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NJJN Wrapped! 2022 Staff Highlights

December 22, 2022

NJJN Wrapped

Alyson Clements, Co-Executive Director:

Since no one wants to see my Spotify/Apple year in review (Children’s artist Raffi topped my list with his catchy tune “Apples and Bananas” claiming my most played song), I thought I’d share my top three NJJN moments instead.  

#3 ROAD TRIPPIN’:  You know it is a good event, when it makes work feel like a vacation.  During this years’ Forum, we got to go on a virtual road trip to hear from regional leaders making waves in California, Missouri, Massachusetts, and Texas.  I loved “traveling” to hear the unique voices of advocates all over the country!

#2 YJAM: It was a joy getting to support young leaders across the country as they spoke truth to power during Youth Justice Action Month. Learn more about our leaders and check out their Action Agenda to see how you can advance their vision in your state.

#1 YOU: My favorite moments were all the times I celebrated YOU, our members, as you changed the landscape of youth justice.  From Louisiana limiting the use of solitary confinement to Maryland establishing a minimum age of prosecution of 13, know I was cheering you on as you worked against the tide to transform our systems’ responses to children.

As advocates, I know how easy it is to fast forward to 2023 and continue the push for transformation, but I hope you can take a quick moment (and deep breath!) to reflect on all the ways you have strengthened our collective movement. Know I’ll be turning Raffi up real loud and having a dance party in celebration of you all this holiday season.

Tracey's HighlightsTracey Tucker, Co-Executive Director:

As a new executive director and a 2015 alumna of the Youth Justice Leadership Institute, I am proud of the investment NJJN continues to make in the development of leaders of color working in the field of youth justice. Our 2021 cohort completed the program in June 2022, adding nine alumni to our growing network of close to 100 graduates of the program working to dismantle the legal system and support youth development across the country.  

This year welcomes eight new amazing advocates to the Youth Justice Leadership Institute who, through their projects, are expanding the ways in which we define youth justice. We held our Fall retreat in person for the first time since 2019 and convened in Washington, DC, to explore our values and the purpose behind our work to dismantle the systems that detrimentally keep our children and families in bondage. 

As we move into 2023,  I look forward to exploring the ways NJJN can increase the number of  BIPOC-led organizations in our network and provide support through NJJN's foundations of networking, advocacy, and leadership.  I also embrace new opportunities to explore with our membership the ways in which connection, self-reflection, and restoration can lead to the liberation of those of us most impacted by these systems. 

Melissa's HighlightsMelissa C. Goemann, Senior Policy Counsel: 

We know that the lived experiences of impacted young people must be centered in our work on youth justice. I’m excited by NJJN’s growth this year in working with young people to help lift up their voices on youth justice issues. In developing our policy platform on mapping school transformation, which we are preparing for release next month, we held focus groups led by our summer Youth Policy Consultant, Jorren Biggs, and individual interviews with many young people that helped to guide our work. In addition, youth advocates with two of our members - the Texas Center for Justice and Equity and the Arts for Healing and Justice Network in California, developed powerful Forum workshops on school environments which helped inform our platform on what is needed to help students to thrive.

Our work with young people was capped off by the leadership role of many young people in Youth Justice Action Month (YJAM) events, including NJJN’s work with a group of Young Justice Leaders from across the country with expertise and lived experience in the youth justice system. Led by our Co-Executive Director Alyson Clements, we coalesced this group of amazing young people to develop a policy platform consisting of recommendations to transform the youth justice system. The Young Justice Leaders then came to Washington, DC, this October and discussed their experiences and presented their recommendations to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in two very powerful meetings with these groups.

I’m excited by the work we have done together with young people this year and look forward to building on this work in the future.

Courtney's HighlightsCourtney M. McSwain, Director of Communications: 

This year, my highlight was the start of NJJN’s Narrative Change Working Group! NJJN’s Narrative Change Working Group was created as an incubator for narrative organizing - defined by Narrative Initiative as “the deliberate practice of bringing together people and organizations to support a shared narrative goal.”

The need for a Narrative Change Working Group became clear as the year began with several NJJN members in places like Louisiana and New York working double time to save previously won youth justice policy advances that came under messaging attack. We saw how critical  policy wins became vulnerable to narrative sea changes and we witnessed negative stereotypes about Black and Brown youth gaining traction in media coverage, particularly as the national election loomed and some candidates clung to draconian law and order narratives to stoke public fear. Such realities highlighted the need to build narrative power within our network. 

Our Narrative Change Working Group set the foundation for long-term narrative organizing so that we can proactively advance our vision of what justice truly looks like, while also strengthening our rapid response to harmful narratives as they arise in the media. We began the process of narrative mapping to develop a shared narrative goal. We also established a peer messaging support practice whereby members and our national network partners offered feedback for immediate messaging challenges during our meetings.

I’m looking forward to next year, when our Narrative Change Working Group will focus on: 

  1. Offering regionally targeted narrative mapping sessions to engage even more members and youth advocates; 

  2. Establishing a shared youth justice narrative goal that our network can collectively advance;  

  3. Continuing peer messaging support, especially in the first part of the year when many of our members will be heavily engaged in their state’s legislative sessions; and 

  4. Providing skills sessions to help our network build stronger capacity for narrative rapid response and long-term narrative organizing.

Nadine's HighlightsNadine You, Office Manager:

I have been excited to work on NJJN’s new website that will be launched in the first quarter of 2023. I am looking forward to launching this new site and receiving feedback from members and others on its design and functionality.

I was very excited to take part in NJJN’s Forum Road Trip and Youth Justice Action Month. Our members and young people did a fantastic job of vocalizing the changes that need to be made in our criminal justice system and  how detrimental School Resource Officers are to the growth of young people in school. I feel a momentum growing and look forward to more action in 2023 with the support of OJJDP.

Anayce's HighlightsAnayce Cody, MSW Intern: 

In the few months I've been at NJJN I've learned a lot, regarding policies with the youth legal system and how we hope to reform it. It's taught me so much about social policy and made me eager to learn more about the effects these policies have on youth today. I've also realized how important it is to talk to the target group of people these policies can be impacting, in order to know the best ways they should be reformed. I cannot wait to see what NJJN accomplishes next year, and what I will be able to learn and contribute to as well!

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