Guest Blogger: Camilla Roberson Just Kids

October 23, the Just Kids Partnership will be hosting its second annual “Art with a Story” at the Creative Alliance, from 6-8 pm.  This event features visual and performance art as part of Youth Justice Awareness month in an effort to raise awareness about the practice of automatically charging youth as adults.  Art with a Story includes a gallery showcasing artwork by youth who have been in the adult system, an installation simulating a solitary confinement cell, and live performances by poets and musicians, including the nationally traveled spoken-word poetry meets hip-hop soul group, the 5th L.

But what is the Just Kids Partnership?  Consisting of organizers and youth leaders at Community Law in Action and lawyers from the Public Justice Center, we are a collaboration seeking to end the practice of automatically prosecuting youth as adults.  We use public education, community organizing, and legislative advocacy as we work towards this goal.  Art is integral to our advocacy.

Youth 14 and up, charged with any of 33 enumerated offenses will be automatically sent to the adult criminal justice system, based solely on age and charge.  Once there, youth are subject to adult jail, adult process, and adult sentences.

This policy is fundamentally flawed.   The practice casts far too wide a net; almost 70% of the youth direct- filed to the adult system are eventually sent back to the juvenile system upon judicial review or are released outright, but this often occurs months after the initial charge.  Youth charged as adults are usually held in adult jails where they are at serious risk of abuse, harassment and suicide.  A youth prosecuted in the adult system is more likely to re-offend upon release, and offend more violently, than comparable youth processed in the juvenile system.  In addition, this practice has a severely disproportionate impact on minority youth.  Finally, youth charged as adults face all the collateral consequences associated with an adult criminal record upon release, including problems getting a job, housing, financial supports, and higher education.  The practice doesn’t work to keep our youth safe or to make our communities safer.  We can do better.

These statistics come to life with the stories and art that illustrate how truly harmful this practice is for our youth and our communities.  Thus, Just Kids integrates art throughout our campaign in order to bring these stories to the public and the legislature.  The artwork – from poems, to stories, to photographs and multimedia visual art – is how we reach the hearts and minds of the only ones who can push our representatives to change the laws that mandate automatic prosecution.  One can see or hear the individual stories of youth caught in the adult system, who lose months if not years of their life to adult jail, before trial or transfer, and then must spend the rest of their lives trying to overcome the trauma of the experience and the barriers created by the charge alone.

This art, created by youth organizers and leaders, will be showcased at our October 23 Art with a Story event.  So check us out – at the end you will have seen experiences great art, will understand why we are fighting so hard to end this practice, and learn how to take action!  For tickets go to http://justkidsmaryland.org/ or http://artwithastory.brownpapertickets.com/

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: