October 20, 2014
Young people incarcerated in New Jersey’s juvenile correctional institutions have, historically, been treated as statistics. From being subject to unduly harsh punishments to being denied access to lawyers to advise them of their rights, youth have been forgotten in a system that until recently, was shielded from public scrutiny and, therefore, from accountability.
The Community Foundation of New Jersey has been pleased to support the work of the Rutgers Criminal and Youth Justice Clinic’s Juvenile Post-Disposition Advocacy Project, which is dedicated to exposing hidden injustices, advocating on behalf of incarcerated youth, and driving systemic change within the Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC).
Over the past year, CFNJ funds supported the work of a Clinical Fellow, an attorney whose efforts on behalf of the Project effected positive change both for individual juvenile clients and in statewide juvenile justice policies.
Giving Incarcerated Youth a Voice
Representing individual clients, the Fellow effectively tackled issues including solitary confinement, educational advocacy, due process protections within JJC facilities, due process protections during transfers to adult prisons, medical and mental health advocacy, family involvement, homelessness prevention on release from JCC custody, and parole and early release. As a result, youth received critical medical and mental health care, access to educational opportunities, qualified and committed legal counsel, and access to family support that had previously been out of reach.
Effecting Systemic Change
The work of the Project Fellow has provided the key findings – the specific denials of rights – to promulgate the work of the juvenile justice reform coalition. This past year, the coalition advocated for the elimination of solitary confinement for youth and fought against the transfer of youth to adult prisons without due process. Due to the effectiveness of the Project, the Executive Director of the JJC has proposed quarterly meetings with Project representatives to discuss pervasive or persistent issues within JJC facilities, program initiatives that may benefit incarcerated youth, and potential avenues for policy reform.
The Rutgers Post-Disposition Advocacy Project is filling a void long in need of filling and helping to restore dignity and hope to our state’s incarcerated youth. We are committed to support their work.