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Families Unlocking Futures: Solutions to the Crisis in Juvenile Justice

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2012
56 pages
This report presents the perspective of families who are uniquely affected by the juvenile justice systems that can determine the future of their children.
Justice for Families and its research partner, the DataCenter, surveyed just over 1,000 parents and family members from 20 cities across 9 States; conducted 24 focus groups of 152 youth, parents, and other family members from 12 cities across 9 States; reviewed nearly 300 articles from 11 metropolitan areas that discussed families of court-involved youth; and completed a literature review of government and community alternatives to "zero-tolerance" school discipline procedures and traditional juvenile justice system court processing and adjudications. Through the focus groups and surveys, families described how the rapid growth of the prison system, zero-tolerance policies, and aggressive police tactics, coupled with the decline of social services and public education have devastated their predominantly low-income communities of color. In this context, the juvenile justice system has functioned as a principal feeder into the Nation's vast prison system. This report and the work of Justice for Families is designed to correct misperceptions about system-involved youth and their families; to demonstrate the depth of engagement by system-involved youth and their families; and to voice the critical need for these families' active participation and leadership in re-designing the youth justice system so that it promotes safer and more prosperous communities for low-income families and their children. The report examines in detail how families and their children are impacted by traditional juvenile justice procedures. The report concludes with the presentation of a "blueprint" for juvenile justice transformation that takes into account the perceived needs of the involved families.