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YJLI Feature Candace Johnson

May 10, 2017

NJJN Fellow Candace Johnson Creates a Guide to Ensure Students’ Learning Isn’t Disrupted when They are Confined

Recently, we spoke with Candace Johnson, who is a 2016-2017 fellow in NJJN's
Youth Justice Leadership Institute (YJLI), a year-long program that aims to create a more effective foundation for the juvenile justice reform movement by developing a strong base of well-prepared advocates and organizers who reflect the communities most affected by juvenile justice system practices and policies.

Candace Johnson is a native of St. Louis, Missouri. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where she majored in Criminal Justice and minored in African American Studies. Candace is currently a third year law student at Washington University in St. Louis. Before law school, she worked as a relationship manager at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri. During her second year of law school, Candace strengthened her commitment to juvenile justice reform while working in the Juvenile Law and Justice clinic at her law school. Candace also works as a Marshall Brennan fellow, where she teaches constitutional law to students at a St. Louis City High School.

Tell us about your advocacy project:
For my project, I am creating a guide to assist juvenile detention centers with gathering school work for youth that are detained. My interest in this project stems from my previous work with youth. While working in the Juvenile Justice clinic during my second year of law school, I noticed that gathering missing school work was not a part of the detention center's intake process. Thus, detained youth often missed important work, and found themselves falling behind in school. Falling behind can cause extreme frustration for kids and often leads to them skipping or misbehaving in school.

How do you envision building on this work?:
Eventually, I would like the manual to become a streamlined process. I would like obtaining a child's school work to be a normal part of the intake process at the detention centers. Further, I would like students to have access to tutors, so that they can stay current on school work. If the goal of detention is rehabilitation, it is counter productive for juvenile detention centers to cause a child to fall behind on their studies.

What motivated you to apply to the Institute?:

When I heard of the fellowship, I was in the Juvenile Justice clinic at my law school. While in the clinic, I helped to represent youth who faced many injustices as they worked their way through the juvenile systems. This clinic was the best thing I had done in law school, and my time working in the clinic was coming to an end. I wanted to continue working on juvenile justice reforms and thought the institute would be a good avenue to do so.

Whose work to make broad social change do you most admire? Why?:
Bryan Stevenson and Mae Quinn (I can't pick just one). Bryan is a complete trailblazer and I admire his eagerness to challenge broken systems,even when the world doesn't see them as broken. I also appreciate his concurrent tackling of many issues such as prison reform and youth incarceration.

Mae is a consistent force for youth. I admire her ability to go against the grain when it is necessary for bring change. Her work on juvenile justice reform inspired me to go to law school, and the opportunity to participate in her clinic is why I ultimately chose Washington University. Beyond her direct work, I admire Mae's investment in the next generation of reformers.

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