Hello. I am Liz Ryan, the Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, or OJJDP. Today, I want to talk about action.
October is Youth Justice Action Month—a time to reflect on the actions we must take to ensure that our juvenile justice system is truly just and helping to improve youth outcomes and community safety. This means a renewed focus on keeping young people out of confinement and in their communities.
OJJDP has established three priorities that will help us better meet the needs of young people. They are:
- Treating children as children;
- Serving children at home, in their communities, with their families; and
- Opening up opportunities for system-involved youth.
Running through these priorities are two essential principles: a commitment to pursue racial equity and fairness, and a vow to listen to impacted young people and their families.
Throughout the summer, OJJDP held listening sessions with stakeholders in the field. As of the end of August, we had held 16 listening sessions and received input from stakeholders in nearly every state and territory. Perhaps the most powerful feedback we received was that we must always think of the kids in the juvenile justice system as “our” kids. We must treat system-involved youth the same way we’d want our own children to be treated.
We also held two virtual town halls with young people—including system-involved young people. The youth we spoke with highlighted the need for more training for law enforcement and prosecutors on the grave consequences of incarceration, more empathy from juvenile justice staff members dealing with young people, and more assistance with reentry.
Our dialogue with stakeholders is ongoing. One of our most recent webinars focused on Youth Justice Action Month. We discussed plans developed with young people on how to take action and change the status quo.
Taking action is rarely easy; it almost always involves many hands working together. We invite everyone to visit our Youth Justice Action Month webpage to access resources and get involved as we work together to reform and improve our juvenile justice system and keep all of our communities and community members safe.
No matter where you live or what you do, you can take action for youth justice. Please join us. When we act together, we are bound to have an impact.