Our country is suffering from a youth incarceration epidemic. Children, especially those of color and those of limited means, are caught in the school-to-prison pipeline. It steals their futures, endangers communities, and causes a drain on the economy. Texas Families of Incarcerated Youth is an organization dedicated to improving opportunities and outcomes for youth in our society and the juvenile justice system in the State of Texas. We are founded and run by parents and families who have experienced “the system” first hand with their own children, and are taking the lead to change it.
Justice for Families (J4F), a national alliance of membership-based organizations, has produced a National Families Report (NFR), the first national report about families of ‘at-risk’ youth. Families have led 26 focus groups, collected over 1,000 surveys, done data analysis and presented preliminary findings to the heads of child serving agencies. Through this work, J4F is developing a cohort of families to advance their own evidence-based national policy agenda in the form of our National Families Report.
The report authors include: Books Not Bars; Center for Community Alternatives; Citizens for Second Chances; Community Connections for Youth; Community Rights Campaign; Families & Allies of Virginia’s Youth; Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children; Families Organized for Reform of Juvenile Justice; Renewed Minds; Spirit House; Texas Families of Incarcerated Youth; and Youth Justice Coalition. The NFR “Families Unlocking Futures” reflects the work of all of these organizations.
Our National Families Report will show that the juvenile justice system: imposes severe and damaging consequences on our kids – often for commonplace and non-dangerous adolescent misbehavior; it routinely infringes on the rights of parents/families and denies us the right to address our children’s needs and behaviors; it imposes serious hardships on families, which impacts us financially, emotionally and physically; and it imposes these hardships on youth and families despite clear and compelling evidence that current policies are bad for youth, bad for public safety, communities, and taxpayers.
Despite not being consulted and despite hostile court and youth prison environments, families are engaging the political actors and the political process to demonstrate that families both know the solutions and are the solution. Families identified employment and educational opportunities and mental health services as services that would serve youth better. Justice interventions that involve families and those that are led by families have proven track records in improving youth outcomes.
The launch of the NFR on September 10th will kick off our online and in-person public education campaign to dispel stereotypes about families of system-involved youth especially families of color as well as branded local campaigns to promote and win a Family Bill of Rights. The Family Bill of Rights will outline the policy changes necessary to create a more family-centered youth justice system.
Today’s youth (in)justice system is morally broken and fiscally broke. Families have been sidelined and dismissed. Yet we are the ones with the most at stake—and the most passion, energy and insight to reform it. With your help, we can move from energy and insight to action and solutions. Please consider:
• Supporting our pre-report-launch social media campaign
• Writing a blog posting or allowing us to write on your blog about the report
• Issuing a press release regarding the release of our report
• Supporting our national and/or local report related events during the week of September 27th
Thank you for your consideration of these requests! Please contact us to let us know if you can help.
Tarsha Jackson, Director Texas Families of Incarcerated Youth,