Organization Seeks To Raise Awareness of Juveniles Tried As Adults

Juvenile Justice System


African Americans make up a disproportionate numbere of the approxinately 200,000 youth prosecuted, sentenced and locked up as an adult.

WASHINGTON — Every year, it is estimated that approximately 200,000 youth under the age of 18 are prosecuted, sentenced or incarcerated as an adult. With this in mind the Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) is highlighting the issue and trying to shed light.

Located in Washington D.C., CYFJ is a national initiative dedicated towards reducing the number of youth tried in the adult court in addition to raising awareness of the negative and harmful impact it places on youth by federal advocacy, media, research, and policy initiatives in every state.

Vice President of CYFJ, Jessica Sandoval, expressed her opinions as to why she believes there should be alternative programs committed towards youth justice reform like the Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) regulations, and the Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA).

“I believe that no child needs to be punished in the adult court-this is why we have a juvenile justice system. The juvenile justice system was designed for it. We know that what we can do in the community is 100 percent better than what can happen behind bars,” she said.

“Every research we have says that putting kids in the adult court is bad for public safety. Kids that go to adult court tend to be more violent than if they were retained in the juvenile justice system,” she continued.  

Policy Director, Jeree Thomas added that incarceration for young people makes it hard for them to be productive members of society later on in life.

“I have personally seen the impact when kids were treated as an adult, had adult sentences and faced consequences as an adult. It puts them in a weird space where no one is helping them to re-enter the community. A lot of young people are put in a position won’t help them be successful. It’s ineffective and dangerous,” she or he said. 

According to CFYJ’s website, “In 22 states and the District of Columbia, children as young as seven can be prosecuted as adults. Each year 95,000 youth are held in adult jails and prisons. 

To resolve the situation, CYFJ utilizes a policy campaign model to aid state advocates towards legislative goals. Through organizing, policy advocacy, research, communications and coalition building, CYFJ’s Campaign Model helps produce change within state and federal policies.

Aprill Turner, director of communications and media relations, believes that communicating the intent of the organization, it is easier to get people to know about the issues.

“In order to repeal laws in every state, communication is very important. Talking to policymakers in addition to social media, press releases, writing columns and op-eds helps raise awareness on the issue. I come into contact with youth that have been prosecuted in the adult court or incarcerated in adult prisons and I help train them to speak publicly,” she said.

CYFJ also does outreach to the public through its Youth Justice Awareness Month every October to highlight the issue and give local advocates, families, and policymakers to become more involved.