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More States Need to Halt Prosecution of Youth as Adults

This month marks one year since the passage of Proposition 57, a California ballot measure that prohibited district attorneys from filing charges against youth as young as 14 directly in adult criminal court through a practice known as “direct file.” The initiative passed with 64 percent of the vote, signaling strong popular support for curtailing prosecutorial authority and expanding access to the rehabilitative benefits of the juvenile justice system.

While juvenile courts are premised on rehabilitation and required to provide young people with education, mental health and other age-appropriate services, the adult criminal justice system offers no such guarantee. Youth placed in adult courtrooms are exposed to the trauma of stigmatizing, high-stakes proceedings and may face lengthy adult sentences devoid of rehabilitative opportunities. Furthermore, youth prosecuted and convicted as adults are saddled with lifelong criminal records, severely limiting access to education, housing and employment, and potentially impacting their right to vote or their immigration status.

Research supports the notion that adult court prosecution is fundamentally inappropriate for young people. Studies comparing youth tried in juvenile courts to those processed as adults find that criminal prosecution is associated with poorer mental health outcomes, including higher rates of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and elevated risk of rearrest after release. Though proponents of these policies claim they are necessary to deter serious crime, research has linked direct file, transfer and waiver policies to increased levels of youth violence.

Though the burden of these laws falls most heavily on youth relegated to criminal courts, the effects also filter into the juvenile justice system, disadvantaging young people who retain their status as juveniles. In states that permit prosecutors to exercise discretion over transfer petitions or the filing of adult charges, the very threat of criminal prosecution can be used to exact unfavorable plea agreements, exposing young people, unnecessarily, to additional juvenile justice system contact.

Fortunately, decadeslong reductions in youth crime have allowed the pendulum of juvenile justice policymaking to swing towards common-sense reforms that honor youthfulness and emphasize treatment over punishment. In California, Proposition 57 ensures that youth are no longer subject to unchecked prosecutorial authority and cannot be criminally prosecuted without first receiving a transfer hearing in juvenile court.

All California youth are now presumed suitable for the treatment and care of the juvenile court, and prosecutors carry the burden of proving otherwise. By law, California juvenile court judges must look beyond the seriousness of a young person’s offense and consider the “totality of the circumstances,” including their social history, mental health, level of participation in the offense and success with prior interventions, when determining whether they can be transferred to adult criminal court. By abolishing direct file and establishing a higher standard of proof for transferring youth to the adult criminal justice system, California is expected to prosecute many fewer youth as adults in the coming years.  

Several other states have introduced reforms aimed at correcting longstanding overreliance on punitive, criminal sanctions for young people. Recently, New York and North Carolina used their budget processes to expand the age bounds of their juvenile justice systems to ensure that 16- and 17-year-old youth can no longer be automatically placed in adult courtrooms.

In Indiana, state law now permits youth to be processed in juvenile court for any remaining lesser charges if they are tried and acquitted for a more serious offense in adult criminal court. This prevents prosecutors from gaining unfettered access to criminal prosecution through overcharging. In 2016, the Vermont Legislature granted original jurisdiction to the court’s Family Division in all youth misdemeanor cases and in select youth felony cases, ensuring that most young people are processed in juvenile rather than adult criminal court.

Though incremental, these reforms have the potential to lessen criminal justice system involvement for thousands of youth, bringing the U.S. one step closer to ending the unjust prosecution of youth as adults and delivering on the full rehabilitative promise of the juvenile justice system.

Misguided and reactionary policymaking eroded the core values and protections of the juvenile justice system throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Yet relics of these policies remain, contrasting starkly with current realities. State lawmakers must heed contemporary research, record-low rates of youth crime and increasing public support for progressive justice reforms, and act now to halt the inhumane treatment of youth as adults.

Maureen Washburn is a member of the policy and communications team at the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.

It’s More Than Time to Raise the Age in Michigan

In Michigan, 17-year-olds are not allowed to buy lottery tickets, get a tattoo, rent a car or hotel room or drop out of school. They can’t vote, serve on a jury or sign a legal contract either, presumably because they don’t possess the requisite maturity to make adult-level decisions. This distinction, however, is tossed out the window if a 17-year-old breaks the law. Suddenly, they are adults, facing devastating repercussions that can come with an adult conviction.

That’s because Michigan is one of only five states that automatically consider 17-year-olds adults for any offense. In the past decade, more than 20,000 youth under age 18 have been charged as adults in Michigan.  

The majority of these 17-year-olds were charged with nonviolent offenses, and most had no previous involvement in the juvenile justice system. But in Michigan, a first-time mistake can lead to a lifetime of harsh consequences.

Despite the inherent dangers of placing a child in prison, more than half the 17-year-olds convicted as adults were confined in adult facilities. Research shows that youth in adult jails and prisons are more likely to experience sexual victimization and physical violence, and more likely to commit suicide. Even exposure and proximity to violence can severely disrupt the course of healthy physical, emotional and intellectual development in teens.

It is not surprising, then, that youth convicted as adults have worse physical and mental health outcomes over their lifetimes than those who enter the juvenile justice system. Their problems are compounded by the fact that youth with criminal records have a harder time accessing housing, furthering their education and securing long-term employment.

Youth with adult convictions are more likely to reoffend, and reoffend more violently, than their counterparts in the juvenile justice system. If the goal of our justice system truly is public safety, then directing these young people to rehabilitative youth services is a far better choice.

So, why are 17-year-olds considered adults in the first place? Because that’s how our system was created in 1908 — the year the first Ford Model T automobile was introduced. A century later, Michigan desperately needs a new model for adjudicating youth.

Michigan’s juvenile justice system isn’t perfect but it does strive to continuously make itself better. Over the past decade, some juvenile courts have begun embracing evidence-based practices that are proven to reduce crime and improve outcomes for children and their families.

During the same time span that tens of thousands of 17-year-olds were systematically funneled into the adult criminal justice system, Michigan’s innovative juvenile justice system managed to cut detention and out-of-home placement rates by 40 percent. We have seen the emergence of high-quality diversion and community-based programs that allow kids to stay in school and receive treatment for their entire families. Unfortunately, 17-year-olds who commit crimes are prohibited from accessing these services; their options are adult probation, jail or prison.

Michigan’s juvenile system already serves 17-year-olds who entered their jurisdiction prior to their 17th birthday. In fact, the juvenile court can maintain jurisdiction until one’s 19th or 21st birthday, depending on the offense. Probation and facility staff are already trained to work with this age group and offer successful programming designed to meet their developmental and behavioral health needs.

This is important because we know that adolescence is a period of significant developmental growth, characterized by impulsivity, risk-taking and strong influence by peers. As part of normal human development, young people experience rapid physiological and psychological changes that do not fully mature until well beyond age 18.

These changes establish the architecture that will eventually allow young adults to temper risk-taking behaviors, evaluate costs and benefits and fully grasp the consequences of their actions. As such, youth are far more amenable to rehabilitative programs and behavior modification during these formative years. Conversely, harsh treatment during adolescence can further solidify a child’s trajectory down the wrong path.

Experts estimate that 90 percent of justice-involved youth have experienced at least one traumatic event. In Michigan, the vast majority of youth convicted as adults have had a friend or family member killed, domestic violence or substance abuse in the home, multiple foster home placements or parental incarceration. Rather than retraumatizing youth by sentencing them to prison, we should support them with juvenile justice services that build their coping and resilience skills and teach them accountability.

In the past 10 years, numerous other states have raised the age of jurisdiction, citing improved public safety, greater access to children’s services and better outcomes for youth and their families. The other four states that prosecute 17-year-olds as adults — Wisconsin, Missouri, Georgia and Texas — are also considering legislative changes to raise the age.

The proposed legislation in Michigan would continue to allow for the “waiver” of a 17-year-old into the adult system, depending on the seriousness of the offense. Those youth would be housed in a juvenile facility until they reach the age of majority, and then sent to an adult prison.

Why hasn’t Michigan raised the age yet? The short answer: money and a lack of political will. During legislative hearings in 2016, every single stakeholder group — from prosecutors to judges to facility staff — clearly stated that raising the age was the “right thing to do.” The big question was, “How do we pay for it?”

Other states have managed to pay to raise the age and, as it turns out, at a much lower cost than initially anticipated. In Illinois, the overall cost of the system actually went down after raising the age.

It is true that Michigan’s funding system poses unique challenges. The state pays the full cost for inmates in the adult criminal justice system, while counties pay costs in the juvenile justice system with the state reimbursing half of eligible expenses. Counties rightly fear they may get saddled with massive costs if 17-year-olds automatically come into their systems, and that serving additional youth will impact the quality of their existing services.

There are data limitations as well. But none of this excuses legislators and other policymakers from finding solutions that nearly every other state has come up with — solutions that will enhance public safety, protect existing services and help more troubled youth turn their lives around. We have the brainpower to figure out the funding. Now we just need the willpower.

At the end of the day, we must ask ourselves one important question: Have I done everything I can today to prevent a child from being harmed? With each passing day, young people are forced into an adult justice system that does not address their needs and, in fact, exposes them to significant physical harm and psychological trauma. For their well-being, for the safety and protection of our communities, it’s time to raise the age in Michigan.

Paul Elam, Ph.D., is the president of Public Policy Associates, Inc. and has worked on national, state and local efforts to create fair and effective juvenile justice policies and practices. He is a board member of the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency and a consultant to the Michigan Committee on Juvenile Justice.

Mary King is executive director of the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency. She previously served as community coordinator for the Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative, where she engaged key stakeholders in a unified effort to provide evidence-based services for returning citizens.

Promising Practices for Supporting Latina Youth in Juvenile Justice Prevention Programs

In our Family Keys program, a prevention program that served close to 40 percent Latina youth in 2016, there is a strong sense of familia. Familia, the sentiment of treating others like family, runs through the core of Southwest Key Programs, a Hispanic-run organization with more than 90 percent Latino staff, and is a key value in our agency.

Our natural tendency to uphold Latino values in programming got us thinking … how do organizations intentionally serve and support the unique needs of Latina youth? Meanwhile, we learned about a National Girls Initiative Innovation Award that could help us explore this more deeply.

For the award, we wanted to hear directly from the voices of our Latina youth and their families. How are we making an impact in their lives (and what we can do better)? And, how can other organizations learn from our work?

We wanted to get at the following general questions that many agencies often ask internally: What makes our programs unique? What really helps our specific client population? What are the key ingredients in our programming and how can we share this with other organizations?

Southwest Key is a nonprofit organization that has positively affected the lives of high-risk children and their families for more than 30 years. The mission of Southwest Key Programs is “opening doors to opportunity so individuals can achieve their dreams.” Southwest Key provides three distinct areas of programming: youth justice, charter schools and immigrant children’s shelters. With more than 5,000 employees across seven states and 87 different programs serving primarily Latinos, Southwest Key helps empower young people, their families and their communities with the skills, knowledge and tools to succeed.

At Southwest Key, one of our many areas of focus is supporting girls of color, specifically Latina youth who have been or are at risk of being involved with the juvenile justice system. We know from change leaders, such as Monique Morris, that our approach needs to be multifaceted, dynamic and holistic. It was in this spirit that we developed the Mi Hermana’s Keeper toolkit from focus groups and interviews with Latina youth, their caregivers and key stakeholders (social workers, educators, case managers, probation offices and nonprofit leaders in community-based programs) with our Family Keys Programs in Texas.

The toolkit contains a literature review on what best supports Latina youth in juvenile justice prevention programs, nine program- and system-level recommendations for working with Latina youth in prevention programs, an action checklist for organizations to implement these recommendations, targeted resources for each recommendation and feedback from Latina youth, caregivers and stakeholders. Using an empowerment framework, each recommendation and action step was developed directly from the themes discussed in the focus groups and interviews.

Our research outlined the following nine key program-, practice- and systems-level recommendations for supporting Latina youth:

Program-level recommendations:

  1. Provide services that are respectful and reflective of shared and individual Latino cultural heritage
  2. Provide services that value respeto (respect) and teach respectful practices
  3. Provide services that utilize a relational approach
  4. Provide case management services for the entire family
  5. Support cross-generational services to instill values
  6. Develop caregiver-specific services.

System-level recommendations:

  1. Build culturally responsive school practices
  2. Support effective systems advocacy
  3. Promote the dismantling of system racism and bias.

For service providers and administrators of youth prevention programs, many of these recommendations might ring true in your programs, too. These recommendations were based specifically on what Latina youth and caregivers in our Texas prevention programs said they want and value in our programming.

They want a program that values their culture, teaches respect, is relational and includes the entire family in their services through cross-generational activities and caregiver-specific support. The Latina youth and caregivers also recommended that programs not only focus on direct services, but also support systems-level changes that were affecting their daily lives, such as fighting to undo systemic racism. For a deeper dive into these recommendations, the toolkit outlines the recommendations connected to action steps for service providers and online resources for other programs to use.

We found that a key ingredient to effective programming for our Latina youth was the emphasis on Latino values, and these values were at the core of our work. The Latinas and caregivers continually said that our programming had a focus on respeto, was relational and was open to the entire family. They also saw our staff members as social change agents who would advocate for their needs on a systems level — in their schools and the community. As one caregiver said, "I really appreciate the way they treat my daughter and the support that they give us. They give support to my daughter and I feel that they give me support also because they say if I need anything, talk to us. And they treat my daughter well."

Overall, we found that this type of research is invaluable — empowering your client’s voice to provide feedback and understanding the unique aspects of your services. We want others to learn from this research to support gender-specific and culturally competent juvenile justice prevention programming, especially for Latina youth.

We also acknowledge the changing needs of Latina youth and the challenges that come with serving an increasingly diverse Latina population and see these recommendations as dynamic, in which this toolkit must be adapted to different individuals, programs and systems.

Organizations interested in partnering with us to improve service and support for Latina youth can start using the toolkit today. We are also available for technical assistance training for other organizations to do this important, yet too often neglected, work of supporting Latina youth in juvenile justice prevention programs.

Johanna Creswell Báez, Ph.D., LCSW,  is the director of research and evaluation at Southwest Key Programs. She is also an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia University School of Social Work and the University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work.

Social Media: The New School-to-Prison Pipeline for Black Youth

The school-to-prison pipeline is gaining fuel based on inappropriate behavior on social media. The pipeline is the trend of funneling students from public schools into the criminal justice system. African-American youth have been the most impacted by the pipeline.

Even worse, the U.S. Department of Education has new research that shows the pipeline starts at preschool for black students. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, black students represent 31 percent of school-related arrests. It started with the zero tolerance policies of the 1990s that saw students being criminalized for minor school infractions such as improper dress, disruption of a public school, obstruction, etc.

Although zero tolerance policies have started to fade away, inappropriate conduct on social media is bringing new fuel to the pipeline. New issues such as cyberbullying have traditionally been perceived as an activity that takes place online in the comfort of the cyberbully’s home.

New research indicates that cyberbullying is now crossing over from the online world to the offline world. Guess where those incidents are taking place? At your local school system. School systems have noticed this trend and have started to put in place measures to address these issues.

More than 45 states, plus local governments, have laws and policies that protect victims from bullying and cyberbullying. Some state cyberbullying codes protect victims on the school ground and outside school grounds.

For example, Georgia laws on cyberbullying covers events within the walls of the school, during extracurricular activities, on the school bus and even at designated school bus stops. Therefore, a kid who is engaged in cyberbullying at the bus stop is in violation of the law if caught and turned in to the school administration. Missouri has a new law that considers inflicting emotional distress a felony. Cyberbullying incidents fall under this new law, which requires school systems, under mandatory reporting statutes, to refer incidents to law enforcement.

Unfortunately, most of these laws do not have specific guidelines for schools to follow. Principals are handicapped in determining when to handle a cyberbullying incident at school or when to refer it out to law enforcement. One principal of a Title 1 school in Clayton County, Georgia, told me about a similar situation. He said:

“Man, I get these students that get involved in this cyberbullying beef over the weekend on Instagram. When they come to school on Monday they are ready to fight. I had two young men in my office that I literally had to stand between them to prevent a fight based upon something that happened on social media.”

No school wants to be subjected to a civil lawsuit from a family for not following the law. Thus, most schools refer out to law enforcement and allow juvenile courts to sort it out, which only cements the school-to-prison pipeline.

In most cases, this pipeline causes nonviolent offenders to be introduced and admitted into the criminal justice system. Students can spend up to 72 hours in a juvenile detention center before coming before a judge. That’s 72 hours of meeting and being introduced to antisocial peers at the detention center. That’s 72 hours of learning new criminal activities or a hustle to try when you return home.

In 2004 Clayton County decided to act on their school-to-prison pipeline. Juvenile court Judge Steven Teske noticed a heavy increase in referrals to law enforcement from school officials. This trend started around the same time the Board of Education stationed school resource officers in the school system.

To decrease the number of youth coming to court for school-related nonviolent offenses such as disruption of a public school, the Clayton Juvenile Court collaborated with the juvenile justice system, the school system, social service providers and law enforcement to create a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to limit the number of referrals made to juvenile court.

Minor delinquent acts such as obstruction, disorderly conduct and disruption of public school have to go through a three-step process before the filing of a complaint. For the first complaint, youth receive a written warning based upon their behavior. For the second, youth are referred to school mediation to resolve the problem. A third complaint results in the filing of a complaint to be referred to juvenile court.

Director of Court Services Colin Slay told me “the MOU with the school system has eliminated the school-to-prison pipeline in Clayton County.” Students who are engaged in internet “beefs” that cross over to school are handled through normal school disciplinary procedures and the outlined MOU.

More counties should create policies that mediate social media “beefs,” conflicts, etc. before formal charges are filed and youth end up in the juvenile justice system. As we know, teenagers will be teenagers, but it is also time for adults to be adults and shut down this emerging pipeline that is impacting black youth.

Sedgrid Lewis is the state director of Community Solutions, a nonprofit organization that specializes in evidence-based programs to prevent the school-to-prison pipeline.

Why Parenting Matters: Evidence from Parenting Programs and At-Risk Kids

There are few more controversial or politically charged topics than parenting. Advice columns and radio/television shows abound providing tips on the best way to raise children. Parenting, especially in this day and age of social media, when every move is constantly scrutinized, has become a touchy subject.

In the arena of juvenile justice, however, parenting has long been considered an important focus of intervention. The relationship between parenting styles and behavior is one of the most researched in all of criminology and crime prevention.

Yet in recent years, the causal relationship between parenting and behavior has come into question, particularly by scholars who argue that biology plays a larger role than the environment in producing outcomes in children. For example, in her book “The Nurture Assumption,” Judith Rich Harris argues that the long-standing belief that parenting styles affect the way children turn out is wrong — genes and peers are more influential. Others have followed in Harris’ footsteps.

Specifically referring to criminal conduct, Brian Boutwell has written several pieces arguing that parenting does not have much to do with children’s behavior. He begins his quintessential essay provocatively: “I want you to consider the possibility that your parents did not shape you as a person.” He then goes on to review all the reasons why parenting may not matter and that designs that cannot account for genetics have been misleading.

Why does this matter for juvenile justice? Because if it is true that parenting does not matter, then juvenile delinquency programs and crime prevention approaches should look elsewhere. If parents do not “shape” children, then programs and interventions that seek to improve parents’ supervision or relationships with youth won’t have much impact on delinquency.

The origins of this skepticism of the effects of parents revolves around the use of research methods that can account for genetic effects. In other words, traditional social science methods that correlate parenting practices with their children’s behavior is insufficient because such results may be confounded by a third variable (e.g., genes). In other words, the long-standing findings that parenting matters may be spurious, some argue.

This work is to be commended in demonstrating the deficits of observational research and the power of biology. It is very likely true that parenting effects have been overstated. But does that mean parenting does not make a difference at all in juvenile delinquency or other outcomes?

On this score, the record is clear. Parenting does matter, and it matters a lot. Evidence — not just observational social science, but randomized, experimental studies (the only kind that can uncover unambiguous causality) show this. Further, the kind of genetic, twin studies that critics of parenting effects use to dismiss them do not actually measure parenting styles or any other kind of interaction.

Experimental studies are essential to understand for juvenile justice practitioners. When the criticism is levied that “correlation does not equal causation” in observational studies, this means that the relationship between X and Y may be actually driven by an unmeasured variable. Thus X does not in fact cause Y.

In experimental studies, groups of individuals who meet some set of inclusion criteria are randomly assigned to a treatment and control group. By virtue of this randomization, before the treatment (say, a cognitive-behavioral program), the two groups should not vary with respect to any variable, measured or unmeasured. Thus the genetic variations in group A should match the variations in group B.

Then the program is instituted, time passes, and outcomes are evaluated. Because the groups were similar pretreatment, any differences that arise after treatment can be confidently attributed to the program. This is why experiments are considered the “gold standard” in evaluation research.

So what does the experimental evidence show with respect to parenting and juvenile justice?

First, programs that focus on parenting skills early in the child’s life have shown long-lasting effects. For example, David Olds’ Nurse Family Partnership (NFP), which actually began before the children were born, helped at-risk mothers with parenting behaviors such as discipline techniques and focused on the importance of healthy development (for both themselves and their children).

The results of the first randomized study testing this program were astounding. When the children were 15 years old, they were doing better than their control group counterparts on a host of outcomes, including education and criminal behavior.

Projections of the overall impact of the NFP, which has been rolled out to other communities, indicate that by the year 2031, it will prevent 90,000 violent crimes by youth, 594,000 property and public order crimes (e.g., vandalism, loitering) by youth, 36,000 youth arrests and 41,000 person-years of youth substance abuse. These are large and meaningful effects.

The studies that show little to no parenting effects are called “behavior genetic” studies — they do not actually measure genes but are able to control for them. What about studies that measure genes directly? These are called “molecular genetic” studies.

One interesting program, the Strong African American Families program, focuses on parenting styles to reduce risk behavior of juveniles. The results have shown in a randomized experiment that it works to improve parenting and thus behavior. Genes? The researchers, led by Gene Brody, found that the program reduced the effect of a genetic polymorphism (variant) that has been linked to risk behavior. Thus parenting matters — perhaps particularly for those with genetic risk.

On the juvenile justice front, programs for at-risk and delinquency-involved youth have also shown — again, experimentally — that parenting matters. For example, Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development is an initiative that helps collate effective prevention and rehabilitation approaches for juveniles. Their highest standard of evidence requires a program to have been shown effective with a randomized trial in more than one location — such approaches are given the designation of “model program.”

One example of a model program, used in my home state of Maine, is Functional Family Therapy (FFT). FFT focuses on parenting behaviors and parent-child interactions. The results of randomized experiments of FFT, in multiple states, show it reduces juvenile delinquency. A meta-analysis (a statistical compilation of studies) indicated that the program has a moderate effect on juvenile behavior.

Overall, parenting programs have been shown to positively affect both parents and children. Often, only short-term effects have been demonstrated, which, rather than indicating parenting does not matter, suggests that programs must do more to have a lasting impact on parenting behaviors.

Thus, despite considerable confusion regarding parenting — which is the best approach, does it actually matter? — the best available evidence suggests that parents and families remain a fertile site for intervention if we wish to improve juvenile outcomes and increase public safety. Juvenile justice practitioners should continue to explore programs, both for prevention and for juvenile delinquency, that target parents and families.

Michael Rocque is an assistant professor of sociology at Bates College. His research interests include life-course criminology, race and justice, and corrections.

Queer Youth Must Get Sexual Health Care While Incarcerated

As “bathroom bills,” military transgender bans and elimination of protections for LGBTQ federal employees demonstrate, we are a long way from a society in which coming out is a realistic option for all. The truth of this likely hits youth the hardest, who still risk family rejection, bullying, even homelessness for coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer.

The least we can do is demand that LGBTQ youth’s needs are concretely recognized in the agencies and systems created to serve young people. Does your local school district include LGBTQ-supportive sexual health literacy? If not, press your local schools to get sexual health literacy out of the closet and into a regular curriculum. By doing this, you not only increase understanding among all youth about a vital aspect of being human, but you will increase health and decrease bullying of LGBTQ youth.

It is intolerable that such programs largely don’t exist in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems where queer youth are represented at more than twice the rate of their numbers nationwide, and where they rely on system officials for their most basic needs, including sexual health care. How do young people in these facilities thrive when their very existence is denied or treated as aberrant?

October is national Youth Justice Action Month (YJAM). If awareness leads to action, we will see increased advocacy to decrease the number of young people caught up in the so-called justice system. In recognition of the reality that that number is sadly substantial, the Center for HIV Law and Policy’s focus for YJAM is on policy changes that would make future National Coming Out Days (Oct. 11) a safe option for all the young people in detention facilities across the country.

Access to scientifically sound sexual health care would be a very good start. What’s more, it’s part of the essential care detention facilities are obligated to provide to young people in custody. When youth detention facilities fail to provide a basic part of essential health care, we should hold them accountable.

Comprehensive, LGBTQ-affirming sexual health care includes sexually transmitted infection diagnosis, treatment and prevention, including access to condoms and other forms of birth control, pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV, and sexual health literacy programming that promotes understanding of the full spectrum of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. It includes guided instruction on healthy sexual attitudes, relationships and behaviors. It includes addressing mental health substance abuse. And it includes services that address the violence based on discriminatory views and stereotypes of various sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions.

Professional standards and expert consensus support provision of these health services for all youth. In view of the ballooning rates of sexually transmitted infections, particularly among young people, sexual health care is also smart public health policy.

To learn more about what you can do to uphold the sexual health rights of youth in detention, check out Teen SENSE, a project of The Center for HIV Law and Policy.

Pepis Rodriguez is a staff attorney for The Center for HIV Law and Policy.

Juvenile Probation’s Day in the Sun Rebuts the Stereotypes

In these challenging economic times when the value of every governmental entity and its budgetary support is under serious consideration, the efficacy of the services provided by juvenile probation departments is included in that scope of examination. We must recognize that statistics alone cannot adequately portray the positive impact effective probation officers can have upon reforming delinquent behaviors. It is through the positive interactions probation officers establish with juvenile probationers that the greatest pathway to comprehensive reform is forged.

The following story was written several years ago. It is only one of thousands more that need to be told to properly “season” those spreadsheet and balance sheet portrayals of juvenile probation departments’ value to the juvenile justice system.

Probation is a derivative of the Latin word “probare” meaning “to prove.” It is defined today in its simplest form as personal freedom based upon the promise of reform. Juveniles granted probation by a juvenile court judge for having committed delinquent acts are assigned a probation officer to help them keep their promise. That probation officer is responsible for ensuring the public’s safety in the short term through the close monitoring of the youth’s whereabouts and activities and for ensuring the public’s safety in the long term by engaging the youth with programs designed to elevate social competencies leading to productive lifestyles.

Often maligned as an ineffective remedy with undetectable success, stories evidencing the prudent use of this sentencing option are seldom told. Instead the public’s default opinion of probation is formed by mirages of lightly slapped wrists and unchecked behaviors. As a rebuttal to this outdated misconception, I offer an eyewitness account of a past event organized by the San Francisco Juvenile Probation Department that helped a group of 60-plus juvenile probationers fulfill their promise of reform.

At a time when all too many broken promises are revealed daily through the subsequent crimes committed by recidivists, the public’s attention is easily diverted away from those youth who are sincere in their resolve and efforts to maintain good faith. On a Wednesday one August, the eyes of the San Francisco Juvenile Probation Department were fixed upon a group of its model probationers in an unprecedented way that celebrated the youths’ completion of the Mayor’s Safe Summer ’06 Program and affirmed their steady course toward productive citizenship.

Anchored by the gracious generosity of the Zellerbach Family Foundation, the Deputy Probation Officers Association, City Youth Now and Muni, a core group of juvenile probation officers strategically planned and organized a day trip for probation youth that involved a chartered boat ride and lunch at the San Francisco Bay.

Its sole purpose was to celebrate the youths’ success in satisfying their conditions of probation and for completing the summer youth employment program, designed by the Mayor’s Office and supported by the Board of Supervisors, the Department of Children, Youth and their Families, the Recreation and Park Department and MYEEP. It was clear to the youth that the entire city family of agencies and departments joined together in celebration.

The hidden agenda for the trip, however, was a heavy dose of positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement of the juveniles’ behavioral adjustment. Positive reinforcement of the probation officers’ enriched professional relationships with their probationers.

From the very outset the officers and juveniles had fun both dispensing and consuming the obligatory words of caution and behavioral admonishments that preceded the boarding of the busses and the boat. Each group clearly understood that such warnings were customary for any event of this kind. During the entire cruise they were openly solicitous of each other’s attention. Conversations flowed freely about music, school, sports, clothes and career plans.

Life after probation was a popular theme. The youth seemed relaxed, comforted and secure in this setting, wide open to casual discussion with each other and the adults in their midst, which included roving youth employment recruiters. The probation officers portrayed similar satisfaction with the venue, most comfortable with their new portable roles as cruise directors, program emcees, raffle announcers, deck attendants and pursers.

During the entire flawless event, staged under sunny skies, my eyes were fixed upon the eyes of the youth and their probation officers. Each set reflected the true excitement of a new experience and a new vision. Both groups were noticeably content with the prospect of a temporary escape from neighborhood unrest and office routine. Originally linked by statutory duty and court order, the two groups were now united on a more personal and pro-social plane than ever before. It was evident. They thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company.

Official certificates of successful achievement that had been carefully designed and prepared by the planning committee were presented to each youth in a sealed manila envelope to ensure the likelihood it would safely reach a place of honor at home. A few lucky winners of gift cards and Giants tickets had those prizes already tucked in their jeans. And finally, an orange rubberized wrist band inscribed with “JPD Safe Summer Event ’06” was given to every tour member as an added souvenir of the day.

The most significant souvenir that everybody walked the plank with upon their return to shore was the shared memory of renewed hope and strengthened commitment. Hope and commitment to satisfying a promise of reform. Hope and commitment to facilitating the promise of reform. These memories would leave indelible impressions.

The event I witnessed on this bright, sunny San Francisco day could have involved any number of well-behaved adolescents ringed by a complementary cohort of attentive mentors. Such is the case for the more traditional groups that visit the Bay and that any number of sponsors would line up to finance such an excursion for based solely on the entertainment value.

But none of these other groups would have benefited as significantly as the two groups I was privileged to accompany that particular day. It was our day. It was a day reserved for our well-behaved probationers and for our attentive juvenile probation officers and staff. It was our unusually bright day in the midst of many dark days of late. It was our day to celebrate the successes attached to fulfilling the promise of reform, the purpose of probation. It truly was our day. It was the SFJPD’s Day in the Sun with our probationers.

Bill Siffermann is a retired chief juvenile probation officer from San Francisco. His career as a juvenile probation officer began in 1970 in Cook County (Chicago), where he spent 34 years in progressively responsible positions overseeing delinquency caseloads, preadjudicatory diversion, intensive supervision programs and, as deputy director, co-led Cook County’s Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI), which was later selected as one of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s National Model Sites. In 2005 he was selected as San Francisco’s chief juvenile probation officer, where he continued to advance the principles of detention reform. Retiring in 2013, his work in juvenile justice continues as a consultant.

Parole Boards Treat Adolescents Who Grow Up in Prison Like Adults — and That’s Wrong

We know little about the discretionary release decisions of parole board decision-making, especially for juvenile offenders who have been sentenced as if they were adults to long terms of imprisonment, including life. The possibility of parole for juvenile lifers does not mean they will eventually be released. The formal and informal rules governing a juvenile offender’s eligibility for parole are either no different from adults or too vague.

First, we need to recognize that parole boards are at the tail end of the criminal justice system. Unlike criminal court they are an administrative body, often confidential in their deliberations. There is too often no requirement to be transparent. In this sense, parole boards would be considered a “black box” — one that can not only create a profound sense of injustice among offenders, making their rehabilitation less likely, but produce costly appeals.

Yet I believe that the administrative decision-making of parole boards can be improved upon in the case of juvenile offenders: first by recognizing the business of parole boards, which is not only to make judgments about the suitability of an offender’s release, but also to enable offenders to succeed by becoming law-abiding members of society. To enable appropriate assessments at the front and back end of the correctional process, it is important that parole boards recognize adolescence in all its complex developmental forms. I add the word complex, because a standard text on developmental adolescence is not appropriate for incarcerated adolescents subject to long-term adult imprisonment.

For instance, sensitivity to the adolescents who are juvenile offenders would modify state statutory requirements to consider the offender’s reoffending risk and offense seriousness. Offense seriousness and reoffending risk cannot easily be separated from one another, and often fall under the general rubric of offender dangerousness. Despite an offender’s excellent to good prison record (few infractions and having programmed well), offense seriousness (as indicative of offender dangerousness) is often presented as the defining reason for rejecting parole. But offense seriousness should be defined not only in terms of the harm committed, but also in terms of culpability. And in regards to culpability, the jurisprudence is clear: A youth’s culpability should be discounted based on the well-known facts of adolescence.

Still, before the parole board is not an adolescent but a middle-aged adult offender who looks no different from other middle-aged offenders who committed their offenses while adults. Parole boards need help in seeing beyond their cases of middle-aged offenders. They need to look beyond a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions that has recognized the adolescence of juvenile lifers — at least in terms of those who were legislatively denied the possibility of parole.

Although the Supreme Court in its Graham (2010) and Miller (2012) decisions cited the developmental literature as reason for recognizing the jurisprudence of adolescence, it did not provide states with the standards for guiding parole board decisions, essentially leaving it to states to decide how they wish to implement the court’s decisions. Some states have created lengthy minimums, and others like California a specific part of their parole boards that explicitly acknowledges their juvenile lifers’ adolescence. Yet the acknowledgment where it exists appears vague and largely symbolic — an extension of merely stating for the record the juvenile’s age at time offense.

A step in the right direction would be to recognize the criminological reasons for juvenile violence, which include childhood trauma, neighborhood violence and familial abuse. The criminological reasons for gang membership as protection against neighborhood victimization would similarly explain why a juvenile or young inmate just entering prison would again join a gang , and again for protection. A capital offense and a life sentence are traumatic in themselves, and may lead to self-destructive behavior that produces a prison record that would not be looked upon kindly by parole boards many years later.

We should expect that over time the stated rules of engagement for parole boards have changed. This is the case in Massachusetts, where the state’s supreme judicial court not only recognized Miller, but also said that it is retroactive. The state’s supreme judicial court also indicated that parole-eligible juvenile lifers should have the benefit of legal representation — a right that is not provided to adults. Moreover, they recommended minimum periods that would provide adolescents with the possibility of returning to society as middle-aged adults.

Still, there is parole board resistance to dwelling on the adolescence of the offender at the time of the offense and to drawing on the developmental literature to explain early prison infractions. That resistance stems from alternative concerns that are raised by the victim, prosecutor and other members of the community, especially in serious cases of violence. The focus becomes on the offense; its sensational qualities, the victim(s) and then how the offense could be considered an indication that a “just” amount of time has not yet been served given the gravity of the crime.

My statements on parole are based on personally observing numerous parole board hearings and viewing nearly 300 videoed recordings, along with transcripts. I’ve not only observed hearings, but also examined in close detail records of decisions for juvenile lifers and compared them with young adult offenders. With Ed Mulvey (University of Pittsburgh) we found virtually no difference between adult lifers and juvenile lifers in their probability of parole, controlling for the severity of their offense and prison infractions. In fact, age was not a predictor of parole. Rather prison infractions, programming and offense seriousness were the only significant predictors after statistically controlling for a range of personal factors.

So where do we go from here? First, we need to understand parole board decision-making in cases of juveniles sentenced in criminal court to long terms of imprisonment—not just life. Many more thousands of juveniles beside those serving life are coming up for parole each year after serving long-term minimums. They are in the adult system from start to finish, and although a considerable amount of research on juvenile offenders has been conducted at the front end of the criminal justice system, there is little that is known about back-end decision-making, as exemplified by discretionary release decisions.

Secondly, states can do more to prepare their juvenile offenders for discretionary release by taking into account the facts of adolescence. They should not assume that just because the juvenile has been sentenced as an adult, they can be treated as an adult offender. A juvenile lifer’s problematic adolescence should not only be recognized first in a juvenile facility (usually the first stop for a juvenile lifer), but also in their subsequent adult prisons. Recognizing their problematic adolescence requires correctional officials to also recognize that the experiences of juvenile lifers are limited to prison life.

At the tail end of the correctional system is the parole board, and here the facts of a juvenile lifer’s adolescence must be explicitly recognized. The facts at this stage of discretionary release should not only acknowledge the adolescent’s limited socialization to life outside their prison. Those facts should also enable a set of treatments, reentry plans that specifically enables a juvenile lifer to succeed while on parole. In this way the upstream as well as downstream considerations that go into making parole decisions can do a better job in fulfilling the Supreme Court’s mandate for a meaningful review — one that takes into account the adolescence of juveniles, especially when imposing long-term maximum adult sentences.

To ignore the black box of parole board decision-making invites costly appeals, extending the cost of incarceration beyond the jurisprudential logic of a modern-day criminal justice system. Eventually states will do well by explicitly recognizing the adolescence of their juveniles and by developing the research tools, programs, procedures and administrative processes that can produce the meaningful review called for by the Supreme Court. My colleague Ed Mulvey and I have been working in this direction. However, we need more states than the few that have been willing to collaborate with us. If you would like to assist us in our research, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Simon I. Singer is a professor of criminology and criminal justice at Northeastern University. His current book project is titled “Adolescence Denied: Juvenile Lifers in America.” He has received awards from the American Sociological Association (Albert Reiss Book Award, 1999, for “Recriminalizing Delinquency: Violent Juvenile Crime and Juvenile Justice Reform”), and from the American Society of Criminology (Hindelang Book Award, 2014, for “America’s Safest City: Delinquency and Modernity in Suburbia”). He can be emailed at s.singer@northeastern.edu.

Youth-Serving Leaders Really Need the Value Add of Good Coaching

In the early fall, I will complete my 11th year at Jobs for the Future and my 46th year working in the youth-serving field. It’s fair to say I’ve played a lot of roles and worn many hats.

I’ve directed projects, written grants, managed complex partnerships, worked with foundation partners, facilitated professional development for teachers and youth program staff, and mediated conflict-ridden meetings. I’ve received some coaching — perhaps more of which might have benefitted me — and have coached and supported many colleagues and partners.

Nearing the end of my career, I enjoy coaching above all. Currently, I coach West Coast sites that are creating education-to-career pathways for opportunity youth (including those who are or have been in the foster care or juvenile justice systems) through receipt of Social Innovation Fund grants. I work primarily with intermediary organization leaders who are responsible for system work — bringing together multiple institutional partners (K-12, postsecondary, community-based agencies, local state agency offices and employers) to build richer and more connected pathways and address policies that pose barriers.

I also work with community-based agency leads who are designing new programs. They often want help with provision of on-the-ground technical assistance (program design, instructional support, advice on recruitment and so on). At Jobs for the Future, our team of coaches works closely to support and learn from each other, and ensure we deliver just-in-time assistance and resources to our communities, whether they are changing systems or launching programs.

Why coaching?

An old article from the Harvard Business Review always comes to mind when thinking about the value of coaching. The article, “A Survival Guide for Leaders” by Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky, talks about the tumult involved in managing complex change efforts.

In our field, so many leaders at the system or program level are involved in this difficult work. Partners must adopt different attitudes and beliefs, be willing to work together in new ways, change outdated practices and challenge long-standing policies. The leaders I see are often ensnarled in hostile, resistant or seemingly immovable environments in which change happens slowly, and many setbacks are encountered along the way.

At the heart of “A Survival Guide for Leaders” is the notion that effective leaders need to operate both “in and above the fray,” keeping their heads as they move between action and objective reflection. The metaphor from the article that most strikes home is one in which leaders need a kitchen table (a safe haven to plan and adjust tasks) and a balcony (a perch to dispassionately view the action) in order to stay grounded and effective.

That is where the value of a coach comes in. In a nutshell, a good coach helps leaders carve out dedicated time and space for both kitchen table conversations (learning, action planning and task priorities) and balcony discussions (reflection and strategic planning). What I hear most from Jobs for the Future’s clients is that without coaching, this kind of reflection time is lost in the midst of pressing day-to-day action. Too often leaders get lost in the fray.

What makes a good coach?

Of course, for coaching to be valuable, the coach must be skilled. In my experience, a coach must have expertise and knowledge in the field, yet be willing to take the time necessary to understand local conditions. Without this, advice lacks context and nuance. Above all, a coach must be good at establishing trust and should have unconditional positive regard for the client(s).

The coach needs to have good communication and facilitation skills, along with the ability to deeply listen without judgment. Good coaches are usually skilled strategic thinkers, and know when to provide support as well as when to push and challenge. Coaches with a sense of humor delight me.

Personally, I love coaches who tell stories, as they help me see situations differently. I also love metaphors that help me constructively (re)frame or normalize difficult situations. Further, I always feel blessed when an interaction with a coach helps me validate that the work is truly hard, that I’m not alone and that despite my limitations, I am capable and up to the task at hand.

Effective use of the coach

As a coach, I notice the difference between leaders who use coaches well and those who don’t. Those who do are willing to be vulnerable and are eager to learn. They are confident in their abilities but grounded enough to know that they can and want to grow and learn. Leaders who use coaches well are curious, honest and transparent. They are always looking for ways to use the coach as an ally to whom they can admit that they don’t have all the answers — or, alternatively, announce that everything is going swimmingly.

Leaders who benefit from coaching use the coach’s on-site time effectively by bringing the expertise and knowledge of the coach to partners who need to come into the fold in terms of influencing, technical knowledge or in ramping up their commitments to the project. Leaders who value coaching make good decisions about when they need the kitchen table or the balcony, and use the coach to keep focused and refreshed. And, of course, when the relationship really hums, both local leaders and coaches grow professionally from their interactions.

Lifelong learning/Lifelong coaching

Perhaps by now I’ve sold you on the value of coaching (or confirmed what you already knew). The problem is that coaches come and go. They usually show up at your doorstep when you receive a grant, supporting you in achieving the aims of that specific project.

Once the project is finished, so is the coach. He or she moves on and you do too. If you have been in this field long, however, you know that championing change is lifelong work. The work doesn’t stop because a grant ends. You will still be doing the work even if you change jobs, just from a different vantage point. Wherever you find yourself, you will encounter issues and still have need for that kitchen table … and a balcony.

Good coaches are out there and ready to be summoned. The key is not to let coaching languish in the press of day-to-day tasks or troubles. Once a leader has experienced the value of coaching, he or she must decide if it’s worth the effort to ensure that this function is a continued priority. If it is, the leader might seek a single coach who plays the roles of both confidant and strategic thinker.

Or one might try to identify multiple coaches who address differing needs across time — champion, strategic thinker, constructive critic or knowledgeable, good-humored jester. A leader may gravitate toward trusted friends, work colleagues, senior or retired professionals, or even wise acquaintances in unrelated fields. If asked, they are likely to be glad to contribute, give back or share in this way. It’s important to be clear about the assistance, time commitment and specific goals you want help to achieve.

In the youth-serving field — dynamic and complex, yet fragmented and underfunded — we all need reminders that our work is both vital and difficult, and that change can feel like a long and lonely road. We need to know and feel connected to a national community with history and movement; one that has been, and continues to be, committed to the health and wellbeing of some of our most vulnerable, yet promising young people.

We need to celebrate our successes and not allow them to be obscured by all that is broken and needs to be fixed. To make a difference as leaders, it is important to stay healthy, awake and grounded. And while our commitments and our assets buoy us, good coaching can really help.

Terry Grobe is the director of youth pathways at Jobs for the Future’s Oakland, California, office. The focus of her long career has been devoted to improving education and career outcomes for low-income youth and youth of color. She has worked on or led many state and national initiatives. Currently, she coaches West Coast sites that have received Social Innovation Fund grants through Jobs for the Future/Aspen Forum for Community Solutions and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Revival of Indigenous Justice in Canada, U.S., Should Be Compass for Restorative Justice

Most people would agree that the criminal justice system needs to change in some way. The restorative justice (RJ) movement offers an approach to justice reform for both youth and adults that values repair and relationship over punishment and isolation when dealing with the aftermath of crime. Research is showing its positive effects, and support for this approach is growing.

Of course, the modern expression of restorative justice owes more than a debt of gratitude to indigenous justice worldview and practices. However, understanding and support for indigenous justice in North America is literally all over the map. Indigenous justice is all too often overlooked as an ongoing and sustaining influence for restorative justice and justice reform in general.

I’ll explore a few of my observations of the relationship between RJ and indigenous justice, and share a few examples of how indigenous justice is being revived and practiced in the United States and Canada. I’ll also have us consider the importance of ensuring indigenous voices are at the table for discussions on justice reform for youth and adults. For context, I will state that I am a settler of European descent living and working on the ancestral and unceded territories of the Coast Salish Peoples (modern-day Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), and the reflections below are most certainly incomplete and imperfect.

Indigenous justice approaches are the primary sources of inspiration for Westernized restorative justice philosophy and programs. Books such as “Returning to the Teachings” and “Peacemaking Circles: From Crime to Community” outline indigenous teachings and approaches to justice that are aligned with modern-day restorative justice principles and practices. These books remind us that in many indigenous traditions, connection and community life lie at the center of justice, and this connection cannot be cast aside when those in community transgress. The harm must be viewed within a context of relationship, and the repair as well.

This shift in worldview affects how we understand harm or crime and how we mete out “punishment.” State-sanctioned punishments transform into obligations held by the one(s) who have caused the harm. What emerges is a responsibility to address the root matters of the destructive behaviors within community. This shift and the fundamental change in how we approach harm and crime was first described in Western terms by Howard Zehr in “Changing Lenses.” But let’s not forget that incredible expertise in thinking about justice issues with a lens of interconnectedness and relationship lies squarely within our indigenous communities and traditions.

We can quickly see how this shift in worldview specifically benefits our youth and young people. Neuroscience supports the conclusion that youth and young adults are developmentally oriented to engage in risky behavior, which — particularly in vulnerable youth — can result in criminal activity.

Indigenous and restorative approaches make more sense than the current punitive system in light of this knowledge. This is also consistent with a trauma-informed approach to justice; and savvy practitioners will therefore build in supports and seek to repair the harm rather than just punish the wrongdoer. In turn, those who have committed crime or harm have an opportunity to make reparation in a way that strengthens relationships, rather than in a way that segregates and isolates.

For the most part, both the United States and Canada have begun to explore and implement Westernized restorative justice approaches to youth and adult crime. Indigenous-specific justice programs, however, are often less visible, less understood and less supported. As a result, indigenous youth and adults are overrepresented but underserved within the justice system of both countries.

In spite of these barriers, both Canada and the United States have vibrant indigenous communities claiming and reclaiming their justice practices with and without institutional support. I will provide a quick snapshot of how this compares in both countries.

Within the United States, vibrant indigenous communities are reclaiming and reviving their justice culture from schools to courts and prisons. The Navajo Nation has made leaps and bounds in their community, and we also see examples of this among the Cheyenne, the Mohawk and many other tribal justice initiatives. Seven Tepees on the U.S. West Coast, focused specifically on young people, was inspired by indigenous healing approaches.

Within the United States, the Department of Justice supports tribal justice initiatives and indicates in its principles that it is committed to furthering the “government-to-government relationship with each tribe, which forms the heart of our federal Indian policy.” In this way, the U.S. government describes its intention toward its relationship with “federally recognized tribes” but the public engagement with and public commitment to integrating indigenous principles into the existing mainstream justice system does not seem as apparent as in Canada.

In the Canadian context, awareness around Canada’s colonial past and ongoing structural oppression against its indigenous peoples is slowly growing. This is due in part to the recent Truth and Reconciliation Commission. While there is repair needed in nearly all society’s institutions (education, health, economic), building up indigenous self-determination in justice is certainly a key way to begin to strengthen indigenous communities. Accordingly, the Indigenous Justice Program (formerly the Aboriginal Justice Strategy) acts as systemic institutional support for this process. Established in 1996, the objectives of the IJP include reflecting “indigenous values within the justice system.”

Also in the Canadian context, we see indigenous cultural revival embedded into crime prevention and justice programing, including the Gwich’in Outdoor Classroom Project, First Nations Courts and the Aboriginal Pathways Program — all visible efforts within the criminal justice system to support the revival of indigenous justice and promote healing and restoration of indigenous peoples. In addition, individual indigenous communities have demonstrated their reclamation of justice, a primary example in Canada being Hollow Water.

Many of the individual programs above are practicing indigenous justice in ways specific to their community and context (e.g. Wet’suwet’en Unlocking Aboriginal Justice Program). Without a doubt, Canada still has a long road of decolonization and reconciliation ahead, but there is evidence that the journey has perhaps begun in earnest within the justice system over recent years.

Ultimately, the United States and Canada are currently being confronted with the legacy of historic inequities and injustices. Despite the shortcomings of both countries, indigenous peoples in both continue to vibrantly preserve and revive their traditions and justice practices.

Active support and involvement of indigenous communities in the justice reform conversation in both countries is an important and invigorating opportunity, but an opportunity that is too often missed with mainstream criminal justice professionals and the public.

The engagement of our indigenous populations can continue to provide a compass for the current restorative justice movement and the overall reform of youth and adult criminal justice systems across North America. Those of us who care about justice reform and its implementation would be wise to continually ensure that indigenous voices have a full seat at the table of this important conversation.

Catherine Bargen is a principal with Just Outcomes Consulting. She is experienced across Canada and internationally as a consultant, trainer and practitioner in restorative justice and conflict transformation strategies.