The National Campaign to Reform State Juvenile Justice Systems

The National Campaign to Reform State Juvenile Justice Systems is a multi-state initiative aimed at changing juvenile justice policies that enhance public safety, improve outcomes for youth, and reduce costs to the taxpayer.

While efforts vary from state to state, all are aimed at improving outcomes for youth and families. Across the country, the Campaign supports initiatives to:

• Treat kids as kids: changing how youth are treated to reflect their developmental differences from adults;
• Address metal health and behavioral concerns;
• Provide community based alternatives to the formal court process and incarceration; and
• Ensure that youth have access to quality legal representation.

The Campaign understands that the most effective way to achieve rapid and widespread change is to invest in state juvenile justice policy reforms. Active since 2011, the Campaign seeks to invest strategic resources into juvenile justice policy initiatives in approximately forty states by 2016.

In order to identify the states in which to work, the Campaign conducts thorough state assessments to evaluate the political landscape and appetite for policy reform, reviews pending and likely juvenile justice reform issues, and determines whether targeted advocacy investments can achieve short-term success.

Based on those findings, Campaign staff assembles a team of state-based seasoned government affairs professionals, communications experts and policy analysts to work with local juvenile justice advocates and policy makers to support and shape policy reform initiatives.

Each of the state campaigns has its own specific reform agenda but all seek ways to save money, improve public safety, lower recidivism rates, and help young people and their families.
The need for reform is urgent and nearly universal. Most juvenile justice systems are broken. Kids are treated like adults despite developmental differences. Minor infractions in schools are criminalized. Low-risk offenders are placed in harsh detention and prison facilities, rather than offered appropriate community services. Minority youth are subject to discrimination. This campaign supports policy changes to reverse this pattern and allow youth to get the help and they need while holding them accountable for their actions.

The Campaign has positioned itself to capitalize on the growing bipartisan support for policies that reduce the number of children in custody in the juvenile and adult systems and redirect resources to more effective community-based services that save taxpayer dollars and reduce crime.

To date, the Campaign has supported more than 50 reform bills in over 20 states. The Campaign has buttressed local efforts by retaining lobbying firms, state policy coordinators, juvenile justice experts and communications firms, as well as underwriting research. Nearly 40 policy reform efforts have been successful in shifting state juvenile justice systems away from the reliance on harsh, punitive responses to delinquency, and toward more rehabilitative and restorative approaches that reduce crime, save money and help youth successfully transition to adulthood. For more information on the National Campaign’s successes, please explore the documents below.

Background

Resources

The Fourth Wave: Juvenile Justice Reforms for the 21st Century takes a comprehensive look at the evolution of juvenile justice reform efforts over the past century and highlights the current wave of reform influencing policy changes that achieve better outcomes for children, their families, and their communities. The Fourth Wave: A Brief Look at Juvenile Justice Reforms for the 21st Century is a shorter booklet version of the report, ideal for distribution. Click on either report to download.

For more information about The National Campaign, contact nationalcampaign@mrss.com or (917) 438-4638.