JJPL’s mission is to transform the juvenile justice system into one that builds on the strengths of young people, families and communities to ensure children are given the greatest opportunities to grow and thrive. Below is a list of our partners.
Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC) is a statewide membership-based organization that fights for a better life for all of Louisiana’s youth, especially those involved in or targeted by the juvenile justice system.As mothers and fathers, grandparents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles and allies we believe in and implement a model of organizing that is people and community centered, and is explicitly anti-racist.We engage in education, community building, and leadership development advocacy through strategically chosen goals in order to empower individuals, families and communities to transform currently oppressive systems and institutions into ones that uphold justice for our families, to build strong, powerful families and communities and to fight for justice for our children and ourselves. From the street level to the state level, from our meeting rooms to the state capitol, we are working to build a society based on the principles of racial justice, human rights, and full participation through our tireless fight for justice for youth. For this reason, we seek to build a truly democratic, multiracial organization whose membership reflects the communities we come from.We believe that we are the “experts” on what our communities need and that solidarity and collective action are our most powerful tools in our struggle for self-determination and justice for our children and families.
The history and capacity of YEP is the history of recent reforms in juvenile justice in Louisiana. With the leadership and vision of three former employees of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana (JJPL), YEP incorporated as a 501-c-3 nonprofit organization in June 2004. JJPL and the Southern Poverty Law Center provided the seed money and incubation assistance needed to launch YEP. As JJPL employees, YEP’s founders were instrumental in reforming Louisiana’s juvenile justice system from one that was centered on incarceration (as a result of private jail construction, political corruption, racism and the injustice of poverty) to one that focuses on rehabilitation and the development of quality, community-based programs. Louisiana now has legislation that commits the state to reduce its reliance on unjust incarceration and to develop community programs that are geared to treat, rehabilitate, educate, and care for Louisiana’s children. The passage of Act 1225, The Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2003, marked the beginning of Louisiana’s journey toward a more egalitarian and rehabilitative juvenile justice system. Since 2003, one youth prison has closed and as of June 2006, the number of incarcerated youth has dropped to 566 from a high of 1,900 in 1997.
Prior to the recent statewide juvenile justice reforms in Louisiana, the founders of YEP lost many of their youth clients. A staggering number of their clients were killed in the streets of New Orleans and many more, despite good intentions and strong motivation, recidivated into the adult criminal or juvenile justice systems. YEP’s founders were disheartened by the fate of their clients and felt that the absence of community support and appropriate community-based services for adjudicated youth were partially to blame. Identifying this gap in services in the City of New Orleans — YEP’s founders shifted their focus away from JJPL’s statewide mission and toward the creation of YEP — a culturally competent, community-based, positive youth development program that targeted the specific needs of court involved youth from New Orleans. YEP’s founders knew that youth could effect positive change in their lives if they received caring and meaningful support and appropriate re-entry services. YEP was created by integrating first-hand knowledge of the re-entry needs of youth offenders with evidence-based modalities from youth development programs that are considered best practices.There are no other programs in the city of New Orleans that provide holistic, wrap-around services to court-involved youth. YEP links youth with existing social services and community resources and it also provides in-house, culturally competent care that empowers youth and their families to advocate for themselves. YEP teaches youth and their families how to navigate legal, social service and greater community systems. It does this in part by collaborating with a wide range of local entities including the Orleans Parish Juvenile Court, various faith-based organizations, mentors, educational programs, job-training centers and counseling specialists.
Mission: To support juvenile indigent defense systems such that indigent juveniles are provided effective legal representation; to provide for the alleviation of unconstitutional conditions of confinement for juveniles; and, to assist in the development and expansion of rehabilitation efforts and alternative programs for juveniles.
About Us/ Our History:
JRS grew out of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The founders of JRS wanted to apply the lessons learned from rescuing children from the chaos of the collapsed post-Katrina Louisiana legal system. While adults languished in jail, many of the founders of JRS moved quickly to ensure the 150 children evacuated from detention centers in New Orleans had access to legal representation, access to the courts and access to their scattered families. Consequently, the children evacuated from detention in New Orleans saw their cases continue to move. All but one child were ostensibly represented by part-time employees hired by the Orleans Indigent Defense Program, the same program exposed by the New York Times in 1997 for doing little or nothing to represent clients, merely asking a client to pray prior to receiving a disposition to one of Louisiana’s harsh juvenile prisons. These state-appointed lawyers were the same public defenders discussed in two reports by the American Bar Association’s Juvenile Justice Center in 2000 and 2001 and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association in 2006 as part of a local and state system that left children systemically undefended, undermining our system of justice.
In his 1997 New York Times article chronicling the shortfalls of OPJC, journalist Fox Butterfield introduced the United States and the world to the Orleans juvenile public defender system. To illustrate the absurdity of public defender practice in OPJC at the time, Butterfield observed the public defender meeting his client for the first time just minutes before the youth’s trial began in the crowded courthouse waiting room. He was without an office of his own. The public defender did not “have a file cabinet, a telephone to contact defendants, or a clerk or secretary to help him draft motions or conduct investigations.” Butterfield went on to point out the public defender remained “largely silent” during the court proceedings. The “defense table was conspicuously bare: no case files, law books, or even the police report on the defendant, to use to challenge the prosecutor.”
Riding a wave of reform and outrage, the founders at JRS organized and formed a new public interest law office determined to change how young people and families are defended in Louisiana courts. In the fall of 2006, JRS incorporated and began working to change juvenile defense in Louisiana, beginning in Orleans Parish by contracting with the Orleans Public Defenders Office to represent youth and families in Orleans Parish. JRS now provides high quality, holistic and effective legal representation to court-involved youth and families in New Orleans. However, our chief mission is threefold:
Katrina and Rita revealed many ugly things about our state, but perhaps most ugly, the storms revealed how our justice system abandoned — literally — our children. The responsibility to defend the liberty of young people is not a private volunteer matter. It is the state of Louisiana’s lawful obligation. As we struggle to rebuild New Orleans and our state, let us take the opportunity to make sure Louisiana’s juvenile justice system is rebuilt with a defender system that defends our youth and helps build our families and community. We at JRS look forward to working with everyone who cares about our young people, our state and New Orleans to make this vision a reality.
Safe Streets/Strong Communities is a community-based organization that campaigns for a new criminal justice system in New Orleans, one that creates safe streets and strong communities for everyone, regardless of race or economic status.
Why: The public safety system in New Orleans was in crisis long before Hurricane Katrina devastated our city. The system cost tax payers millions of dollars every year while it failed to keep our citizens safe, leaving us vulnerable to crime and violence and with one of the highest murder rates in the nation.
Abuse and corruption within the New Orleans Police Department, inside the Orleans Parish Prison Complex and within our court system has been the source of litigation, protests, and national scandal.These broken systems have brought shame to our city and limited our ability to attract both old and new residents into our great city. They have stifled the economic growth and opportunity our city so desperately needs. In addition, over a quarter of New Orleans’ residents are funneled through this broken system every year, which often devastates families and destroys the fabric of our communities.
BreakOUT! fights the criminalization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth who are directly impacted by the criminal or juvenile justice system in New Orleans. We affect concrete policy changes to build a safer and more just New Orleans. We build on the rich cultural tradition of resistance in the South to build the power of LGBTQ youth through youth organizing, healing justice, and leadership development programs.