Home News Center NJJN's COVID-19 Youth Justice Response Fund Grantee Spotlight: MN Coalition for Youth Justice

NJJN's COVID-19 Youth Justice Response Fund Grantee Spotlight: MN Coalition for Youth Justice

March 30, 2021

Legal Rights Center and MN Coalition for Youth Justice Covid19 Youth Justice Response Fund Grant Update

In May 2020, NJJN announced a new COVID-19 Youth Justice Response Fund to support advocacy toward the decarceration of youth correctional facilities in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic. Out of 40 applications, five organizations received 1-year 
grants to bolster their efforts to advocate for alternatives to institutional care and detention. We are pleased to report on the work of our grantees, this month highlighting the work of the Minnesota Coalition for Youth Justice. 

In response to COVID-19 the Minnesota Coalition for Youth Justice (the coalition) and the Legal Rights Center (LRC) have fought steadily to protect the public health rights of incarcerated youth in Minnesota. With grant support from the National Juvenile Justice Network’s COVID-19 Youth Justice Response Fund, LRC and the coalition have been building community power on the ground to push systemic changes that transform the way youth are treated by the justice system - including during a public health crisis.   

With NJJN support, a Youth Justice Organizing Fellowship was launched in the summer of 2020. Nine folks of color directly impacted by the justice system received social justice organizing training, held meetings with elected officials, and created narrative resources highlighting community needs over funding for prisons. Additionally, with NJJN support, LRC and the coalition worked with youth on a community resource mapping process to identify resources that young people currently utilize and those needed in their communities.   

One of the major concerns raised by the COVID-19 pandemic was the enactment of a blanket no-visitation policy in facilities licensed by Minnesota’s Department of Correction. Alongside its other advocacy work, LRC and the coalition successfully secured a reversal of that policy and have been pushing for the accelerated release of incarcerated youth. Calls for decarceration in light of the pandemic have strengthened broader efforts to review and stop all youth out-of-home placements in favor of community-based alternatives.   

For instance, the coalition’s advocacy sparked a county workgroup aimed at developing an intensive community-based alternative to youth correctional placements. And tragically, the death of an African-American teenager, Cornelius Fredricks, in a Michigan for-profit residential behavioral facility that housed some out-of-state youth from Hennepin County led to a local and state end to placements in that for-profit facility. 

LRC and the coalition plan to continue pushing for systematic review of youth in placements to continue to put pressure on decision-makers to keep youth safe.  

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