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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.

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.

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.
New York City, NY
Chino Hardin, Prison Moratorium Project

Chino is a Youth Organizer and Campaign Coordinator for the Prison

Moratorium Project in New York City, as well as the point person for the “No
More Jail Beds” campaign. In her youth she was arrested 16 times and
incarcerated on eight different occasions. She was incarcerated for the first
time when she was 13, in 1993, at what was then the Spofford Juvenile Center
in the Bronx. At 15 she was incarcerated at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility
in Westchester, locked up in an adult facility for assault. There, she
experienced sexual abuse, and later between the ages of 16 and 18 when she was incarcerated in
the Rikers Island adolescent unit she witnessed the extensive sexual abuse of girls. Today she
travels the country to raise awareness about the terrible conditions youth face while locked up.

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 who have
nowhere else to turn. 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 then physically abused by guards. She started going
to the courthouse and passing out fliers, saying if you cannot afford an attorney, 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.

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.

Boston, Massacussetts - Mallory Hanora

Wisconsin - Vicky Gunderson - 608-385-7600
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. Its core requirements:

- 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 faith-
based 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.

Many of the programs funded under the Youth PROMISE Act will save more money than they
cost. 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. The Richmond, Virginia Gang Reduction
and Intervention Program (GRIP) spent $2.5 million in a collaborative effort between the City of
Richmond, federal, state and local partners focusing on a target community. In two years, major
crimes in that target community were down 43% and homicides fell from 19 to two.