Juvenile Justice Panel

Panelists from D.C. Lawyers for Youth, Alex Peerman, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Tanya Washington, and Moderator Professor Claire Griggs

Sophomore year in the Leadership Program I focused on the transfer of juveniles into adult facilities and how it’s detrimental to the health and well-being of youths. I could not fathom that states such as Florida have mandates that allow youths to be tried as an adult and placed in an adult facilities. This type of policy does nothing to protect the community or rehabilitate the youth because they will be placed with hardened criminals who will abuse them physically, mentally, and sexually. The ACLU states that solitary confinement causes extreme psychological, physical, and developmental harm for adults – now for children this is magnified. In most cases to protect the youth from these abuses from other inmates, they are placed in solitary confinement for up to 22 hours a day. The state is basically sanctioning the harm and mental deterioration of juveniles because being placed in solitary confinement is preventing them from growing into healthy adults. Once these juveniles leave solitary confinement they will not be productive members of society and will become more harmful to themselves and their community.  

After researching on this human rights injustice occurring in the United States, I decided to organize an awareness event that discussed the problems and possible solutions within the juvenile justice system involving the inequalities in education with youths living in disadvantaged communities. I brought in two individuals from non-profits in D.C. The organizations that attended were the D.C. Lawyers for Youth and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. This event was different from other panels during that time because American University didn’t have events that focused on the rights of juveniles in the system. Organizing this event really taught me how important it is to persevere because I realized that I have the ability to advocate for disadvantaged communities because of the privilege I have been awarded throughout life. The obstacles that I faced in this year only made me stronger and smarter because it taught me how I could handle crises and adapt better in the future. Accomplishing this sophomore experience gave me more confidence in my abilities as a leader and demonstrated how much a difference a student can make. This experience shaped the rest of my trajectory at American because I found my passion.