The Movement

Connecting Us to Social Justice Work Around the Country

Issue #5: February 15, 2020

Juvenile Justice: Address the complex needs of youth in system

Here is a terrific, candid Editorial by Michael Diaz, a judge from King County (Takoma-Seattle) acknowledging the need for juvenile justice systems to be open, innovative and acknowledging of the challenge. He does't present clear answers, but posits with clarity:

"The continued transformation of the system and redemption for these kids require that we confront the grim reality of these cases, and that we reject easy answers and superficial caricatures as unproductive."

I have no idea if I'd agree with Judge Diaz on each case that comes before him, but I admire his willingness to state the truth and acknowledge the failure of any system that doesn't meaningfully address the wide-ranging needs of our students.

Our View: Maine should stop using youth prison for ‘care’

From the editorial page in Portland, Maine...juvenile facilities are no place to send youth who need care. In Maine, as in Louisiana, the state spends approximately $300,000 per year to incarcerate a young person at it's long-term, post adjudication facility. Our colleagues at the Juvenile Law Center report that less than 1/2 of those held there belong in any sort of detention facility at all.

The editorial board reminds its readers: " Prisons are not built to provide care, and there is ample evidence that holding a young person in a prison setting can damage them for life. If they have a mental health issue, as many youthful offenders do, prison will make it worse. If they are having trouble in school, getting yanked out of their classes and community won’t help. And the longer they stay, the more likely they are to end up back behind the barbed wire.

The problem is that Maine has not invested in its community-based programs, leaving law

enforcement, judges and corrections officials without viable options. If there were enough

group homes, specialized foster care placements and community mental health and

substance use disorder programs, we wouldn’t need a place like Long Creek for the

relatively few youth who need a secure setting. But since those programs don’t exist, we are

pouring money into a facility that is making the problem worse."

Along with this plea from the Editorial Page, a state representative in Maine is proposing a law that would limit the age at which a youth could be adjudicated in the juvenile justice system to 12 (younger than 12 would all be handled in family court) and would only permit youth 14 years or older to be held in detention. Here is that article.

Oh, this sounds so familiar to the challenges we face in Louisiana.

The RFK Post, Issue Number 1!

Click HERE to read a well-done student newsletter, from one of our partner schools located in a facility in Massachusetts. What a great way to encourage students to write about topics they care a lot about--Kobe Byrant, pollution and climate change in their neighborhoods, and more. This teacher worked on this with her students in January--and got the first issue out on Jan 30th. Way to go!

The Pedagogy of Confidence with Yvette Jackson

I came across this article last week. The article summarizes key points from Yvette Jackson's terrific book, the Pedagogy of Confidence--which came out a few years ago...If you haven't read much from her. The key components of this pedagogy are-
  • Identify and activate student strengths

  • Focus on high intellectual performance

  • Build on existing skills and knowledge

  • Situate learning in students’ lives

  • Acknowledge the impact of culture

  • Assess growth in every learning experience

If you have time or enjoy listening to podcasts, I encourage you to click HERE to listen to a recent interview she gave. She has great stuff to say, particularly about culture and relevance and making learning make sense in the lives of your (our) students. If you'd like a copy of the book after reading the article or listening to the podcast, shoot us an email and we'll make that happen.

Issue 4: January 20, 2020

I'm sending this update out on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. That really hits home with me, especially in light of recent backlash in New Orleans, opposing alternatives to detention and supporting widespread, overly harsh pre-trial detention policies.

This edition once again highlights what communities around the country are doing to support juvenile and criminal justice and reform, and tries to offer some context between the challenges we face locally, day-to-day, in New Orleans with larger and long-standing injustices--and the efforts to overcome them.

The Injustice of the Moment is not an Aberration: Michelle Alexander

In case you didn't see Michelle Alexander's piece over the weekend, HERE is her look back (and forward) 10 years after the New Jim Crow was released. Her historical look at our country's propensity to criminalize and over-incarcerate African Americans (particularly men), contextualizes the local response to to the events in Lakeview a few weeks ago.

I am Proof that Children Shouldn't be Prosecuted in Adult Court: William Bentley

Here is a great piece, written by William Bentley, who was held as a juvenile on a $520,000 bond at the adult jail in Philadelphia until he as bailed out by a local bail fund, in partnership a local art and self-empowerment program for system-involved teens. What he is asking for in Philadelphia-that students under 18 be treated fairly and justly--in the juvenile, not adult system-- holds true in New Orleans, and around the country. If you're looking for inspiration-that this work is right, can work, and that all students deserve our best, read this one short article.

From Vel. R. Phillips School in Milwaukee's Juv. Detention Center: Podcasts and Letter...

Here is the latest from our friends at Vel. R. Phillips School in Milwaukee. I'm always inspired by their commitment to doing everything they can to make their school engaging and meaningful as well as their determination to bring community leaders into the school to work with their students. Scroll down to read about their podcast and their letter writing activity. This newsletter also offers a glimpse at some of the broader work that we do at CEEAS, as it highlights their leadership team's involvement in our annual retreat earlier this month.

Let the Public In: Calls to Make our Jails and Prisons Transparent: Neil Barsky, Vinny Schiraldi

In this Letter to the Editor, Vinny Schiraldi seconds Neil Barsky's recommendation to let the public inside of criminal and juvenile justice facilities. In DC, both the public defender and a parents' advocacy group had offices inside of the youth facility in DC where Maya Angelou ran the school. Think of the progress we could make at the JJIC if there was true transparency around the day-to-day of life inside the facility...

From the Public Welfare Foundation: Funding Alternatives to Reduce Reliance on on the Justice System in Oakland

Here is a great 8 minute video highlighting good work in Oakland--where juvenile arrests and detention are down, along with crime. This video, and the series sponsored by Public Welfare offer alternatives to the current push for harsher, punitive measures.
Prioritizing the Community: Funding Alternatives to Reduce Reliance on the Justice System in Oakland

Losing our Black Youth in New Orleans: Ernest Johnson-Unbuntu Village

In this article, published late last week, Ernest calls out the local (elected) judges for their failure to step up and support meaningful, comprehensive alternatives to overly aggressive pre-trial detention policies, and reminds readers that the impending opening of the new wing at JJIC was intended to ensure that youth charged as adults would move over to JJIC, not to add additional spaces to the overall number of beds available--by housing students under 17 at both the jail and the JJIC.

Issue 3: December 15, 2019

This newsletter highlights some great work being done by Credible Messengers, includes some beautiful holiday book readings (from Sending Some Love) done by students both at Travis Hill and elsewhere, highlights an op-ed from Anquan Boldin and Carl Davis demanding that our presidential candidates to take on juvenile justice reform...and more, including a call to join the Poor People's March in June 2020.

Reporting for Work Where You Once Reported for Probation: The Credible Messenger Movement Takes Hold

Here's a great piece from the Atlantic, describing the groundbreaking work being done in New York, DC and elsewhere leveraging the talents and skills of Credible Messengers. Wow, I wish we could convince leadership in New Orleans to do this.

Sending Some Love: Preview audio recordings to help you get into the holiday spirit

As many of you know, more than 60 youth facilities across the county participate in Sending Some Love, along with our students at Travis Hill. Students read and record children holiday books, then send the books and a recording home to their loved ones. Click below to listen to a handful of recording, both from our own Travis Hill students and students in Orange County. A more complete set of recording will be shared next week on our website.

Anquan Boldin and Carl Davis: NFL players call for criminal justice reform for young people

"Overhauling our juvenile justice system is critical. Setting young people up for success after re-entry into society is just as important. That means supporting youth in sealing or expunging their records, pursuing education and employment opportunities, and encouraging youth voter registration." This Op-Ed calls for Democratic presidential candidates to make juvenile justice reform part of their platform and reform agendas. Read their full op-ed here:

We Must See Our Students as Asset Filled Beings-

Although the authors of this article are primarily focused on working with ELL students, their messages are right on target for our work and our students, even the most hard-to-reach. Here is a link to the full article.

Dr. William Barber Launches the Poor People's Campaign and March on Washington--June 2020

If you are exhausted and down and wonder if we (or you) are alone in this struggle. I urge you to just take a few minutes and watch this launch video, announcing the Poor People's Campaign and March, set for June 20, 2020. You can read more about the planned march here: I hope that Travis Hill NOLA will be sponsoring a bus taking students from the Welcoming Project on the March. And that preparing for and organizing the trip will become a central organizing theme for our youth advocacy and leadership development efforts this spring.

Ashtabula County Juvenile Court--Ending Juvenile Detention For Good

If you are active on Twitter or Instagram and you're looking for inspiration, consider following Ashtabula County Juvenile Court. This amazing county in a not particularly progressive area of Ohio committed to closing its juvenile detention center about 1.5 years ago. They share their successes and are open about the challenges they face as they stay committed to a set of solutions that doesn't include locking kids up in their (now closed) detention center. You can follow them on twitter @AshJuvCourt or or on Instagram at @ashtabulacount_juvenilecourt.

Issue 2: November 19, 2019

This newsletter pulls from a range of articles: a painful series outlining the failures of Juvenile Justice System in Georgia and a call for reform there; the November Newsletter from our partner school in Milwaukee's juvenile detention center, the Vel. R. Philips School--where leadership is committed to bringing the community into the lives of the students they serve; an article about student-leaders in Cincinnati working to find solutions to racial and economic injustice in their juvenile justice system; a reminder from right here in New Orleans from Demario Davis to push on the City Council and Mayor to support full, fair funding for public defenders; and a link to College Beyond Bars, a 4-part documentary showing over the the break. Enjoy. David

Juvenile Justice in Georgia, Parts 1, 2 and 3--and an Editorial and a Plea for Action

This three part series in the Atlanta Journal Constitution exposes the incredible toll the antiquated lock them up system that has been in place in Georgia for years takes on so many, but primarily black and brown teens and young adults who once system-involved have little chance to get what they need--support, care, and a meaningful education. The second part--see below--offers a glimpse at some terrific work being done in one county...

Part 1: This part examines the tragic, violent teen years of a youth caught up in the Georgia system from the age of 13

Part 2: This part highlights the incredible work being done by Judge Steven Teske and his colleagues in Clayton County, GA.

Part 3: This part highlights the racial and political underpinnings of Georgia's punitive juvenile justice system.

From the Editorial Board: Bring Criminal Justice Reform to Juveniles--A plea for state leaders to find a new, better way

The Connector: November Newsletter from our friends at the Vel. R. Philips School in Milwaukee

Our partner school in the Milwaukee's juvenile detention center, this month's newsletter, opens with a pretty amazing quote from Brene' Brown: “What we are ethically called to do is create a safe space in our schools and classrooms where all students can walk in and, for that day or hour, take off the crushing weight of their armor, hang it on a rack, and open their heart to truly be seen.” Read the full newsletter here:

Hamilton County's Youth Councils take a leading role...

Here's a great article highlighting the work that youth councils are doing in Cincinnati to address racial disparities and inequities in the juvenile justice system there.

This article is also a part of a larger series that the City Beat has been running about the need for, and attempts at reform there.

Demario Davis leading the charge for fair funding for the Public Defender Service here in New Orleans

In case you missed it, Demario Davis hosted a forum right over at Corpus Christi recently, and has been active on social media, calling for equitable funding for the Public Defender Service right here in New Orleans

This is an incredibly critical issue for our kids, their future, our future. We should all be joining Demario in calling for fair funding for our students public defenders.

College Beyond Bars: Four-part documentary about the Bard Prison Initiative

For those of you looking for some good binge-watching over the Thanksgiving break, this is supposed to be really spectacular. The trailer is below. Here is a link to PBS with information on how to watch it...
Official Extended Trailer | College Behind Bars | PBS

Introduction-November 3, 2019

This is my second attempt to share on a regular basis information from around the country that connects our work at Travis Hill NOLA and CEEAS to the larger movement toward a more just criminal and juvenile legal system, a more equitable and meaningful education system, and a fairer and more honest economic system. Ones that value all teens and young adults as fully human and worthy of our collective embrace. My goal is to send brief updates out 2xs per month. I'm going to try! If you read articles that you'd like me to include, please send them my way. Enjoy. dd

Prison: The Washington Post Magazine features writing and articles from current and formerly incarcerated individuals

Wow! The Washington Post's weekly magazine was devoted solely to articles and art written and produced by currently or formerly incarcerated individuals. The introduction to the issue starts out: "America incarcerates more people than any other nation. As a result, the stark realities of jail and prisons have a far-reaching impact on society....our goal was to help readers learn about the experience of imprisonment, something that is poorly understood by Americans who are untouched by the system." What I know from our work in DC and New Orleans is that for many communities--particularly lower income communities of color, almost everyone is touched--and hard--by the system, often tragically.

Even if you don't have time to read the full issue, I encourage you to click on the link, take in the artwork...consider reading an article that strikes you.

Unsung: Advocacy and protest songs written and produced by JJ students from around the country-

In October, hundreds of students from nearly 40 youth facilities across the country participated in Unsung, CEEAS's nationwide initiative that we sponsor as a part of Youth Justice Awareness Month. Last week we announced the Top 5 songs and dropped them on a Youtube. It's an incredible playlist. I encourage you to listen here:

Rethinking Juvenile Justice: A healing centered approach

Here's DC's Director of Youth Rehabilitation Services take on how to really invest in kids and to not just tinker with the apparatus of juvenile detention and incarceration. Clinton has been the Director in DC for 5+ years. The number of youth held at DC's youth facility for adjudicated teens was over 120 when we went out to start the Maya Academy 12 years ago, it was at 60 when I left 7 years ago; today the number is under 30. For those of you looking for a fresh. dignified, community-focused approach, this is a quick, short read.

Titan Tribune -- Student newspaper from our partner school in Dade County (Miami), Florida

Enjoy the latest edition of the Titan Tribune, a newspaper written by students at the Miami Youth Academy (MYA), the school located inside of the Dade County Juvenile Detention Center. As noted, the class and newspaper is a collaboration between MYA, Exchange for Change and Miami, and the Dade County Public Schools. Exchange for Change is a Miami non-profit that teaches writing classes in youth and adult detention facilities. Our friend and colleague Dan Wynne is the lead teacher at Miami Youth Academy; he supports the class and helps out with design and layout. Enjoy a great student newspaper here:

Ear Hustle Podcast, Last Episode of Season 4: Tell Christy I Love Her

This episode really hits home for me. It's hard to listen to, it's incredibly close up and violent. It feels like this could happen to any of our kids--in New Orleans, in DC, Chicago, and in so many cities where we are working.

It's also about redemption, understanding, and the power of restorative practices. Here it is:

Gimme Five: The XQs bi-weekly newsletter...

Every two weeks, XQ, shares an e-newsletter, Gimme Five, that has great content on a range of topics; it's limited to five articles, so it's easy to get through. I've included a link to the latest one here: One of this week's articles features Chris Emdin's keynote at the SXSW gathering. He really brings home the need to be culturally engaged with students, across all content areas (he's originally a math/science teacher). Here is the link to his keynote:

You can subscribe to the XQ newsletter and keep up with their work by clicking here: