Launch of Youth Correctional Leaders for Justice Featured in “The Nation”
The new initiative by Columbia’s Justice Lab is intended to help municipalities close youth prisons.
On Wednesday, April 10, the Justice Lab at Columbia University is launching Youth Correctional Leaders for Justice (YCLJ) an initiative that aims to unite current and former youth correctional administrators into a national movement calling for the end of punitive youth prison models and further progress towards systems of youth justice centered on youth and families. In advance of the launch, YCLJ was featured in an article in The Nation by Ross Barkan titled, “Meet the Grown-Ups Keeping Kids Out of Prison.”
Though youth incarceration has been halved over the past two decades, there remain nearly 50,000 young people in prison today, most of whom—like the adult prison population—tend to be poor people of color. Co-chaired by Vincent Schiraldi, a senior research scientist at the School of Social Work who co-directs Columbia’s Justice Lab, and Gladys Carrión, former commissioner of New York’s Office of Children and Family Services, YCLJ is intent on getting and keeping youth out of prison without compromising public safety.
“You’ve got to figure out what you’re going to do with the young people that keeps you safe and helps them turn their lives around and we feel like we can advance the ball in both of those areas,” Schiraldi told The Nation.
It costs nearly $150,000 per year to incarcerate a single young adult, totaling billions across the entire population. The costs aren’t only economic, however: many of these young prisoners suffer mentally and physically on the inside, then must overcome educational and employment challenges on the outside.
“There’s momentum,” Carrión told Barkan. “These institutions are bad for young people and there’s a confluence of events that really drive the fact that we should be closing youth prisons because we know they don’t work.”
You can read the article in its entirety at The Nation.
The YCLJ launch event is by invitation only but can be viewed in real time via livestream.
In addition to a panel discussion and press conference, the launch event includes an art exhibit consisting of a number of art pieces created by youth who have been involved in the justice system, as well as a virtual reality component that youth helped to create, giving visitors insight into what it is like to be in a youth prison (read more about the art here).