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Eastern Supports Youth Justice Forum

On February 21st,  Eastern University’s Center for Urban Youth Development hosted the Youth Justice Forum. The forum was titled, “Ways to Advocate for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System”. Dr. Kimberlee Johnson, director of the Center for Urban Youth Development coordinated the event. The planning team of the forum involved Eastern students and alumni Jeanette King and Teyne Crum, and other organizations such as Evangelicals for Social Action, Bible Way Baptist Church and Juvenile Law Center. Catherine Moffa spoke on the subject of the justice system and it’s relation to the youth.

There were four primary concerns that the forum addressed. First, the concept of America currently being “the world’s leading jailer.” The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania also has the most amount of people charged with “juvenile life without parole,” and this revealed the importance of supporting the youth. The forum also discussed the zero tolerance policies for the Philadelphia School System, and how they have caused children to gain interest in becoming more involved in the justice system, which displayed how influential these policies are to children.

Moffa led a discussion panel that focused on the outcome of the youth’s contribution to the justice system. There were also three young adults that disclosed their personal experiences. One person discussed when he was “tried and sentenced as an adult.” The other two people shared their experiences of the juvenile justice system, and how they were “handed over to the police by their schools.” According to Dr. Johnson, “each story was filled with instances of misconduct, over-reaction and deception by adults in the educational and justice systems.” Lastly, a video was shown that explained the struggle for youth in the juvenile justice system and how they can rise above it with support from others.

If you want to help advocate for youth in the juvenile justice system, here are a few options:

  1. Have a movie night and watch a short movie called Childhood Interrupted that facilitates the rethinking of the way young people are trialed regarding the adult system.

  2. Plan an awareness event that informs youth on their rights.

  3. Stay up-to-date with advocacy issues and opportunities for engagement by “following” or “liking” a youth justice organization on social media networks.

  4. Become an informant for Juvenile Awareness month in October.

  5. Start becoming politically involved by creating petitions or letters for legislators.

Source:  Dr. Kimberlee Johnson

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