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Speaker List

Speaker List

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Published by: Center for Media Justice on Dec 13, 2010
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SPEAKER LIST Houston, Texas Tarsha Jackson, Grassroots Leadership Texas incarcerates more of its residents more than any other state. Most of them are people of color. In Houston, Tarsha Jackson is the go-to criminal justice person in her community. When she isn’t organizing “black-brown unity meetings,” she has an informal, full-time job helping families. In 2003, Jackson’s 11-year-old, mentally ill son was sentenced to three years in the Texas Youth Commission for breaking a window at a neighborhood pool. The judicial system changed the court date without informing her, and she was not at her son’s trial. While in custody, her son was sexually abused by another child and physically abused by guards. She went to the courthouse and handed out fliers, telling parents who couldn’t afford an attorney to get another opinion. She organized rallies on parent awareness. “I didn’t want other parents to have to go through what I did,” she says. La Crosse County, Wisconsin Vicky Gunderson, Campaign for Youth Justice At the age of 17, Vicky’s son Kirk was incarcerated as an adult in the La Crosse County jail. After nearly seven months there, he took his own life. Since losing her son, Gunderson has become a leading advocate in Wisconsin for keeping youth out of adult jails and prisons. Gunderson has worked closely with the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families and other interested individuals and organizations to promote legislation that would return 17-yearolds in the state to the juvenile justice system. She has spoken at numerous conferences and other public events, and has written guest columns in newspapers. New York City, NY Chino Hardin, Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform and Alternatives Chino was born and raised in East Flatbush, Brooklyn and has worked in the field of youth leadership development and gang prevention/intervention for seven years. Chino is committed to developing and elevating leadership and civic engagement in youth and communities that are hardest hit by crime, violence and incarceration. Chino has appeared in numerous renowned publications and media outlets, such as the Village Voice, City Limits, The Ave Magazine, BET, and the Caribbean Life. Chino’s journey is a truly inspiring one, serving as an apt model for youth aspiring to turn their life around. Chino has a firm belief in becoming the change one wants to see for the future, never measuring one’s success by material possessions but how to continuously become a better person.



New Orleans, Louisiana Ernest Johnson, Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children (FFLIC) Ernest is the father a 14-year-old boy who could spend the next 17 years behind bars if he is tried as an adult in the killing of a 39-year-old French Quarter bartender during a robbery. Johnson’s son is not accused of pulling the trigger, and yet is being held at the New Orleans Youth Study Center while awaiting his fate. Children held there are allowed only two half-hour visits per month. Johnson has dedicated his time to fighting for his son’s future and is now a youth and parent organizer with FFLIC, which has successfully organized to shut down an abusive juvenile facility known as Tallulah. San Francisco Bay Area, CA LeaJay Harper, The Center for Young Women’s Development LeaJay was raised in Oakland, CA. She was placed in foster care at age 16, was homeless at 17, incarcerated at 18 and pregnant at 19. After living on the streets of Berkeley for two years, she moved to San Francisco to change her life as she prepared for the birth of her daughter. She attended San Francisco City College, but because of her criminal record she could not work toward becoming a registered nurse. She decided to give back to her community. Prior to CYWD, LeaJay worked for the San Francisco Department of Children, Youth and Families under the "Changing the Odds" internship. She is a recipient of DCYF's Youth Empowerment Fund Great Leader. She is also a participant in CLRJ’s Latinas Empowered for Action. Today, LeaJay is a proud mother to Karizma and Jayla. New York City/Bronx, NY Rev. Ruben Austria, Community Connections for Youth Ruben founded the first and only community-based alternative to incarceration program in the Bronx, called BronxConnect, which soon grew into a large organization with a significant caseload of youth who would otherwise be sitting in prison. He recently established a new nonprofit, Community Connections for Youth, which will provide support to nonprofits that are interested in serving as alternatives to detention or incarceration. Ruben is also a member of the New York Racial Disparities Task Force, which as a collective of advocates is working to push the juvenile justice system to routinely share and analyze data on the youth it is incarcerating, and reduce disproportionate minority contact.



Boston, Massachusetts Mallory Hanora, Reflect and Strengthen and Massachusetts Juvenile Justice Task Force on Racial Disparities Mallory became a member of Reflect and Strengthen in 2004, which helped develop much of her analysis of the juvenile justice system as she witnessed unfair outcomes for young women. She is currently fighting for data collection and reporting in the juvenile justice system as part of the Massachusetts Juvenile Justice Task Force on Racial Disparities. The task force has been able to obtain more data from the system than ever before by using the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act federal guidelines to put pressure on the system. They are using the newly collected data to confront juvenile justice stakeholders about racial disparities. Washington D.C./Virginia Juan Pacheco, Barrios Unidos and The Gathering for Justice Juan was incarcerated in Virginia and struggled to find work after his release, until a friend’s mother told him about a nonprofit that was offering young people a full-time job if they were willing to serve their community. Barrios Unidos provided him “the tools to realize my potential,” he says. He is now organizing around the Youth PROMISE Act (Youth Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education Act). The bill is one of the fastest moving bills in Congress. It is also the first time in the history of legislation dealing with gangs that a potential law is focusing on prevention, is community-based and focuses on rural areas along with urban.


Attendees to the conference are traveling from the following areas: Alexandria, VA; Arlington, VA; Aurora, IL; Austin, TX; Aylette, VA; Baltimore, MD; Berkeley, CA; Brooklyn, NY; Chicago, IL; Chula Vista, CA; Daly City, CA; Dorchester, MA; Durham, NC; Elk Grove, CA; Fairfax, VA; Greensboro, NC; Hazel Crest, IL; Herndon, VA; Hollis, NY; Homestead, FL; Houston, TX; Hyde Park, MA; Jackson, MD; Lake Charles, LA; Madison, WI; Marrero, LA; Miami, FL; Milwaukee, WI; New Market, TX; New York, NY; Oakland, CA; Onalaska, WI; Peoria, IL; Philadelphia, PA; Portland, OR; Raleigh, NC; Richmond, CA; San Francisco, CA; Santa Cruz, CA; Seattle, WA; Seffner, FL; Sicklerville, NJ; Tallahassee, FL; Tampa, FL; Tucson, AZ; Washington, DC; Watsonville, CA

***To interview any of the speakers after the press conference or for future stories, contact Shadi Rahimi, CJNY Communications Director, (415) 368-8007***


President Obama and the new Congress can choose to help youth fulfill their promise. The last Congress failed to take action to provide incarcerated children with the basic protections every child deserves. Today, Obama and Congress have a second chance to fix that mistake. To protect our children, they must reauthorize JJPDA and pass the Youth Promise Act. Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Act is the principal federal program through which the federal government sets standards for state and local juvenile justice systems. S. 678 strengthens the bill. The House hasn’t introduced its version yet. More info at www.act4jj.org. - Deinstitutionalization of Status Offenders: Youth who skip school, run away, break curfew, possess and/or use alcohol may not be held in secure detention/confinement. Exceptions lead to youth being held for up to 24 hours. JJDPA reauthorization has provision that status offenders are not held in secure juvenile facilities for extended periods or secure adult facilities at all. - Adult Jail and Lock-up Removal: Youth may not be detained in adult jails and lock-ups except for limited times before or after a court hearing for short periods. (This provision does not apply to children who are tried or convicted in adult criminal court). Children housed in adult jails and lock-ups have been found to be eight times more likely to commit suicide, two times more likely to be assaulted by staff, and 50 percent more likely to be attacked with a weapon. - "Sight and Sound" Separation: When children are placed in an adult jail or lock-up, they cannot be housed next to adult cells, share dining halls, recreation areas or any other common spaces with adults, or be placed in any circumstance that could expose them to threats or abuse. - Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC): States are required to address disproportionate contact of youth of color from arrest to detention to confinement. Youth of color receive tougher sentences and are more likely to be incarcerated than White youth for the same offenses. Youth Promise (Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education) Act (H.R. 1064/S.435) Communities facing the greatest youth gang and crime challenges will be able to develop a comprehensive response to youth violence through a coordinated prevention and intervention response. Representatives from local law enforcement, the school system, court services, social services, health and mental health providers, foster care providers, other community and faithbased organizations will form a council to develop a comprehensive plan for implementing evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies. The plans can be funded up to four years. The act also enhances state and local law enforcement efforts regarding youth and gang violence. The State of Pennsylvania implemented a process very similar to the one provided for in the Youth PROMISE Act in 100 communities across the state. The state found that it saved, on average, $5 for every $1 spent during the study period.


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