District of Columbia Initiatives
Consistent with its action tank model, the Initiative employs a strategic, multi-faceted, campaign-style approach to address youth justice issues in the District of Columbia through 1) Organizing; 2) Research; and 3) Policy & Advocacy
Coalition convening: The Initiative leads and convenes two coalitions in the District of Columbia – the Youth Justice Project and the Every Student Every Day Coalition.
The Youth Justice Project (YJP) is a coalition of advocacy organizations that engage in policy, advocacy, organizing, and public education targeted at reducing the number of youth who come into the juvenile justice system; increasing opportunities for effective diversion; improving the representation of youth; improving the services that youth receive while in the system; and removing youth from the adult criminal justice system.
The Every Student Every Day Coalition (ESED) is a coalition of youth-serving organizations that engage in policy, advocacy, organizing, and public education targeted at reducing school push out; promoting restorative justice; and creating effective truancy interventions that actually increase student engagement, attendance, and educational attainment.
Girls Workshops: Like many other jurisdictions, the District’s juvenile legal system and the structures that exist to supposedly prevent entry into it were designed around the needs of men and boys. In the District, ignoring the needs of girls has resulted in a dramatic increase in the arrests of young women while arrest rates for young men have fallen significantly. As a result, in partnership with Rights4Girls, the Initiative created a series of workshops with the goal of empowering young women of color to understand their personal and shared history, their rights, and their power to change the District and the world.
For many years, fear and politics have driven decision-making regarding the juvenile legal system in the District of Columbia. Through its collection and use of local data, GJJI not only works to dispel the myths and false beliefs that have often driven juvenile justice policy but also works to hold agencies accountable for their lack of performance or adherence to their stated beliefs and goals. GJJI also uses research and data analysis to highlight areas where reform is necessary and make recommendations about how specifically to carry out the reform. The Initiative currently conducts research and collects data on the performance and conduct of the juvenile justice system, the Metropolitan Police Department, District Public and Charter Schools, District Superior Court, and other juvenile justice-related systems and agencies. The Initiative is currently working on briefs and reports relating to the implementation and impact of the Comprehensive Youth Justice Amendment Act (CYJAA), a comparison of investments made in students vis a vis security costs, a data-based look at the lives of youth of color in the District, and a follow-up to our report on girls in the delinquency system.
POLICY & ADVOCACY
A central component of GJJI’s action tank model is that we not only conduct research and make recommendations about how to improve the DC juvenile legal system, but also that we seek to ensure that those recommendations are actually adopted and implemented with fidelity. As such, the Initiative directly engages decision makers in all branches of government through one on one meetings, working groups, committees, briefings, and trainings, and advocates for the adoption and implementation of policies and practices that will make DC the smallest, best, and most just juvenile legal system in the country.
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