Strengthening Families and Communities

Supporting Kids and Young Adults

The tough-on-crime mindset that put millions of adults behind bars and plunged communities disproportionately deeper into poverty also produced a generation of punitive juvenile justice policies that hit hardest in those same places. Thankfully, states and localities have rolled back many of the worst policies, and nationwide there’s a clear commitment to rehabilitation when young people are involved. Work that pushes the boundaries of what’s considered an appropriate and effective response to a young person who breaks the law has helped to turn that tide. Some examples:

  • Marshaling evidence that supports raising the age of criminal responsibility nationwide to age 18;
  • Accelerating the trend to handle “status offenders” in the community instead of in courtrooms;
  • Keeping detained youth connected with supportive family members and improving conditions in which kids are held detention in and placement; and
  • Helping to create services that give young people a real chance to succeed in life.

Related Work

Juvenile Justice Systems Still Grappling with Legacy of the “Superpredator” Myth

In the 1990s, sociologists inaccurately predicted that there would be a wave of the dangerous “superpredators”—young people capable of profound violence and different from any we as a nation had seen before, based on the pseudo-scientific idea that there were young people who simply could not be reached, and who would remain unresponsive to even th...

Blog Post
  • Krista Larson
    Krista Larson
  • Hernan Carvente
    Hernan Carvente
January 24, 2017
Blog Post

Series: Gender and Justice in America

How the Criminalization of Adolescence Fuels the School-to-Prison Pipeline

In her new play on the school-to-prison pipeline, Notes from the Field, actress and playwright Anna Deveare Smith reenacts interviews with 17 people from the education and criminal justice systems. The school-to-prison pipeline is a national trend in which children are pushed out of public schools and into the juvenile justice system. Smith’s play ...

Blog Post
  • Kristi  DiLallo
    Kristi DiLallo
January 17, 2017
Blog Post

Series: It Takes a Village

Collaboration is key when it comes to keeping kids out of the justice system

The title of our latest report on diversion strategies—“It Takes a Village”—is no accident. School administrators and teachers, law enforcement officials, service providers, and families all play key roles in keeping young people out of the juvenile justice system. Often, however, these groups are not effectively partnering with each other to find ...

Blog Post
  • Erin  Dostal Kuller
    Erin Dostal Kuller
September 15, 2016
Blog Post

Series: It Takes a Village

Closing the schoolhouse door to the juvenile justice system

Schools can be a critical diversion point for young people at risk of entering the juvenile justice system, as detailed in Vera’s recent report on diversion strategies for youth. Exclusionary school disciplinary practices, such as suspensions or expulsions, make it significantly more likely that young people will be arrested in future years. School...

Blog Post
  • Erin  Dostal Kuller
    Erin Dostal Kuller
September 07, 2016
Blog Post

Status Offense Reform Center

Providing community-based alternatives to court and juvenile justice system involvement

Every year, thousands of youth are brought to court, held in detention, and placed in locked facilities for “status offenses”—noncriminal behaviors like truancy, running away, curfew violations, and underage drinking, which are only prohibited due to their age. Typically, youth charged with these offenses are experiencing an array of underlying iss...

Project
  • Vidhya Ananthakrishnan
    Vidhya Ananthakrishnan
Project