How America Criminalizes Black Youth: A damning ProPublica report delves into one Tennessee judge’s abuse of power after 11 Black elementary school children were arrested and/or detained for a crime that doesn’t exist. Issues of racism in juvenile detention are nothing new, says author Kristin Henning.
News & Special Events
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The Georgetown Juvenile Justice Clinic & Initiative is proud to join 60 other local and national organizations in signing a letter to Mayor Bowser and the DC Council in support of the Redefinition of Child Amendment Act of 2021.
The Redefinition of Child Amendment Act would ensure that all cases involving children who are accused of criminal code violations begin in the developmentally responsive setting of juvenile court. Under this bill, children could still be transferred to adult criminal court, but only after a judge examines the unique circumstances of the youth, their capacity for rehabilitation in the juvenile system, and the interests of the public in transfer. The Redefinition of Child Amendment Act would end the ineffective decades-long practice of having the United States Attorney’s Office directly file accusations against youth in adult criminal court – a practice which has set countless District youth on a path to isolation from their families, denial of rehabilitative services, and punitive supervision.
Additionally, read Georgetown Juvenile Justice Clinic & Initiative Policy Director Eduardo Ferrer's testimony in support of the Act on our Research & Publications page, linked above.
AVAILABLE NOW: In her new book, Georgetown Juvenile Justice Clinic and Initiative Director Kristin Henning confronts America’s irrational and manufactured fears of Black youth and makes a compelling case that our nation’s obsession with policing and incarcerating Black America begins with Black children. Visit RageOfInnocence.com to learn more, get your copy, and join a book tour event!
Dir. Kristin Henning interviewed in the LA Times: "How can we stop treating children of color like criminals? One step at a time, a lawyer says"September 27, 2021
“The vast majority — 80 percent or more — of crimes committed by children are non-serious crimes,” she says. “We could reduce law enforcement engagement with young people by 80 percent and we would all be fine, but people don’t believe that.”
Read the rest of the interview with Georgetown Juvenile Justice Clinic and Initiative Director Kristin Henning in the LA Times.
In "Cops at the Schoolyard Gate," published by Vox, Georgetown Juvenile Justice Clinic & Initiative Director Kristin Henning examines how the number of police officers in schools skyrocketed in recent decades and made for a harrowing education for Black and brown youth. Read this excerpt from The Rage of Innocence by Kristin Henning and pre-order the book at the link below.
The Georgetown Law Juvenile Justice Clinic & Initiative is pleased to announce the release of Seeing What’s Underneath: A Resource for Understanding Behavior & Using Language in Juvenile Court, developed in partnership with the National Juvenile Defender Center, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and Fair and Just Prosecution.
Op-ed by Director Kristin Henning: "Police Have Killed at Least 5 Children in the Last Month Alone. When Will It Stop?" at SlateApril 23, 2021
"[T]he persistent examples of police killing Black and brown children raises the question: Who is entitled to the grace of childhood? [...] No doubt, the police want us to slow down, resist snap judgments, and evaluate this shooting independently of all the others. But this is exactly what the police should be doing every time they each encounter a child."
Interview with JJC Director Kristin Henning featured on Vox: "The History of Police Killing Children in America"April 22, 2021
"It’s not going to be different until we radically reduce the footprint of police officers in the lives of Black and brown children." Prof. Kristin Henning spoke with Vox about Ma’Khia Bryant, Adam Toledo, and law enforcement’s long tradition of policing and brutalizing Black and brown children.
JJC Director Kristin Henning quoted in Washington Post article: "'I am a child!'" Pepper Spray Reflects Policing of Black Kids"February 12, 2021
“Black children have never been given their opportunity to be children,” said Kristin Henning, law professor and director of the Juvenile Justice Clinic and Initiative at Georgetown Law.
Read more from Prof. Henning in this Washington Post article bout how the story of police pepper spraying a 9-year-old Black girl in Rochester, NY reflects how Black children are policed throughout the country.
Days after a video of police pepper spraying and handcuffing a 9-year-old Black girl went viral, Blume Professor of Law Kristin Henning posed a fundamental question: “How do we cultivate a society in which we treat all kids like kids?”
Nearly 1,000 students, lawyers, psychologists, juvenile justice officials, advocates and others had virtually tuned in for answers at a compelling, Feb. 5 cross-campus event on “The Dehumanization of Children of Color: Rethinking Policing and Policy.”
Read more and watch a recording of the event.
Read The Imprint's coverage of the Georgetown Juvenile Justice Clinic & Initiative's event titled "The Dehumanization of Children of Color: Rethinking Policing and Policy." Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff, one of the nation’s preeminent scientists on race and policing, and Prof. Kristin Henning had a public discussion on the research and reality of racial bias in policing youth. Their discussion was followed by a panel of local and national youth justice experts.
Jennifer Ubiera testifies in support of reimagining public safety by reducing police contacts with the community and investing in community infrastructure.December 17, 2020
Jennifer Ubiera testified to the DC Council Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety's Alternatives to Policing Roundtable in support of reimagining public safety by reducing police contacts with the community and investing in community infrastructure.
Eduardo Ferrer testifies in support of reimagining school safety and ending over-policing of youth in District of Columbia Public SchoolsOctober 21, 2020
Eduardo Ferrer testified in support of a true reimagining school safety, focusing on a holistic, public health approach that is relational, restorative, racially just, and trauma-informed at the DC Council Committee of the Whole & Committee on Education Public Roundtable on School Security in the District of Columbia Public Schools. Read his full testimony, including the harms caused by the over-policing of youth in schools and his recommendations that outline key principles that should guide the process for reimagining safety in DC schools.
D.C. Justice Lab & Georgetown Juvenile Justice Initiative release: Demanding a More Mature Miranda for KidsOctober 13, 2020
New Proposal from D.C. Justice Lab and Georgetown Juvenile Justice Initiative:
Bare minimum Miranda warnings fail to fully protect children because they do not accommodate for a child’s high susceptibility to pressure and limited cognitive ability. Black children are disproportionately affected by the grave insufficiencies of the Miranda doctrine because it fails to consider the unique vulnerabilities of Black youth experience when interacting with the police.
As residents, law students, attorneys, and members of the community, we urge the D.C. Council to protect children from Miranda’s shortcomings by requiring, prior to any custodial interrogation, that (1) law enforcement provide youth with expanded warnings; (2) youth be provided a reasonable opportunity to consult with counsel; and (3) waivers will only be valid if they are knowing, intelligent, voluntary, and made in the presence of counsel.
Eduardo Ferrer testifies in support of youth-specific police reforms to reduce the over-policing of Black youth in D.C.October 15, 2020
Eduardo Ferrer testified at the Council of the District of Columbia's Committee on the Judiciary & Public Safety public hearing today, advocating for police reforms that protect the specific vulnerabilities of youth and end the over-policing of Black youth. Read his testimony calling for access to counsel at interrogation for all youth, ending the practice of "consent" searches for youth under 18, and eliminate funding for school safety from the Metropolitan Police Department budget and instead reinvest it in implementing a more holistic approach to school safety and youth development.
NPR's Hidden Brain podcast featured JJC Director Kristin Henning in its latest gripping episode, "The Night That Lasted A Lifetime: How Psychology Was Misused In Teen's Murder Case." Listen to Professor Henning on the podcast here (starting at 34:00).
Eduardo Ferrer is quoted in Washington City Paper:
"Eduardo Ferrer of the Georgetown Juvenile Justice Initiative understands that most arrests have to do with interpersonal disputes, fights, or threats, based on conversations he’s had with his clients. He knows only of a few instances where arrests are related to weapons.
'Are we ever going to get to that point where we can be 100 percent sure we’re not going to have another school shooting? Unfortunately, in this day and age when school shootings seem so rampant, probably not,” Ferrer says. “But I think we are going to prevent more harm overall—not just school shootings but fistfights, stabbings, issues that carry on outside of school, disputes between rival neighborhoods, et cetera—if we can shift our approach to prevention and intervention rather than reaction.'"
At today's Metropolitan Police Department budget oversight hearing, the Georgetown Juvenile Justice Initiative's policy director Eduardo Ferrer provided testimony against Mayor Bowser's FY21 proposed budget for the MPD.
In a fitting way to honor and carry on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life work, 10 juvenile defenders from across the country recently gathered at Georgetown Law over a chilly MLK holiday weekend. Together, the geographically and racially diverse group marked the start of their yearlong service as “Ambassadors for Racial Justice.” They are part of a pilot program, sponsored by Georgetown Law’s Juvenile Justice Initiative and the National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC), that seeks to bring racial justice concerns to the forefront of juvenile justice advocacy and empower advocates to develop innovative ways to challenge systemic inequities.
The Georgetown Juvenile Justice Initiative’s Organizing and Advocacy Associate Jennifer Ubiera spoke on BBC Radio Woman’s hour about the challenges girls face when they are forced into the criminal justice system. Listen to her interview with BBC’s Jenni Murray (starting at 13:43).
The Georgetown Juvenile Justice Initiative was proud to collaborate with the Public Welfare Foundation on their latest report D.C.'s Justice Systems: An Overview, providing a snapshot of the District’s journey to create a more safe and just community for its residents. While much work remains in addressing the racial and socioeconomic disparities in DC’s justice system, there is also opportunity for our nation’s capital to serve as a model of best practice in criminal justice reform. Take a closer look at the stakeholders, issues, and opportunities that drive the District’s justice systems by reading the full report.
The Georgetown Juvenile Justice Clinic & Initiative and the Georgetown Department of Psychology hosted nearly 1,000 students, lawyers, psychologists, juvenile justice officials, advocates and others who had virtually tuned in to hear Prof. Kristin Henning and Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff, preeminent researcher on racial bias and policing, discuss the psychology behind the racially disparate policing of children of color.
Following their discussion, Prof. Henning moderated an expert roundtable on how research findings can best drive and shape reform. D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine and D.C. Council member Charles Allen discussed recent juvenile justice reform efforts in the city. Black Swan Academy founder Samantha P. Davis spoke about her nonprofit’s support of youth-led advocacy to get police out of schools. And Michael Umpierre, director of Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform called for holistic investments in youth.
Read more about the event and watch a recording.
The Georgetown Juvenile Justice Clinic in partnership with Restorative DC, Georgetown Black Law Students Association, Georgetown Law Campus Ministry, Georgetown Defenders, Georgetown Youth Advocates and the Office of Equity and Inclusion invite you to join us on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 for a screening of Bryan Stevenson's HBO documentary, True Justice. The screening will begin at 5:30PM followed by a post-documentary dialogue.
Photographer Richard Ross spoke on the power of art in creating social change and showcased his poignant photography capturing the injustices juveniles face every day in our legal system. Local DC youth activist organizations Black Swan Academy and Pathways 2 Power also shared how they’re mobilizing their peers for positive change.
Poet Ambassadors from Free Minds Book Club hosted a poetry reading session and shared their personal journeys through writing. Attendees later had the opportunity to workshop with the Poet Ambassadors and provide feedback on the writings of book club members who are currently still incarcerated.
Attendees interested in careers in youth advocacy and criminal defense were able to hear from DC-based youth justice and defender organizations about their work and ways to get involved. Later, there was a panel discussion and Q&A about youth justice policy, direct services, and community organizing.