Trump’s Assaults on Youth Justice

New report documents rollbacks on criminal justice reform

Washington, DC, October 10, 2018—Through its rhetoric and policies, the Trump Administration has rolled back recent criminal justice reforms and inflicted significant harm on communities of color, particularly young people. In a report released today—Unjustice: Overcoming Trump’s Rollbacks on Youth Justice—the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) calls on lawmakers to rethink divisive and dehumanizing approaches to enforcement and failed policies that criminalize communities of color and young people.

The report provides a fresh perspective on how the administration is harming young people by undermining recent criminal justice reforms in favor of an unproven “law-and-order” agenda. The many assaults on youth justice detailed in the paper include decreasing federal oversight of police, endorsing regressive punishment and sentencing, divesting in effective interventions, and promoting a cycle of incarceration.

“The Trump Administration has been unrelenting in its attacks on youth of color, including immigrants. Our report describes how Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, the U.S. Department of Justice, and others in the administration are creating policies that further marginalize young people of color,” said Olivia Golden, CLASP’s executive director. “Yet the report also offers hope, because state and local public officials and advocates are pushing back. It provides a clear framework for comprehensive policy strategies to dismantle racially biased policies that push youth into detention and incarceration. These strategies should include investments that improve the wellbeing of youth by increasing access to good jobs and postsecondary pathways.”

The Unjustice report offers youth, community advocates, and policymakers an anti-incarceration framework and reinvestment strategy, along with recommendations for actionable change in education, workforce development, health, and mental health—grounded in state and local practice and youth experience. The report also calls for an examination of state and local level investments and policies that can prevent youth of color from entering the juvenile or criminal justice system in the first place.

“As a nation, we must see the humanity in all of our young people who represent our present and future. That’s why it’s essential to reject cruel efforts that turn back the clock on civil rights and positive justice reforms and, instead, seize this important opportunity for change,” said Kisha Bird, report author and CLASP’s director of youth policy.

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The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) is a national, nonpartisan, anti-poverty organization advancing policy solutions that work for low-income people. With nearly 50 years of trusted expertise, a deeply knowledgeable staff, and a commitment to practical yet visionary approaches to opportunity for all, CLASP lifts up the voices of poor and low-income children, families, and individuals, equips advocates with strategies that work, and helps public officials put good ideas into practice. The organization’s solutions directly address the barriers that individuals and families face because of race, ethnicity, and immigration status, in addition to low income. For more information, visit and follow @CLASP_DC.