards senior youth justice leaders, we hope that the information will be useful to you as an elected official, to help you understand what system leaders need to do to make change, and the role that elected officials might have in the transformation process. The topics, resources, and videos below are some that we think might be most useful to you.
WEBINARS
Watch highlight clips from different webinars below. Navigate directly to each webinar's page to watch the full panel and learn more information about it.
SETTING THE STAGE FOR TRANSFORMATION
WATCH FULL WEBINAR
CREATING A SHARED VISION
WATCH FULL WEBINAR
HARNESSING DATA FOR TRANSFORMATION
WATCH FULL WEBINAR
EXPLORE ALL WEBINARS
JOURNEY

I'm a
JOURNALIST

EXPLORE THIS JOURNEY
JOURNEY

JOURNALIST

Not sure where to start?
While this guide is mostly geared towards senior youth justice leaders, we hope that the information will be useful to you as a journalist, to help you understand what system leaders need to do to make change, and how you can work with them. The topics, resources, and videos below are some that we think might be most useful to you.
WEBINARS
Watch highlight clips from different webinars below. Navigate directly to each webinar's page to watch the full panel and learn more information about it.
SETTING THE STAGE FOR TRANSFORMATION
WATCH FULL WEBINAR
HARNESSING DATA FOR TRANSFORMATION
WATCH FULL WEBINAR
COMMUNITY SUPPORT FOR YOUTH
WATCH FULL WEBINAR
EXPLORE ALL WEBINARS
JOURNEY

I'm
FAMILY OR 
COMMUNITY

EXPLORE THIS JOURNEY
JOURNEY

FAMILY & COMMUNITY OF IMPACTED YOUTH 

Not sure where to start?
While this guide is mostly geared towards senior youth justice leaders, we hope that the information will be useful to you as a family or community member of an impacted young person, to help you understand what system leaders need to do to make change, and how you can work with them. The topics, resources, and videos below are some that we think might be most useful to you.
WEBINARS
Watch highlight clips from different webinars below. Navigate directly to each webinar's page to watch the full panel and learn more information about it.
CENTERING YOUTH & FAMILIES
WATCH FULL WEBINAR
CREATING A SHARED VISION
WATCH FULL WEBINAR
COMMUNITY SUPPORT
FOR YOUTH & FAMILIES
WATCH FULL WEBINAR
EXPLORE ALL WEBINARS
Learn More about this Webinar
WEBINAR

SETTING THE STAGE

AIRED NOV. 10, 2021 @ 2PM EDT

Kicking off the event series, “Setting the Stage” explores the role of system leaders in shifting away from punitive policies and incarceration and toward a more community-oriented vision of justice.

PANELISTS

JARRELL E. DANIELS

2021 Truman Scholar, Columbia University

MODERATOR

GLADYS CARRIÓN

Co-Chair, Youth Correctional Leaders for Justice

CLINTON LACEY

President & CEO, Credible Messenger Mentoring Movement (CM3)

MISHI FARUQEE

National Field Director, Youth Initiative

HIGHLIGHTS

Clinton Lacey talks about the need to move beyond making a better, kinder, more humane system, and instead bringing community to the table to imagine something totally different.

Mishi Faruqee speaks about why we need to start with system leaders who are willing to be disrupters, and even see themselves as organizers who lift up youth voice and youth vision.

Gladys Carrión on the different way youth are treated based on race and zip code, envisioning a system that does not include incarceration or confinement

EXPLORE TOPIC
WEBINAR  2
1 HR

RACIAL JUSTICE & EQUITY

The second webinar brings together system and community leaders to discuss the how and why of putting racial justice and equity at the heart of any movement to transform youth justice.

WATCH WEBINAR
WEBINAR  3
1 HR

CENTERING YOUTH & FAMILIES

This third panel discussion in this event series covers both the why and the how of having the most impacted youth and families leading transformation.

WATCH WEBINAR
WEBINAR  4
1 HR

CREATING A SHARED VISION

This panel brought together speakers with experience working across stakeholder groups to move transformation forward, and working with diverse groups to create a shared vision for the future.

WATCH WEBINAR
WEBINAR  5
1 HR

HARNESSING DATA FOR TRANSFORMATION

This panel discussed why data is so crucial to efforts to transform youth justice systems and the way we think about justice for young people, and some key ways that leaders can use data (and how to do it).

WATCH WEBINAR
WEBINAR 6
1 HR

SHIFTING RESOURCES TO COMMUNITIES

This panel brought together a group of experts to discuss ways that youth justice systems can shift resources, especially financial, to community-led and -owned supports for young people.

WATCH WEBINAR
WEBINAR  7
1 HR

COMMUNITY SUPPORT FOR YOUTH

The final panel in this event series brought together a group of experts to discuss ways that youth justice systems can shift resources, especially financial, to community-led and -owned supports for young people.

WATCH WEBINAR

QUICKBITES

Browse some of the most frequently asked questions below and find bite-sized answers and links to where you can learn more.
QUICK BITE

How dO YOU DEVELOP MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN SYSTEM ACTORS AND COMMUNITY MEMBERS?

QUICK BITE

How do you develop meaningful relationships between system actors and community members?

Improve communication with communities.

Create proactive communication channels to inform residents of impacted communities about the services, supports and performance of the youth justice system, including data and narrative stories about the system, harms and reform needs identified. Transparent sharing of information about how the system works and how the system is achieving or failing to achieve its goals is central to building relationships and trust with youth, families and communities.

Expand opportunities for community input.

Expand opportunities for community residents to offer input into the system. While specific procedures vary by state, all jurisdictions require a process for reporting and investigating allegations of abuse or other violations of the rights of children and families. Beyond the legal requirements, systems should have multiple pathways to lodge complaints and concerns about any aspect of system operations, at all levels (in-home through institutional).

Consult with communities.

Taking partnership a step further toward shared authority and responsibility, establish processes that ensure important decisions about system operations and reforms require consultation with representatives of youth, families and communities. Build in processes for soliciting advice and direction from community representatives about decisions before they are made.

Invest in community participation.

Invest in resources that enable community representatives to participate fully in meetings and other system events and processes. As discussed in Partnering with Youth and Families, provide stipends or other types of financial compensation for the time and expertise provided by community members who participate in planning and reform of the system, and other support that facilitates attendance and participation, such as transportation, childcare, and meals. Schedule meetings at times and locations that are convenient for community members, including gathering halls in places of worship, recreational or other community centers, or in people’s homes in the community.


WATCH WEBINAR

Setting the Stage

LEARN MORE ABOUT TOPIC
QUICK BITE

What are some examples of places moving toward youth justice transformation?

LEARN MORE
QUICK BITE

What are some examples of places moving toward youth justice transformation?

New York State and New York City have been at the forefront of change in Youth Justice for more than a decade, with the closure of youth prisons, raise the age legislation, and the Close to Home initiative. Washington, D.C. has made enormous strides by replacing a notorious youth prison with a smaller, modern facility, and utilizing programs like Credible Messenger Mentoring and focusing on Positive Youth Justice models. California is another example of recent innovation and transformative work in youth justice, where they have completely shuttered the state Department of Juvenile Justice in favor of youth being served at the county level; specific counties, like Los Angeles, are working with advocates and community leaders to transform youth justice locally, and many places are working together on the Positive Youth Justice Initiative. New England states have also all made strides towards real transformation, with groundbreaking steps like New Hampshire becoming the first state to fully close its only youth prison, and Vermont raising the upper age of jurisdiction in the juvenile justice system to 20.

WATCH WEBINAR

COZY FIREPLACE

LEARN MORE ABOUT TOPIC
QUICK BITE

What does it mean to create a shared vision for youth justice?

LEARN MORE
QUICK BITE

What does it mean to create a shared vision for youth justice?

Having taken a critical look at current practice and needs for system transformation, and having reviewed examples of transformation from other jurisdictions, leaders from within and outside of the formal system participating in a collaborative working group can then work together to build consensus on the values and principles that define a new vision for their youth justice system. Engaging all stakeholders in deep discussion about values and principles can create a shared understanding of the new direction, and a commitment to ensuring that the implementation and operation of the transformed system aligns with those values and principles. Understanding shared values and principles is also a helpful step in developing a vision that all stakeholders can relate to and stand behind.

WATCH WEBINAR

LEARN MORE ABOUT TOPIC
QUICK BITE

What is Participatory Action Research

LEARN MORE
QUICK BITE

What is Participatory Action Research

Participatory Action Research (PAR) is intended to challenge the power dynamics within traditional research that suggests expertise lies with the researcher alone instead of in the community. PAR involves a set of principles that guides collaboration to enact social change as an approach that can be applied to any research methodology—quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods. There are variations of PAR, including Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) and Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR), that each consider the community or youth, respectively, as units of identity that hold expertise and knowledge needed to study problems and generate solutions.

WATCH WEBINAR

VIDEO HEAD

LEARN MORE ABOUT TOPIC
QUICK BITE

Why is reimagining roles and responsibilities for justice important to communities?

LEARN MORE
QUICK BITE

Why is reimagining roles and responsibilities for justice important to communities?

Community cohesion and a sense of collective efficacy are critical components of healthy, thriving neighborhoods and communities. Years of sociological research have documented the role of community cohesion and collective efficacy in reducing crime and other harmful behavior among both adults and young people.1 A study by the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods, which summarized research conducted throughout the 1990s, found that rates of violence are lower in urban neighborhoods characterized by “collective efficacy,” which extends the concept of community cohesion to include mutual trust among neighbors combined with willingness to intervene on behalf of the common good, specifically to supervise children and maintain public order.

This and other research also documents the negative effects on communities subjected to overly aggressive law enforcement and incarceration and the revolving door between probation, parole and prison, including the break-up of families, weakening of social bonds, diminution of social and political capital, erosion of already fragile local economies, and other harmful effects.3 In short, the criminal legal system, including youth corrections, has played a critical role in weakening many communities, with one by-product being an increase in crime rates.

WATCH WEBINAR

CREATING A SHARED VISION FOR YOUTH JUSTICE

LEARN MORE ABOUT TOPIC
QUICK BITE

Why is culture change within youth justice systems so difficult?

LEARN MORE
QUICK BITE

Why is culture change within youth justice systems so difficult?

The roots of the current punitive youth justice culture go very deep, as discussed above. Beliefs about the purpose of the system to rehabilitate the troubled or dangerous child, and how to go about that, have been ingrained across youth justice staff and reinforced through training and mentorship for generations. These attitudes are even ingrained to a certain extent among families and communities, who have been conditioned by the paternalistic arm of the system to rely upon it, and may not yet fully understand the possibility of a community-led system. 

Changing beliefs and behaviors is challenging for any person, let alone entire workforces that have known correctional facilities to be the signature feature of their agencies for over a century. Many specifically resist change out of fear of losing their jobs and the livelihood that supports their families, as well as the unknown of what comes next. Unemployment is highly unsavory politically, and unions are powerful institutions that protect youth justice staff and will oppose any change that will result in job loss. Many staff have worked with the system for many years and have experienced waves of reform that have come and gone under rotating leadership—with varying degrees of success.


WATCH WEBINAR

LEARN MORE ABOUT TOPIC
QUICK BITE

How can data be a force for transformational change?

LEARN MORE
QUICK BITE

How can data be a force for transformational change?

Having good quality data in a format that can be presented to and digested by staff and external stakeholders—including young people, their families, community groups and advocacy organizations—helps make the indicators of system performance transparent, as well as helping to address inaccurate beliefs, perceptions and myths.  

Sharing data about the system also can create buy-in for reforms, and create opportunities to engage staff and external stakeholders at all levels in problem-solving and transformation efforts.

WATCH WEBINAR

HARNESSING DATA FOR TRANSFORMATION

LEARN MORE ABOUT TOPIC
QUICK BITE

How can I build public and political will for change?

LEARN MORE
QUICK BITE

How can I build public and political will for change?

Develop a strategic communications plan to build support for reform among key audiences and the general public.

While gaining the support of elected and appointed officials is critical, transformation requires much broader and deeper support. Leaders should identify potential partners and targets for influence among advocates, including organizations of young people who have been impacted by the system, their families and their communities. Leaders should also develop a broad strategy to build understanding and support among the general public and any groups with special interest in youth justice, such as victims’ advocacy groups.

Identify the narratives and other information currently shaping dialogue about youth justice.

Public interest in reforming any policy arena is largely shaped by the dominant narratives—the stories people tell each other to make sense of complicated issues—and other assumptions and information the general public as well as policy-makers rely on. Youth justice leaders and others working toward change should assess the current landscape of political and public will for youth justice reform by examining what sources of information shape local dialogue and consciousness around the youth justice system. What are the messages informing the understanding of critical decision makers, including the governor’s office, legislators, county administrators and supervisors, or the mayor’s office?

Examine the information shaping local dialogue and public opinion:

  • Local news reports on crime, safety, and public financing;
  • Policy or research reports on the youth justice system;
  • Public officials’ and local leaders’ framing of public safety approaches;
  • Advocacy campaigns around youth Justice;
  • Trends in social media commentary and debate

WATCH WEBINAR

Taking on Transformation: Supporting Youth in Communities

LEARN MORE ABOUT TOPIC
QUICK BITE

What’s the difference between personal, systemic, and structural racism?

LEARN MORE
QUICK BITE

What’s the difference between personal, systemic, and structural racism?

Personal racism.

Our history and culture have generated and reinforced racist beliefs and attitudes in each of us, in both overt and subtle ways. These personal beliefs and attitudes are inseparable from our official, professional roles, and inevitably affect our perceptions about young people, the decisions we make about them and ways that we interact with them.

Systemic racism.

Racism is also embedded in how systems have been developed and function, given the origins and original practices our criminal and youth justice systems were intended to address. Although people may not be fully aware of this history, the impacts of these policies and practices continue to have the same harmful racist impacts, whether intentional or not. For example, several research studies indicate that youth of color are less likely than their white counterparts to be selected for diversion programs.


Structural racism.

Finally, structural racism involves the broader societal conditions that unduly expose people of color to the control mechanisms of law enforcement and the justice system. Generations of structural barriers to securing family-supporting income and accumulating wealth have led to high rates of poverty among families of color. Poverty and its associated hardships create conditions that justify and lead to greater surveillance and intervention by law enforcement in certain communities.

WATCH WEBINAR

LEARN MORE ABOUT TOPIC
QUICK BITE

How do you develop meaningful relationships between system actors and community members?

LEARN MORE
QUICK BITE

How do you develop meaningful relationships between system actors and community members?

Improve communication with communities.

Create proactive communication channels to inform residents of impacted communities about the services, supports and performance of the youth justice system, including data and narrative stories about the system, harms and reform needs identified. Transparent sharing of information about how the system works and how the system is achieving or failing to achieve its goals is central to building relationships and trust with youth, families and communities.

Expand opportunities for community input.

Expand opportunities for community residents to offer input into the system. While specific procedures vary by state, all jurisdictions require a process for reporting and investigating allegations of abuse or other violations of the rights of children and families. Beyond the legal requirements, systems should have multiple pathways to lodge complaints and concerns about any aspect of system operations, at all levels (in-home through institutional).

Consult with communities.

Taking partnership a step further toward shared authority and responsibility, establish processes that ensure important decisions about system operations and reforms require consultation with representatives of youth, families and communities. Build in processes for soliciting advice and direction from community representatives about decisions before they are made.

Invest in community participation.

Invest in resources that enable community representatives to participate fully in meetings and other system events and processes. As discussed in Partnering with Youth and Families, provide stipends or other types of financial compensation for the time and expertise provided by community members who participate in planning and reform of the system, and other support that facilitates attendance and participation, such as transportation, childcare, and meals. Schedule meetings at times and locations that are convenient for community members, including gathering halls in places of worship, recreational or other community centers, or in people’s homes in the community.


WATCH WEBINAR

Setting the Stage

LEARN MORE ABOUT TOPIC

How can data be a force for transformational change?

LEARN MORE  
QUICK BITE

How can data be a force for transformational change?

Having good quality data in a format that can be presented to and digested by staff and external stakeholders—including young people, their families, community groups and advocacy organizations—helps make the indicators of system performance transparent, as well as helping to address inaccurate beliefs, perceptions and myths. 

Sharing data about the system also can create buy-in for reforms, and create opportunities to engage staff and external stakeholders at all levels in problem-solving and transformation efforts.

Watch the Webinar

HARNESSING DATA FOR TRANSFORMATION
LEARN MORE ABOUT TOPIC

What does it mean to create a shared vision for youth justice?

LEARN MORE  
QUICK BITE

What does it mean to create a shared vision for youth justice?

Having taken a critical look at current practice and needs for system transformation, and having reviewed examples of transformation from other jurisdictions, leaders from within and outside of the formal system participating in a collaborative working group can then work together to build consensus on the values and principles that define a new vision for their youth justice system. Engaging all stakeholders in deep discussion about values and principles can create a shared understanding of the new direction, and a commitment to ensuring that the implementation and operation of the transformed system aligns with those values and principles. Understanding shared values and principles is also a helpful step in developing a vision that all stakeholders can relate to and stand behind.

Watch the Webinar

CREATING A SHARED VISION FOR YOUTH JUSTICE
LEARN MORE ABOUT TOPIC
QUICK BITE

How can I build public and political support?

Develop a strategic communications plan to build support for reform among key audiences and the general public.

While gaining the support of elected and appointed officials is critical, transformation requires much broader and deeper support. Leaders should identify potential partners and targets for influence among advocates, including organizations of young people who have been impacted by the system, their families and their communities. Leaders should also develop a broad strategy to build understanding and support among the general public and any groups with special interest in youth justice, such as victims’ advocacy groups.

Identify the narratives and other information currently shaping dialogue about youth justice.

Public interest in reforming any policy arena is largely shaped by the dominant narratives—the stories people tell each other to make sense of complicated issues—and other assumptions and information the general public as well as policy-makers rely on.Youth justice leaders and others working toward change should assess the current landscape of political and public will for youth justice reform by examining what sources of information shape local dialogue and consciousness around the youth justice system. What are the messages informing the understanding of critical decision makers, including the governor’s office, legislators, county administrators and supervisors, mayor’s office?

Examine the information shaping local dialogue and public opinion:

  • Local news reports on crime, safety, and public financing;
  • Policy or research reports on the youth justice system;
  • Public officials’ and local leaders’ framing of public safety approaches;
  • Advocacy campaigns around youth justice;
  • Trends in social media commentary and debate.

Develop a strategic communications plan to build support for reform among key audiences and the general public.

While gaining the support of elected and appointed officials is critical, transformation requires much broader and deeper support. Leaders should identify potential partners and targets for influence among advocates, including organizations of young people who have been impacted by the system, their families and their communities. Leaders should also develop a broad strategy to build understanding and support among the general public and any groups with special interest in youth justice, such as victims’ advocacy groups.

How do you develop meaningful relationships between system actors
and community members?

LEARN MORE  
QUICK BITE

How do you develop meaningful relationships between system actors and community members?

Improve communication with communities.

Create proactive communication channels to inform residents of impacted communities about the services, supports and performance of the youth justice system, including data and narrative stories about the system, harms and reform needs identified. Transparent sharing of information about how the system works and how the system is achieving or failing to achieve its goals is central to building relationships and trust with youth, families and communities.

Expand opportunities for community input.

Expand opportunities for community residents to offer input into the system. While specific procedures vary by state, all jurisdictions require a process for reporting and investigating allegations of abuse or other violations of the rights of children and families. Beyond the legal requirements, systems should have multiple pathways to lodge complaints and concerns about any aspect of system operations, at all levels (in-home through institutional).
Examine the information shaping local dialogue and public opinion:

Consult with communities.

Taking partnership a step further toward shared authority and responsibility, establish processes that ensure important decisions about system operations and reforms require consultation with representatives of youth, families and communities. Build in processes for soliciting advice and direction from community representatives about decisions before they are made.

Invest in community participation.

Invest in resources that enable community representatives to participate fully in meetings and other system events and processes. As discussed in Partnering with Youth and Families, provide stipends or other types of financial compensation for the time and expertise provided by community members who participate in planning and reform of the system, and other support that facilitates attendance and participation, such as transportation, childcare, and meals. Schedule meetings at times and locations that are convenient for community members, including gathering halls in places of worship, recreational or other community centers, or in people’s homes in the community.

LEARN MORE ABOUT TOPIC

Why is culture change within
youth justice systems so difficult?

LEARN MORE  
QUICK BITE

Why is culture change within youth justice systems so difficult?

The roots of the current punitive youth justice culture go very deep, as discussed above. Beliefs about the purpose of the system to rehabilitate the troubled or dangerous child, and how to go about that, have been ingrained across youth justice staff and reinforced through training and mentorship for generations. These attitudes are even ingrained to a certain extent among families and communities, who have been conditioned by the paternalistic arm of the system to rely upon it, and may not yet fully understand the possibility of a community-led system.

Changing beliefs and behaviors is challenging for any person, let alone entire workforces that have known correctional facilities to be the signature feature of their agencies for over a century. Many specifically resist change out of fear of losing their jobs and the livelihood that supports their families, as well as the unknown of what comes next. Unemployment is highly unsavory politically, and unions are powerful institutions that protect youth justice staff and will oppose any change that will result in job loss. Many staff have worked with the system for many years and have experienced waves of reform that have come and gone under rotating leadership—with varying degrees of success.

LEARN MORE ABOUT TOPIC
QUICK BITE

What does it mean to create a shared vision for youth justice?

Having taken a critical look at current practice and needs for system transformation, and having reviewed examples of transformation from other jurisdictions, leaders from within and outside of the formal system participating in a collaborative working group can then work together to build consensus on the values and principles that define a new vision for their youth justice system.

Engaging all stakeholders in deep discussion about values and principles can create a shared understanding of the new direction, and a commitment to ensuring that the implementation and operation of the transformed system aligns with those values and principles. Understanding shared values and principles is also a helpful step in developing a vision that all stakeholders can relate to and stand behind.

Watch the Webinar

CREATING A SHARED VISION FOR YOUTH JUSTICE

EXPLORE 
DIGITAL GALLERY

Browse through artwork produced by young people calling for youth justice transformation.

EXPLORE ARTWORK

SIGN UP FOR OUR EMAIL LIST

Thanks for signing up!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Try typing your email again.
By signing up, you will be subscribing to Catalyze Justice’s email list. We respect your privacy. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.