The Movement

Connecting CEEAS Staff to Social Justice Work around the US

September 15, 2019: Newsletter #1 (for the 2019-20 School Year)

Well, I'm not particularly proud to see that the last entry here was December, 2017. Oh well. As I wrote when I first started compiling and sending these a couple years ago, my goal in sending these out is to share articles with each of you, to help connect all of us to work going on around the country, in education, criminal and juvenile justice reform. These articles are not intended to be actionable. Reading is totally optional, for sure.

If you come across articles that you'd like me to share with others, feel free to send them my way, and I'll include them. I'm hoping to send out an update every two weeks. We'll see.


If you teach reading (which one way or another nearly all of us do), this article is worth a read--or at least a quick scan (it's long), or listen to. One thing's for sure, teaching kids to guess doesn't help them learn how to read--and we shouldn't be doing it! Reading this article reminded me of sitting and observing my dear friend Arthur Evenchick work with struggling readers for years at Maya Angelou. He'd first make sure to let students pick a book or article they wanted to read, almost no matter what the topic, then they'd start reading aloud. And along they way they'd be really struggling with how to sound out words, figuring how the letters fit together, to produce familiar sounds and words. He didn't shy away from context or inferring what words meant--but there was no skipping and guessing. Beautiful, hard work.

What Juvenile Justice Needs: Care Not Cages

Here's DC's Director of Youth Rehabilitation Services take on who 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.

A Flawed Approach to Juvenile Justice Here in New Orleans

This is a terrific article that is spot on. Written by a former investigator at the Public Defender Service here in New Orleans. Its is a clear, accurate portrayal of policies that run in the face of research and solid practices that result in safer, healthier communities.

In Pittsburgh...Well, it looks like there's a school similar to Travis Hill

"I actually feel like I'm outside instead of being in jail. Takes away the bars and all that." That's a quote from a student who attends, what looks to be a school similar to Travis Hill @ OJC--but it's in Pittsburgh. They, too, need to move these students to a youth facility (and will have to by the spring of 2021). But for now, it's good to hear about another school trying to do good work inside of an adult pre-trial facility.

Post publication, this article was criticized (rightly) for not even asking the question of why the students were in the jail at all. Sadly, no one asked the other question that seems right--since young adults up to the age of 21 are eligible to receive a free high school education in Pennsylvania, how come the school isn't also serving students aged 18-21.

A Tale of Two Cities--A Look at New York's Close to Home Initiative from the Eyes of a Milwaukee Advocated

In Wisconsin, as the state makes plans to close its long-term state facility (under intense pressure from advocacy community after long-standing practices including the use of pepper spay, solitary confinement, and other physical violence were exposed), Milwaukee residents are asking tough questions about what the reforms will really look like. Below are two articles highlighting the work that's been done in NYC over the last 5 years to reduce incarceration and keep NYC children 'close to home' and out of the update juvenile correctional facilities...

Ear Hustle Episode 31: Inside Music

New Orleans music lovers...This one's for you. Some great music, all from residents at San Quentin state prison in California.

December 28, 2017: Newsletter #6

Well, I'm terribly behind in getting this out. Given the long delay since the last one, I'm just going to highlight a handful of articles and/or podcasts that have come out recently. I'll note that this newsletter is less about Jj reform efforts and more about more general news from the field, plus interesting articles/podcasts highlighting some good stuff, but also reminding us of work to be done. Enjoy.

Ear Hustle: A Podcast from San Quentin

If you are looking for something really, really great to listen to over the break, download the Ear Hustle podcast onto your cell phone and check out the episodes from last year. Although at times sad and often maddening, they also offer a beautiful, funny, and candid look at life inside of San Quentin State Prison. Click here:

A Cell Block for Young Men Holds Promise: A Better Option for Incarcerated Teens and Young Adults

This article highlights a program in a Connecticut prison (that is going to be piloted in Massachusetts, as well) where teens and young adults up to 24 are housed in a separate unit--with incentives and educational/vocational options designed to support skill development and successful transition and re-engagement upon release.

At OJC, we are hoping to work with the Sheriff's Office to create a 'school tier' where the 18-21 year-olds we work with will be consolidated onto one tier. This is going to take some time, but if we can do it, we will then work aggressively to change the culture and punitive nature on that tier to look a feel something more akin to that portrayed in this article.

A Really Good Long-Term Plan for Louisiana's OJJ facilities: Close Them and Convert Them

As many of you know, in New York, years of advocacy led to a movement called Close To Home, under which young people adjudicated delinquent stopped getting sent 'upstate' to juvenile correctional facilities. Instead, nearly all of them stay in or around New York City, in smaller, safer, community-based facilities. We can make this happen in Louisiana, too. And when that happens, here's a blueprint on what to do with Swanson facilities (at Monroe and Columbia):

Project Nia: Restorative Justice and the End of Juvenile Incarceration...

Here is a great comic strip from Mariame Kaba (at Project Nia) that poses the question--what would our society look like if we abolished prisons? Project Nia (this link takes you to their facebook page because they are redoing their webpage), works primarily in Chicago, but also in other cities around the country to support community-based solutions to violence that don't rely on incarceration, particularly of young people. Just imagine New Orleans with the 1,500 people at locked up at at any given time at OJC and and the estimated 26,000 teens and young adults disengaged from school or work--all engaged productively, lovingly, creatively with and by the greater New Orleans community.

Locked In: Students in Dallas Youth Correctional Center Not Allowed Outside for Months

This article is yet another reminder of what happens when adults charged with caring for the well-being teens and young adults forget about who they are and look at them as less than human and less than their own. It is also a bitter punch to the gut for those of us who work with and interact with the 16 and 17 year olds held at OJC--where, there too teens can go months and months without getting outside.

Just In Case You're Interested: Coates and West in Jackson (Mississippi)

This article by Robin Kelly offers a short, readable analysis of the 'debate' between Cornell West and Ta-Nehsi Coates. Moreso, I think, it reminds us of the work that can be done (and is taking place in Jackson, Mississippi) to support, at multiple levels, the development of a fair and just community untangled from the overreaching and bigoted criminal and juvenile justice systems that do so much damage in a city like New Orleans (this movement is chronicled in The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi (2017)).

October 29, 2017: Newsletter #5

Quite a bit has come out over the last few weeks in the jj reform effort, much of it through investigative journalism in tandem with advocacy and litigation efforts. A number of the articles cited in this newsletter are deeply troubling--and remind us just how important it is to hold true to your values and beliefs about what is simply right and just. Plenty of good people start out working in jj facilities, but over time start to compromise and blame and resort to false beliefs that punitive disciplinary practices make schools and facilities safer, are necessary, and 'teach' students to behave--none of which are true.

We're Not Alone--Harnessing the Power of Art and Creativity in Juvenile Justice Settings

This article highlights efforts to integrate the arts and creative expression into schools and therapeutic programming inside of juvenile justice facilities around all around the country. Enjoy.

Fight Club: A Harrowing Series Chronicling Violence and Disregard for Teens In Florida JJ Facilities

These articles and videos are gut wrenching and difficult to take in. Christy, Kat and I have worked in a number of facilities in Florida. We have reported abuses and determined not to continue to work in some facilities; in others, we've tried to support good teachers and school leaders, encouraging them to be agents for change and decency in violent and dysfunctional systems. I encourage everyone to set aside some time to read and review this series.

Malcolm Jenkins: Arguing for Bail Reform

Malcolm Jenkins speaks out for bail reform, an issue that is, as most of you know, is need of major fix-up in New Orleans.

Piling On: Charging Youth In Illinois JJ Facilities as Adults

This article highlights, tragically, what happens when prosecutors and correctional officers team up to use the adult criminal justice system, instead of hard to implement, but sound and well-researched youth development practices to improve institutional culture and climate.

Shelby County Juvenile Detention Center: Trying to Overcome a Long Legacy of Injustice

This article chronicles the ongoing struggle in Shelby County, Tennessee, to reform its juvenile justice system. Much of this struggle rings true to our work at YSC and more broadly in the city.

Rise Up: Just in Case You Haven't Seen It and Want Some Inspiration...

Sit back, turn up the volume, and get ready--for these kids from Baltimore singing Andra Day's Rise Up.

October 7, 2017: Newsletter #4

I'm late in getting this one out. This newsletter includes articles highlighting some good news from the juvenile justice/education reform fields. I've also included some pieces that seem particularly relevant to the issues we face in New Orleans: too many teens tried as adults, way too-long sentences, failure to fully teach about local injustice and ongoing legacy of racism...

Teaching about Injustice in Chicago Public Schools and Beyond...

Here is a fascinating article highlighting how a settlement with the Chicago Police Department has lead to an agreement that schools in Chicago teach students about the notorious, rogue beatings handed out by the police over years--usually to the detriment of African American males. Teaching about injustice, doesn't need to be and shouldn't be limited to, long-ago history; at Travis Hill we should be talking about and learning from ongoing injustice--in New Orleans and elsewhere. Here, for example, is a curriculum built around the contested history of monuments in Charlottesville. I haven't seen a similar module built about the monuments of New Orleans, but would love for us to do so at Travis Hill--during the rights unit or otherwise.

Reducing the Numbers of Juvenile Offenders Sent to Long-term Facilities...

Here's Pew Charitable Trust's report on the success of Georgia, Utah, Kentucky...and other states in reducing the number of teens sent away to long-term post-adjudication facilities.

In this article, Washington Post summarizes of the latest data nationwide. Juvenile crime is down, along with rates of long-term post-adjudication confinement. After nearly a decade of declining rates of juvenile incarceration, the research is now very clear: sending youth who make mistakes--even those who commit serious crimes--away (incarcerating them) doesn't reduce crime or make our streets or cities safer. What does work? Investing in them, supporting them, making schools work for them.

End Life Without Parole for Juveniles, Cut Down the Long-term Plea Deals

Eric Alexander talks about accepting a 25 year plea deal in order to escape a life sentence--when he was just seventeen years old. Too many of our students also face untenable plea deals--and are agreeing to long-term sentences that don't fit remotely the crimes they are being charged with.

Pushing to End Solitary Confinement for Teens in Arkansas

This article highlights practices--of subjecting kids to long stays in their cells--in Arkansas, and sheds light on many of the advocates and reformers trying to bring the practice to light, and end it. We worked briefly in Arkansas back in 2012, until the agency's then director--who was attempting to reform the system--was forced out by providers who had (and still do) contracts to run the youth facilities around the state. After the director left, we cordially were not invited back...

Just to lighten it up...Here's Tank And The Bangas: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

In case you haven't seen's the totally 'wow, was that for real' Tank and the Bangas performance on NPR's Tiny Desk...

August 27, 2917: Newsletter #3

Some of this week's pieces are less about juvenile justice reform and look more broadly at issues related to race, social justice, and criminal justice reform. Two are longform articles, including the first, about Bryan Stevenson.

Bryan Stevenson and Facing our Legacy of Lynching

This is a deep, moving but hard to read piece--about lynching, sins, a longing to forget. But it also, largely, is about Bryan Stevenson and his work at EJI to make sure we don't hide from our past. Facing our Legacy of Lynching

Back to School After Charlottesville: Time to Disrupt....

This article, by a teacher in North Carolina, reminds us that we can, and must address current issues of race and inequity in our classrooms. What does it really mean to be a disruptive, anti-racist teacher, counselor, or school leader in a community, like Durham or New Orleans, that is rife with contradictions and day-to-day policies that promote racial and social injustice? In her words: "As educators, we should be laying the groundwork to build trust, understand foundational information and explicitly express anti-racist values from the first day of class..."

Back to School After Charlottesville-

150 Years is Long Enough: It's Time to Close the New Jersey Training School for Boys

This video highlights the work of advocates in New Jersey, pushing for the closure of the notorious Jamestown youth prison. Christy and I visited this site five years ago. It is heartless and cold, run by corrupt police and propped up by a complicit education staff. God, I hope it gets shut down. 150 Years is Long Enough

Rethinking How We Treat Violent Offenders

This article reminds us how powerful and dangerous labels can be--and offers as an example the distinction between 'violent' and 'nonviolent' offenders. In our work, both at OJC and YSC the words used to label our students (predators) and to describe events (any punch is an assault and every skirmish is a riot) have real impacts on students' lives. Rethinking How We Treat Violent Offenders

Let Prisoners Learn: Funding School for Incarcerated Adults

What's going to happen if lots of the residents held at OJC who are over 21 and not eligible for k-12 funding want to get an education? Somehow, we'll have to convince the courts, the City, the public at large that they are worthy of adult education funding. Here's a look how this is playing out positively in New York.

Let Prisoners Learn

August 13, 2017: Newsletter #2

It's been a few weeks.... Below are a few more articles that highlight news and ideas (mostly good) related to juvenile justice and education reform.

Ending Solitary Confinement for Juveniles-

The research is incredibly clear: solitary confinement doesn't result in safer, healthier facilities; it does lasting damage to young people who are subjected to it. It's got to stop, and around the country things are moving in the right direction. Ending this practice remains a challenge at OJC and to some degree at YSC. Marshall Project: Ending Solitary for Juveniles

Racial Disparities Work in South Dakota

Across the country--particularly in the northern plains and the southwest--Native American kids are locked up a at high rates, just as African American kids are unfairly pushed into the juvenile justice system in cities like New Orleans and DC. Here's a look at what some people are doing to address this in South Dakota.

Addressing Racial Disparities in South Dakota

Apprenticeships in New York City

We need to ban the box, we need to help the formerly incarcerated with training, support, transportation--there is plenty to do. At a basic level, we need companies, community groups, churches, nonprofits to open their arms and welcome folks home, as humans. Here's a where one New York City initiative is early on.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs-

Closing the Youth Camps in California

Many of you are aware of the mostly terrible conditions that confront youth in Louisiana who end up in the state's long-term youth facilities. As we advocate for better schools in the state's facilities, we should be considering another option: shutting them down entirely and keeping young people closer to home, in smaller, community-based facilities that are easier to monitor and hold accountable, and offer improved options for successful transition.

Could We Close all the Youth Camps in California?

July 17, 2017: Newsletter #1

A few people have asked that we do a better job of trying to help connect the work that we do every day--particularly down in New Orleans at the Travis Hill School and the soon-to-be named school at OJC--to the ongoing struggle for juvenile and criminal justice reform, and educational equity. I'm going to attempt to send out an update every couple weeks, highlighting articles that come my way. I will limit each weekly update to 5 or so articles; more than that and eyes might start to glaze over. If you see articles or if issues come up that you would like me to highlight, feel free to send me the links and I will include them if possible.

So, from the last couple weeks or so...

California: Mandating that kids who are locked up have access to the internet

Here's an interesting article about the California legislature's proposed bill to mandate that kids who are locked up have access to the internet. This would be a great precedent for states like Louisiana where it is nearly impossible for students in post-adjudication facilities to access technology.

Louisiana State Office of Education wants to hold the schools in its long-term jj facilities accountable--We'll see!

Last year we helped write the law, ACT 500, that led to this new attempt to establish some basic standards for the schools in the long-term, post-adjudication facilities here in Louisiana. This article summarizes the regulations and highlights the ongoing challenges of doing this right.

Rethinking Transition: Develop Agency and Sense of Self-Worth

The author argues that employers and agencies crafting re-entry programs should focus on understanding and developing a sense of agency in men and women coming out of prison--and not merely teach them over and over how to be good employees. I agree.

Breaking the Silence: Ethan Ashley Confronts the Silence Around 37 Teens Who Have Been Shot in New Orleans This Year

Ethan Ashley, Orleans Parish School Board member, who will be at Travis Hill on August 31st as our Read-Aloud guest, says too many young people in New Orleans are getting shot and not enough people are outraged. He's right.

Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls Childhood

A very hard (disturbing) study that offers some explanations as to why so many more black girls compared to white girls end up in the juvenile justice system.

What does the Supreme Court's ruling restricting Juvenile Life really mean?

This article--particularly relevant as we think about our upcoming trip to Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama--looks at how state courts have twisted the US Supreme Court's opinion and managed to keep sending kids away for