Florida and eleven other states still allow prosecutors to file juvenile crime cases directly in adult courts. Critics say the practice disproportionately affects minorities.
Across the U.S., lawmakers, juvenile justice advocates and community groups are shifting away from allowing prosecutors to “direct file” juvenile cases in adult courts, reports NPR. Florida, more than other states, has traditionally embraced an aggressive direct file system run by state attorneys who opt to transfer kids out of the juvenile court system and into the adult criminal system. The repercussions are great and the options for navigating the complex system are limited. From 2006 to 2011, more than 15,600 youths passed through Florida’s adult criminal court system for violent and nonviolent offenses.
Florida’s direct file statute grants prosecutors unfettered discretion to move any juvenile case to adult court without a judge’s permission. The statute dates back to juvenile justice reform from the 1950s, when lawmakers were seeking to balance rehabilitation and punishment of youths who had committed heinous crimes. “A lot of these juveniles that have been through the system a lot, when they get arrested, their attitude is ‘Nothing’s going to happen to me. I’m a juvenile,’ ” says former prosecutor Jeff Ashton. In a 2011 report, the U.S. Department of Justice identified Florida’s direct file rate as disproportionately high compared to other states. Human Rights Watch criticized Florida’s direct file statute as an example of disparate treatment of people of color. Its report found that from 2008 to 2013, black boys in Florida were disproportionately sent to prison, whether for first- or second-time offenses. That trend continues with data from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice showing that 64 percent of kids sent to adult court in 2016 were black. Twelve states and the District of Columbia allow prosecutors to make decisions on where kids end up based on a direct file statute.
A strengthened federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act is overdue for approval by Congress, say Vincent Schiraldi of Harvard’s Kennedy School and Marc Schindler of the Justice Policy Institute. They urge a conference committee to close a loophole involving “status offenders.”
A congressional conference committee should agree quickly on a strengthened Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), the nation’s preeminent law protecting young people in the juvenile justice system, write Vincent Schiraldi of Harvard’s Kennedy School and Marc Schindler of the Justice Policy Institute for The Hill – the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). Signed by President Gerald R. Ford in 1974, the JJDPA is 10 years overdue for reauthorization, say Schiraldi and Schindler. The statute promotes efforts to cut delinquency, reduce disproportionate incarceration of youth of color, prevent delinquent youth from being jailed alongside adults, and to keep status offenders – runaways and truants – from being locked up even though they have not been accused of a crime.
Since the law was passed, the number of delinquent youth in adult jails and incarcerated status offenders has plummeted. In 1980, Congress loosened protections against incarcerating youth for running away from home or truancy. The House bill would close that loophole, but Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR.) has held up passage for years while he fought to allow for the continued incarceration of status offenders. Half of U.S. states either ban or shun the practice of incarcerating status offenders. In fiscal year 2014, 7,466 youth were jailed for status offenses nationally. With the opioid crisis and an uptick in violent crime in a few cities bucking the downward trend in violent crime nationally, “now is not the time to backslide on helping young people make better choices,” say Schiraldi and Schindler.
Federal law giving funds to states for juvenile justice reform hasn’t been reauthorized since 2002. Now, it finally goes to a Senate-House conference committee.
Juvenile justice advocates are turning their attention to a House-Senate conference committee after a reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Act was approved by the Senate this week by a voice vote, reports the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. The act hasn’t been reauthorized since 2002 and was badly in need of an update, juvenile justice advocates have long argued. The House version phases out provisions that allow minors to be locked up for status offenses — running away from home, skipping school, etc. The Senate kept language that would allow a minor to be locked up if his or her status offense violated a valid court order. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) insisted on the court order provisions.
With nearly 60,000 young people in juvenile facilities, reform advocates are cautiously optimistic about final passage. Naomi Smoot of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice said, “It is our hope that the final legislation will include a phase-out of the valid court order exception, and bring an end to the incarceration of children who are in need of services, not jail time.” The Senate bill requires states that receive federal grants commit to “core principles,” including segregation of young detainees from adults and the identification and reduction of racial disparities in juvenile detention. It would set aside $159 million in federal funds for fiscal 2017, followed by a 1.5 percent increase per year through 2021.
The U.S. Supreme Court said states must review the rehabilitation progress of juvenile lifers. But an AP investigation shows the process has bogged down in many states.
Prison gates have not swung open for the more than 2,000 people sentenced to life without parole as juveniles, whose cases were mandated for review by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year. The Associated Press reports that uncertainty and opposition stirred by the new mandate have resulted in an uneven patchwork of policies as courts and lawmakers wrestle with these complicated, painful cases. The odds of release or continued imprisonment vary from state to state, even county to county, in a pattern that can make justice seem arbitrary.
The court ruled that juvenile lifers must get a chance to show their crimes did not reflect “irreparable corruption” and, if not, have some hope for freedom. The AP surveyed all 50 states to see how judges and prosecutors, lawmakers and parole boards are re-examining the case. Some have resentenced and released dozens of those deemed to have rehabilitated themselves and served sufficient time. Others have delayed review of cases, skirted the ruling on seeming technicalities or fought to keep the vast majority of their affected inmates locked up for life. Many victims’ relatives are also battling to keep these offenders in prison.
President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are skeptical of federal involvement in local law enforcement matters. Sessions has signaled he will cut back on investigations of discrimination or excessive force by local police and courts. If local officials are so alarmed by Sessions, Shelby County Mayor Luttrell said, it only makes sense the oversight responsibility should be handled locally, not by people in Washington, D.C.
Five years ago, the Justice Department concluded that juvenile courts in Memphis failed to give due process to children. Civil rights investigators uncovered significant racial disparities, and they reached a deal to fix some of those failings. Now, local officials are asking to terminate federal oversight, NPR reports. They’re making their pitch to Justice Department leaders, who have a very different view of civil rights enforcementfrom the previous administration. When the Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited Memphis a few weeks ago, he heard an earful from local officials. Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell told the attorney general that it’s time to end expensive federal oversight of the juvenile courts. Local officials already have done a lot of heavy lifting, he said. Public defenders now represent 60 percent of the kids who appear in court, up from none five years ago.
President Trump and his attorney general are skeptical of federal involvement in local law enforcement matters. Sessions has signaled he will cut back on investigations of discrimination or excessive force by local police and courts. If local officials are so alarmed by Sessions, County Mayor Luttrell said, it only makes sense the oversight responsibility should be handled locally, not by people in Washington, D.C. To good government advocates, the idea is premature. “The racial disparities, the disproportionate minority contact, the equal protection deficiencies that were pointed out five years ago have not changed really at all,” said Josh Spickler, a former public defender in Memphis who now runs the nonprofit Just City. He sent his own letter to the Justice Department, urging its civil rights lawyers stay on the case.
A redesigned New York City program aimed at helping at-risk youth learn work ethics and job skills while performing community service in their neighborhoods helped divert hundreds of young people from further involvement in the justice system, says a report released today.
A redesigned New York City program aimed at helping at-risk youth learn work ethics and job skills while performing community service in their neighborhoods helped divert hundreds of young people from further involvement in the justice system, says a report released today.
More than half of the 211 young people enrolled in the NYC Justice Corps last year graduated into employment, educational or vocational training/work readiness courses, according to the report by the program’s principal sponsor, the Prisoner Reentry Institute of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
The results demonstrate a “promising approach to increasing workforce access for young adults who are on parole or probation or have other involvement in the justice system,” the report says. Some 1,900 youth have passed through the Justice Corps program since it was first launched in 2008, with support from the NYC Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity and the NYC Young Men’s Initiative, among others.
The program, retooled last year to “adapt tested workforce development practices to match the particular needs and experiences of justice-involved young adults,” is targeted in particular at young adults who are on probation or parole, or have been disconnected from education and employment during periods of incarceration.
Harlem Justice Corps members painted the community room at All Souls’ Episcopal Church. Photo courtesy NYC Justice Corps.
Young people involved in the program last year participated in community projects in the city’s five boroughs, ranging from construction and renovation to creating urban gardens—in the process learning the skills and work ethics that will give them a sense of confidence.
“The staff members are amazing here,” one Justice Corps member identified as “Kara” was quoted as saying. “They push you to succeed…. They won’t let you give up – they even showed up at my house to get me out of the bed to get me to come to school.”
The report says the program’s success serves as a model for similar innovations elsewhere based on the concept of “restorative justice.”
Pastor Marva Usher-Kerr of the Tremont United Methodist Church in the South Bronx, which was renovated by Justice Corps members, said that it was important for community members as well as peers to see that youths who would otherwise be on a pipeline to the criminal justice system could be motivated to improve their prospects.
Gymnasium mural at the Claremont Neighborhood Center painted by Bronx Justice Corps. Photo Courtesy NYC Justice Corps
“You give them a chance to prove themselves,” the report quoted her as saying.
According to the report, “Corps members report leaving the program with a changed sense of self and increased confidence as a result of completing their community benefit project,” and their comments “indicate that participation in NYC Justice Corps helps them to internalize a new identity, which contributes not just to success in the program, but to their positive next steps reflected in the program’s outcomes.”
The full report, which will be discussed today at a special program at John Jay, can be read here.
Following U.S. Supreme Court rulings, Pennsylvania’s top court says there is a presumption against life-without-parole sentences for juveniles.
Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court has made it far more difficult to sentence juveniles to life without parole — a striking about-face in a state that is home to the largest population of juvenile lifers in the nation, Philly.com reports. In the case of Qu’eed Batts, who has twice been sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole, the court ruled that there is a presumption against life sentences for juveniles, and that in order to sentence a minor to life, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he or she is incapable of rehabilitation.
Gang member Batts was 14 when he shot and killed another teen,. He appealed after the U.S. Supreme Court which found automatic life-without-parole sentences unconstitutional, and later that states like Pennsylvania that had declined to apply the ruling retroactively must do so. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court “is ensuring those sentences are only imposed in the rarest of circumstances,” said Marsha Levick of the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center. About two-thirds of more than 300 juvenile lifers from Philadelphia are still awaiting new sentences. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has said it will seek life sentences in just a handful of those cases.
To mark Father’s Day on Sunday, The Beat Within, a San Francisco-based prison writing workshop, asked inmates of juvenile detention facilities to “write the letter you always wanted (or maybe never wanted) to write” to their Dads. Here’s a first sampling of the letters they produced.
To mark Father’s Day on Sunday, The Beat Within, a San Francisco-based prison writing workshop asked inmates of juvenile detention centers to “write the letter you always wanted (or maybe never wanted) to write” to their Dads. Here’s a first sampling of the letters they produced.
Throughout the last year I’ve been back and forth between being free and being locked up. I know you weren’t there when I was a child, but you made an effort to be there in my later years. You proved to me that you’re a good man and changed, now it’s my turn to prove to you that I’m not another juvenile statistic and I can change.
I regret a lot of things in my past, I’ve made a lot of mistakes that affected other people not just myself, and I wish every day that to take them back. I was so caught up in the hustle life that I’d do anything to come up on money and the drugs, they owned me. I thought that this was the life to live and if you weren’t in the game then you were a nobody; little did I know I was just running from the truth about myself.
Being here, locked up in these cells sounds bad, but it might just be the best place for me. It’s giving me time to think about what I want in life and time to get closer to myself. I’ve got 10-plus years to spend in these cells for a crime that ruined my life but I’ve learned to not regret these things. There are things I can’t change, things that I should move on from. It’s only up from here Pops, the hustle game never leaves you but I’m hustling for a better life this time. ‘Till I hear from you again, love you.
-Mason, Portland Oregon
Why weren’t you there? Ever! That’s all I want to know, what was the reason that you did not want to take care of YOUR OWN child, the human being you created.
I’m definitely not happy with your decision because as a real father, you should be able to take care of your child! You missed out on the most important parts of my life, you missed out on my birth, my elementary, middle & high school days, man you really are a disappointment.
To me, to my sister, and my mother you don’t even deserve to be called my father. You don’t deserve that title…Ever! I wonder if you ever even think about picking up that phone and decide to even say “Hello”…anyways, you lost my respect.
-Alex, Portland Oregon
I often wish you would just accept me for me, for who I am (instead of) trying to change me. You always said, or at least claimed, “I’m here to teach you, show you what’s needed” but you always belittled me. You always spoke above me and never listened. You heard me but failed to understand my words. When I asked for help you would come to my aid—but only helped when it helped you. You never came to help me just to help me.
When I took the extra step to try helping our so badly damaged relationship you heard me but you never fixed a thing. If I asked you for something, it felt like I asked God to forgive Satan. Asking you for something was never easy. I always had to ask someone else for what I needed. You always took my kindness for granted so I stopped showing it to everyone. I’m sorry; you claim I love you but I truly don’t. I respect you for taking me in—but love? No.
-Thomas, Portland Oregon
The role my father has played in the past had me a little down, but the role he plays now has me excited. My dad does his hardest to get me out of the situation I’m in. He gives up every dime he has to spare to get me a lawyer. Getting a lawyer cost a lot. Even though he didn’t have a job he got loans from family members just for me.
He put himself into debt just to see a better future. Once I’ve started praying and you know he always pray he got himself a job. That shows how GOD played a role in both of our lives. He showed me how to be a man once I’ve entered this situation. Now I believe my dad is a real father figure in my life. In the past I did not have that, but now (and) in the future I know and believe he is.
I was just very depressed about the fact that you always say you love me and you’ll never leave me, but you left me sooner than ever and that’s crazy. My momma had to play the role of a father and a mother, but I forgive you for that ‘cause you taught me from your mistakes what kind of a father not to be.
It’s your son. I haven’t seen you in a long time. How are you doing? Me? I’m doing just fine.
Have you ever felt so alone in your own home? It’s crazy how time flies. You should see me and sister now; we’re so big and grown. I’m trying to do better for mom and start doing right, but my thoughts tend to get the best of me ‘cause you were never there to tuck us in at night. I used to always whine and fuss, but I can’t really be mad because the meth took you away from us.
-Alec, Roswell New Mexico
You are my strength but also my weakness. You don’t understand how much you mean to me but also how much you destroyed me.
I wish you would have been there when things went down, but you weren’t and I forgive you, not just for that but also the things that you have done to me. I love you Dad and I know that it is awkward saying that but I truly do and I hope that you are sober. That shhh kills me on the inside that you are a drug addict even though you deny it. We all know Dad, and it;s time to heal from all the shhh that you have been through and it’s time for you to grow up. I don’t know what else to say but have a good life and I hope you become sober.
-A, Los Angeles
First off, I have a lot of questions to ask. I also have a lot to tell you. Why did you act that way? You messed up as a father. How do you expect me to forgive you, when all you did was cause confusion in my life?
I know you are probably thinking that “damn, I really messed up.” But if you aren’t, you really should be thinking that because you did. I know everybody isn’t perfect, but you don’t even put in the effort to try. It’s like you don’t even care. For me, to be the oldest out of six kids and me being still young is sad on your half. Mom blames every negative thing I do on you. But you only get one dad, right.
-Arilana, Los Angeles
I wish I could say I miss you, but I don’t. I don’t miss any of those drunken nights when you would act a fool and take your anger out on me or Mom. I don’t miss the sleepless nights when I would stay up waiting for you to come home just so you would talk to me. Even if it was so simple as, “Go get me a beer.”
-Christian, Santa Clara
It’s your son, Drew. I’m writing you this letter because I need to get a lot of things off my chest. You’ve taught me so much, like where I’m from, how to steal, how to hit a blunt and even roll a joint all at a very young age. Don’t get me wrong though, you’ve taught me some good things too, as in how to fight, do a push-up the right way, and walk like a man with my head up, shoulders back and chest out.
Dad, I understand that most of your life has been thrown away because of YA and prison, but that doesn’t mean to throw my life away. I remember when I was staying with you and I had school. I was going to go, but you would always tell me, “Why you gonna go to school? Chill, have a beer with me.” Yeah, that sounds cool, but that also shows that you don’t care about my life. Why? Why would you never care about what I would do? I can smoke with you, drink with you, chill with females with you, yeah that’s tight, but I would rather have a father that shows me the ropes the right way.
You’ve always told me, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” I go by that every day. I care for you and love you, so care for me and love me back. Be a man of your word for once.
-Andrew, Santa Clara
What is a Dad?
I have a biological father, but I would never think of him as a Dad. He says all the right things to my PO or to the police. Things that a Dad should say, like “I care for my son” or “I hope my son does well,” but I don’t ever get a call or even see him when I’m on the outs. Shhh…when I’m locked up, he doesn’t even have the nerve to answer a call. So, like I said, what is a Dad?
-M, Santa Clara
I love you. I wish you were here to see me right now. My life is going so downhill and if you were here I wouldn’t be in this bad position. You kept me on track, or at least I listened to you so I wouldn’t have been hard-headed and ended up where I am now.
I just wish you could call me right now and talk to me and tell me “you always got excuses Angelique.” I need to hear your voice, the sounds in my head aren’t enough. I need you physically Dad. Come to me in my dreams so I could know you are protecting me every day like you did when you were alive in this world.
-Angelique, San Francisco
Thank you for always being there for me through everything. Whether it was only smashing pumpkins or if it was stealing your car at night. Thank you for having the patience with me and never giving up.
Thank you for always coming to pick me up when I was in trouble. Whether it was yours or Mom’s week, three in the morning or far away. Thank you for staying quiet in the car ride home.
Thank you for always giving me talks and motivating me to get my life together. Thank you for coming to all my court dates and never letting me go to a group home.
Thank you for always giving me a warm house to come home too.
I remember the days I was riding the lawn mower on your lap to mow. From playing catch to coming to my softball games and the best one yet being respectful and patient. I love you Dad and thank you for everything you have done.
-Alexis, Santa Clara
What’s up? How you been? I know it’s tough doing a sixteen-year sentence, especially in federal prison. I miss you like crazy, even though I talk to you almost every day. I know you’re probably disappointed in me for being in here. But I’ll explain everything to you when I get out, and you call. You know I’ve been in here for only a week and it’s hard to get through this. I don’t know how you’ve done it for nine years, and still, you’ve got more time to knock down?
I’m proud of you for fighting and staying tough. You’re gonna be home real soon. When you’re home, I’ll make you proud, too. I promise.
You always told me to stick with basketball and school and when I told you I dropped 20 points against Monroe, you got all excited. Then when I told you I had a 3.0 GPA in school, you told me, “That’s good. Keep it up,” and you were all happy for me.
But I can’t wait for you to come home so we can just spend all week together somewhere far away from here. Just stay focused and keep maintaining and you’ll be home soon, Pops. I love you. Keep your head! One thing you always told me.
Sincerely, your son…
Letter to My “Dad”
You are worthless! I don’t like you for nothing. Didn’t even take care of me, left my mother and brothers by ourselves with no support and remorse. You’re a piece of shhh. I’m doing better than you ever will. So screw you and don’t even say that you know me.
Now I got my stepdad, actually he’s my real dad ‘cause he looks out for me no matter what my situation, as well as my mother.
-Ricardo, Santa Cruz
I’ll keep this short and simple. You were a great friend, and a terrible father.
You gave me dope, but no love.
Instead of goals and morals, you taught me criminal instincts. You deserted me more times than I can remember, and left me to serve a prison sentence. Even though I still suffer from our relationship, I forgive you. You are my father, and I will always love you, but I am a man now and will go a different route than the example you set for me. Still, though, I thank you for all that I learned from our experiences.
-Your son, James, The Odyssey House, New Orleans Louisiana
It has been a long time coming. I finally had the guts to write it. Dad, I ain’t scared of you no more! From your mental abuse to the physical abuse, I ain’t scared.
Can you see I am still your baby girl? Even though you called me a mistake, because being born ruined your dreams. Dad, all I wanted was your love. To hear you say you love me and really mean it. Or to at least spend some time with you. That’s all I wanted when I was a child. But not all hopes and dreams come true. At least you have a second chance of being a father, and I’m proud of you for not drinking anymore. I can see you’re happy.
Even though I’m the black sheep of the family, I want to make you proud, the way I am of you. I vow to never disappoint you again.
-Nellida, The Odyssey House, New Orleans Louisiana
It’s been several years since we’ve seen each other. I remember you always called me your “mini-me” because I looked and acted just like you. I also remember you telling me to do as you said, not as you did. After the divorce, I didn’t see much of you, nor heard from you. Not even on most of my birthdays. My life has been a mess since that divorce.
Slowly you went from smoking weed to drinking to doing pills to dropping out of school and doing harder and harder drugs with the old spoon and rig. It wasn’t until I wound up in jail that I decided to get back in touch with you. When I told you about how my life had went spiraling down and all the things I’ve done, you told me that I had been doing the same things you did. I was blindly following in your footsteps. I guess some of us are doomed to become our parents.
-Love,Your Son, The Odyssey House, New Orleans Louisiana
It’s OK you walked out on me when I was younger. You left me and my mom and brother for my Auntie.
But I have no love for you and don’t care for you at all.
-Madalynn, Bernalillo County New Mexico
It’s been three years that I haven’t seen you. We had fun times together when I was young. Where are you? I miss you. I love it when we would play soccer together. My sisters miss you. Why did you leave me? I hope you come back. You could teach me a lot of things.
Despite U.S. Supreme Court rulings, nearly three dozen inmates in Colorado are behind bars for terms of 50 years or more. Critics say the high court may have to consider the issue again.
Guy Lucero Sr. died in prison. His son and namesake, Guy Lucero Jr., has been locked up since he was 15 and hopes to avoid the same fate. A recent Colorado Supreme Court ruling makes that dream improbable, the Denver Post reports. “I might never get out,” Lucero said at the Sterling Correctional Facility, where he is serving a virtual life prison sentence. It’s been seven years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that non-homicide juvenile offenders must be given a meaningful opportunity for release based on maturity and rehabilitation. It has been five years since the high court held that the Eighth Amendment forbids life without parole sentences for juveniles. In Colorado, nearly three dozen inmates who committed crimes as juveniles are serving virtual life sentences of 50 years or more. State Supreme Court rulings last month could keep Lucero and others behind bars for several more decades before they are eligible for parole.
The rulings on May 22 said such sentences are constitutional because the inmates will be eligible for parole eventually, the sentences are combined or aggregated and the parole eligibility falls within the inmates’ expected lifetimes, even if that means they are in their 70s. Colorado, which has 33 prisoners who were juveniles when they received virtual life sentences, isn’t alone. Across the U.S., 2,089 offenders incarcerated for crimes committed as juveniles are serving virtual life sentences, says The Sentencing Project. Many states like Oklahoma and Florida are working to resolve that issue, but Colorado’s rulings show the state is taking a different approach. The decisions put the onus on parole boards to determine whether juveniles who committed serious crimes deserve early release, or if they should never be released. Ashley Nellis of The Sentencing Project said Colorado’s rulings violate the spirit of U.S. Supreme Court rulings forbidding life terms for juveniles, and raise the prospect that the high court will be forced to reconsider the subject.
New York City ‘violence interruptors’ now use social media to intervene when online conflicts threaten to spill over into violence. Mike Perry and Samuel Jackson tell Crime Report editor Stephen Handelman how they do it in the latest episode of “Criminal Justice Matters.”
The urge to be “Facebook-famous” or “Instagram Famous” is helping to drive the increase in gun violence among young people in many urban neighborhoods, say two former gang members who now use social media as a tool to stop online conflicts from turning fatal in the real world.
“People are performing for the show—they know there’s an audience,” said Mike Perry, who works as a “violence interruptor” at the Central Family Life Center in Staten Island, NY.
Perry, speaking on the latest episode of “Criminal Justice Matters,” which airs next week on CUNY-TV in the New York region, says he has successfully intervened in nearly 40 online sessions which appeared headed towards tragic outcomes by texting participants to cool down.
Samuel Jackson, who works as a “violence interruptor” for a program in Bronx, NY called “Bronx Connect, ” said he has had similar success by staying alert to the coded insults and threats he sees online.
“My phone is in my hand 24/7,” he said. “I get an alert, and I’ll comment on it, get into people’s minds to see where they’re at.”
Perry and Jackson say they pay special attention to “tonalities” and aggressive language online that could be indicators of future trouble.
Both are part of a new program called E-Responder, which trains neighborhood workers on methods to intervene on social media to prevent violence. The program, piloted last year, was developed by the New York Citizens Crime Commission in partnership with NYC Cure Violence and researchers from the Steinhardt School of Culture, education and Human Development at New York University.
In a conversation with “Criminal Justice Matters” host Stephen Handelman, they admitted that intervening on social media couldn’t address the root causes of violent behavior among young people, such as gang influence, childhood trauma and, most prominently, then easy access to guns.
“It’s still scary (in our neighborhoods),” said Jackson who, like Perry, has lost both friends and family members to gun violence. “It’s bigger than us, and (when it comes to guns) politicians have to step in.
“Violence is very real on the streets of New York and all over this country.”
Perry said many young people are already struggling with deep trauma because of experiences at home or on the street.
“A lot of young brothers and sisters don’t have the tools yet to master the trauma they’ve been through,” he said.
And for many, social media often acts as a platform to play out threats and insecurities in an effort to win attention and influence.
“People want to be Facebook-famous, Instagram-famous or Snapchat-famous,” said Perry.
But the two violence interrupters said their own life stories offered hope that change was possible.
“We had to make a decision about what we wanted to do with our own lives,” said Perry.
Editor’s Note: In an earlier column for The Crime Report, NYC Citizens Crime Commission President Richard Aborn calls on Facebook and other social media institutions to be more aggressive in monitoring online violence.
The monthly Criminal Justice Matters program, produced at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, is sponsored by the college’s Center on Media, Crime and Justice. Stephen Handelman, director of the Center, is also editor of The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcome.