A Timely Report: National Human Services Assembly’s Roadmap for Reforming Youth Justice

    by Jeff Fleischer, Youth Advocate Programs CEO/National Human Services Assembly Chair

    The National Human Services Assembly (NHSA), in light of the George Floyd killing and the Covid 19 pandemic, is re-releasing our 2017 publication; Beyond Bars: Keeping Young People Safe at Home and Out of Youth Prisons, a roadmap for reform that calls on state and local policymakers, juvenile justice administrators, police and judges to end the practice of youth incarceration and instead invest in community-based alternatives. 

    This report is more relevant today, than ever before, as policy makers and legislatures are looking to develop alternatives to policing, probation, youth detention, youth prison and parole.

    Community safety should be defined by more than law enforcement and carrots and sticks; it’s about all the things that characterize safe neighborhoods, like access to good schools and jobs, opportunities to learn, grow, develop and play in safe environments.

     The array of services available to justice-involved young people should exist at every point in the justice system, from an alternative to arrest to an alternative to out-of-home placement and aftercare that can hasten return home from a placement.  

    Learn more in this roadmap for reform from the National Human Services Assembly.

    Beyond Bars advocates for communities and systems to close youth prisons by developing a vast array of services and supports that can hold youth accountable in the community while also meeting their needs and building on strengths. It offers a blueprint for systems and communities to establish guiding principles, core services and an organizing tool to shift from a facility-based juvenile justice system to a community-based youth justice system.

    Some of guiding principles include focusing on need and not slots; building on restoring a sense of relatedness by building on strengths, competency and autonomy; asset mapping communities that are often characterized only by their deficits, and; implementing culturally competent programs. While every community is different, the report also focuses on core services that should comprise the bedrock of any continuum of care, along with key strategies to create a robust array of community support and services for young people in need.

    The NHSA calls upon the human service sector to develop alternative community based systems and programs and to use Beyond Bars as a guide. Click here to read Beyond Bars: Keeping Young People Safe at Home and Out of Youth Prisons.