Mentorship/Juvenile Justice

"In Caddo Parish, in Shreveport, Louisiana, four out of five kids don't come back [to juvenile court]," said Henry Walker of Caddo Parrish Juvenile Services. "The one of out of five who do come back, come back constantly."
According to Walker, the youth who do avoid regular run-ins with the law do so because they have mentors.
At the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative's April 2017 convening in Orlando, Florida, youth workers reflect on the proactive impact mentors can have on the juveniles in the system.

Latina Youth Once Threatened With Deportation Speaks Up

The story of 21-year-old undocumented student Jessica Colotl made headlines when she faced deportation after being arrested in 2010 for driving without a license. It was a debate: Was Colotl a law breaker who should be penalized, or a bright young woman, brought to the United States at 11, facing a too severe punishment?

"Just because someone is driving without a license or ends up in jail for a minor traffic violation ... [they] should not have to be deported," said Colotl, who is now 28. "I think that's a cruel and usual punishment that's actually against the Constitution."

Now a paralegal with her sights set on law school, Colotl and immigration attorney Dustin Baxter — a partner at Kuck Immigration Partners in Atlanta — share their thoughts on the current state of Latino immigration, deportation and the heightened criminalization of the undocumented.

Check out the visual storytelling about Jessica Colotl's experience with law enforcement. Read the English version here and the Spanish version here.

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Ramarley Graham’s Mother Searches for Justice

The disciplinary trial of New York Police Department officer Richard Haste ended as the fifth anniversary of Ramarley Graham's death approaches. A guilty verdict is the last chance for his mother, Constance Malcolm, to see Haste punished for fatally shooting her son in the Bronx on Feb. 2, 2012. Efforts to criminally charge Haste have fallen short at the state and federal levels. But that has not stopped Malcolm from seeking justice for her 18-year-old son, whose death upended her life.

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Trusting the Process

In 2010, reformed drug dealer Thomas Cotton created the faith-based nonprofit Redemption and Advancement Alliance to encourage men and women to lead healthy, constructive lives free of crime and negativity.

Cotton spent 6 1/2 years in prison and understands firsthand the external factors and challenges some face trying to live a life on the right side of the law. Using that experience, he created a process that walks the individual through personal reformation. Under the guidance of Redemption, individuals identify destructive behavior patterns, find employment and learn to give back to their community through a series of stages.

"[I was] able to see what it's like to transition out of prison into normal life again, and all the barriers that prevent people from really being able to engage life," Cotton said. "And as I began to navigate through those barriers, I began to see a pattern of how to help other people be successful in their transitions [out of prison] and also those who are coming from challenged backgrounds."

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Righting the Wrong: Michael Johnson

On probation by 14 and in prison by 19, 34-year-old Michael Johnson grew up around people who were dismissive of his hopes for a better future, and his history certainly dimmed his work prospects.

"Trying the positive thing out for so long and the doors are shut in your face, of course you're going to [focus on] the negative," said Johnson.

He talks about the impact of negativity and finding help in the latest installment of "Righting the Wrong" series.