March is Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing
The overwhelming compassion and participation of our inter-faith leaders has presented us with the opportunity to expand our efforts of raising awareness and the call to action of our collective faith communities into a month long event. This change has evolved because of the interest expressed by a growing number of faith communities as well as academic institutions both secondary and collegiate, to give voice to the voiceless children caught within the web of the criminal justice system and the sweeping effect on the community at large.
This month long event will manifest in more speaking engagements, broader public outreach, and the ability to deepen our overall understanding of the issues and work toward developing a stronger network of community support for our children.
What is Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing?
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Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing is an annual event that unites congregations of all faith traditions, high schools and universities in California to raise awareness of individual, community, and social needs arising from the current juvenile justice system. The month is a time to open our hearts and minds through prayer, education, service, and advocacy. The events through the month will initiate a dialogue between offenders, victims, and the community regarding the causes of crime and will suggest structures needed to prevent youth from becoming engaged in the cycle of violence. The long term goal of Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing is to offer young offenders hope and alternatives to a lifetime as a hardened criminal, while society implements more fully the principles of restorative justice.
Participate in Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing with your prayers, service, and/or action at your place of worship, school or university.
Why is Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing Necessary?
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In California, over 230,000 juveniles are arrested each year…over 600 youth each day. Fifteen thousand California youth are detained in juvenile correction facilities. Most of these youth are victims of abuse; have suffered neglected childhoods; have not benefited from educational opportunities, and have most likely witnessed violence inflicted on a family member or someone in their community. Every support system has failed them and they are wounded psychologically and emotionally. Many turn to substance abuse and replicate the violence they have experienced and observed in their fragile lives. Each child entering the juvenile justice system is not an isolated individual, but a member of our community. Their actions and the community’s response has an economic, social, and human cost that Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing attempts to address.
Moral Impact: To allow youth to be incarcerated for decades of their life denies their human dignity. Medical and psychological research affirms youth are not mature adults emotionally. Punitive, long term sentences fail to acknowledge their ability to mature, mold positive character traits, become repentant and ask for forgiveness, and move beyond selfish behavior to see the interconnectedness of working for the common good in society. The ethnic and racially diverse interfaith coalition supporting Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing represents the affirmation of the human dignity of each member of society.
Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing seeks to raise awareness of the plight of victims of crime and juvenile offenders, to support their families, and acknowledges that they are all children of God. Through education, advocacy, and direct service projects, participating religious congregations, high schools and universities will take leadership roles to stop the cycle of pain and hurt in our communities with a restorative model of justice. However, we all have a stake in this restorative justice model which allows forgiveness and the healing of broken relationships. Only then can the pain of offender, victim, and community be transformed into a collective spirit of hope.
Economic Impact: The annual cost to incarcerate a youth in a state facility in California is $252,000. If that youth were involved in a youth crime prevention program it would only cost $1300 annually. But less than one percent of Los Angeles’ law enforcement budget is directed to community-based programs that work to minimize juvenile crime. Furthermore, seventy percent of adult inmates were once juvenile offenders. In the long term, reducing juvenile crime would reduce adult prison populations and thereby decrease budget appropriations.
Social Impact: The social cost of juvenile crime impacts all members of the community. The funds needed to incarcerate youth reduces funding for education, mental health services, and housing which further reduces the social network that supports youth. Juvenile crime creates a social culture of brokenness in communities. Offenders may live in hopelessness, with sentences lasting decades or even life without parole. Youth sentenced to life in prison have limited educational options and may not have access to mental health or substance abuse services. Victims live with a sense of violation and betrayal that cultivates fear. The community becomes divided, taking sides on racial or economic demographics. Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing attempts to interconnect the offender, the victim, and the community.
To request a speaker for your JJWFH event email Javier Stauring at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Documentation that will help you explain the juvenile justice system
Prayers and Reflections