Home News Center YJLI Fellow Terrence Wilson Coordinating Multi-System Partnership for Students in Georgia

YJLI Fellow Terrence Wilson Coordinating Multi-System Partnership for Students in Georgia

August 14, 2018
Josh Gordon

Terrence Wilson is a 2017-18 fellow in NJJN's Youth Justice Leadership Institute (YJLI), a year-long program that clears a broad path for people of color to lead us toward justice system reform. YJLI seeks to elevate the leadership of people of color who know how to transform the oppressive systems harming communities of color.

Terrence Wilson is currently a staff attorney at the Georgia Appleseed Center for Law and Justice in Atlanta, Georgia. Prior to joining Georgia Appleseed, Terrence worked in a variety of areas including political campaigning, legislative affairs, local government, and civil rights law and policy. He brings a passion for juvenile justice and a desire to use public policy and legislative advocacy to improve the lives of Georgia’s children.

We spoke with Terrence about his background and advocacy project.

What got you into youth justice reform?
When I was a college student at UNC, one of the student groups had a project where they would take students from campus and volunteer to spend time with children being detained at one of the nearby juvenile detention facilities. The many conversations that I had with those young people taught me valuable lessons about a juvenile (in)justice system that left them feeling unempowered and less valuable than their peers. I then decided not only to go get a law degree to advocate on behalf of children like them, but to also work on systemic reform so that fewer kids will ever get caught up in the system at all.

Tell us about your advocacy project.
Throughout my conversations with detained youth, I often heard them say that most of the challenges that they were facing arose out of offenses that happened at school. Like countless other kids across the country, our school systems often target and punish kids for normal adolescent behavior. This school practice was particularly frustrating for several of the juvenile court judges around the state who had to spend precious, little judicial resources handling cases that could have been handled at school. Thus, my project's goal is to coordinate a school justice partnership between the school, law enforcement, and the juvenile court in a county in Georgia that has one of the highest rates of school-based juvenile arrest, suspension, and expulsion. The goal is to produce a protocol that would mandate that the school try several interventions before sending the children to juvenile court.

What motivates you/keeps you going?
Unrelenting optimism. I have always been a cup half full type of person, but I have found that being an optimist is particularly challenging given today's climate of negativity. However, every day I make a conscious decision to believe that the work that I am engaged in will make a difference in the life of at least one child in the future. I also choose to maintain this optimism in the face of every challenge that I face. I've found that keeping this hope for the future helps me deal with struggles in the present.

What’s your dream youth justice goal?
I dream that we will create a system where children have the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them without the threat of being locked away in a cage away from their family and community support.

Terrence was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, and attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a Morehead-Cain Scholar. He graduated with Honors with a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology and a minor in Social and Economic Justice. He then attended the University of Georgia where he received his Juris Doctor and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration.

<- Go Back