Meet YSRP - fighting to keep children out of adult jails and prisons
Dear True Moringa Family,
Throughout this month, we're highlighting organizations focused on dismantling systems built on racial injustice. We'll be donating 20% of this week's sales to the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project (YSRP), a Philadelphia-based advocacy organization. To read YSRP’s statement on the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless others, please click here. To read about YSRP’s values as a racial justice organization, please click here.
the issue: keeping children out of adult jails and prisons
According to YSRP, "In Pennsylvania, children as young as 10 years old can be prosecuted as adults, meaning that they face time in adult jails and prisons. This has harmful consequences for their health, their emotional well being, and their futures. It often means being sent far from their families and supporters. Being charged as an adult makes a child 34% more likely to end up back in the system upon release."
In Pennsylvania, youth are automatically prosecuted as adults if they are charged with certain crimes. In many other states, including neighboring New Jersey, for a child to be prosecuted as an adult, a prosecutor must request that the child be tried in the adult system, and a judge must grant this request. This data from WNYC's analysis of New Jersey court records illustrates that stark racial bias exists at both levels of decision making:
According to Laura Cohen, the director of the Criminal and Youth Justice Clinic at Rutgers Law School, “Controlling for nature of offense, controlling for family background, controlling for educational history — all of the things that go into a prosecutor’s decision, there are still disparities, significant disparities, that cannot be explained by anything other than race" (WNYC)
YSRP works with youth charged as adults in and around Philadelphia, as well as a subset of this population - "Juvenile Lifers" - those sentenced to life in prison without parole. In 2012, the US Supreme Court held that mandatory sentences of life without the possibility of parole are unconstitutional for individuals who were sentenced as children, in Miller v. Alabama. In the 2016 Montgomery v. Louisiana decision, the court held that this ruling should be applied retroactively, affecting thousands of cases across the country. YSRP carries out their work with Juvenile Lifers through mitigation, reentry planning and support for people when they come home, training for defense lawyers and judges, and advancing policy reform.
During the court process in individual cases, YSRP presents prosecutors and judges with mitigation reports, or individualized narratives of a person’s experience.
For Juvenile Lifers eligible for resentencing and Parole Board hearings, YSRP provides mitigation reports, as well as workshops inside of prisons on mitigation, reentry and self-advocacy.
As close to a child’s arrest as possible, and prior to Juvenile Lifer resentencing hearings, YSRP creates individualized reentry plans that connect youth or Juvenile Lifers with critical supports and services in housing, employment, education and health and mental health care.
Before, during and after incarceration, YSRP connects youth, Juvenile Lifers and family members with individualized supports and services.
Training For Legal Defense & Advocacy
YSRP creates tools and provides trainings for defense attorneys to raise the level of representation for youth charged in adult courts and Juvenile Lifers facing resentencing and Parole Board hearings.
YSRP trains and supervises graduate law and social work students and other volunteers to work in teams that create impact within and across systems.
Advancing Policy Reform
YSRP aspires to end the practice of charging youth in adult courts. In the interim, YSRP’s policy advocacy chips away at the harmful impacts of adult incarceration on young people and their families.
Further reading recommendations from YSRP on youth sentencing and racial justice more broadly:
- Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
- The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
- Felon: Poems by Reginald Dwayne Betts
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color by Andrea J. Ritchie
- How To Be An Antiracist — Ibram X. Kendi
- White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo
- a short (23 minute) conversation with YSRP and one of our funders, about our work
- Black& (in general) and podcast with YSRP on Juvenile Justice
- 1619 (New York Times)
- Code Switch (NPR)
- Intersectionality Matters! (Kimberle Crenshaw)
- Just Mercy
- When They See Us (Netflix)
- 13th (Netflix)
- The Hate You Give (also book)
- The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
- Bryan Stevenson on the Frustration Behind the George Floyd Protests
- Your Black Colleagues May Look Like They're Okay -- Chances Are They're Not
- Advice for White Managers in the Wake of Another Police Shooting
what other organizations are doing great work to promote racial justice?
how can I get involved with YSRP?