Unjustice: Overcoming Trump’s Rollbacks on Youth Justice

The Trump Administration’s youth justice abuses and rollbacks merit a new term: Unjustice. We define Unjustice as a return to past policies and behaviors that deemed some members of society unworthy of fair, equal treatment under the law. It’s a horrific reminder of the power and authority unjustly wielded against communities of color by law enforcement. It’s unraveling criminal justice reform progress in many states and communities.

This brief provides an analysis of selected United States Department of Justice policies and actions that have negative implications on youth and young adults of color. We consider the decision-making points that can affect young people of color and focus on the following “unjustice” areas:

  • Promising police reform strategies under threat;
  • Reversing progress in strategic prosecutorial choices; and
  • Criminalizing youth culture and youth of color.

The brief also offers youth, community advocates, and policymakers with an anti-incarceration framework that can be used to combat harmful law-and-order policies; and a set of initial civic engagement actions to take.

Advocates and policymakers must be intentional about pushing for actionable changes within the current system while at the same time working to abolish racially biased policies and reconstructing a new vision of justice for youth. CLASP believes policy strategies that envision supports for work, education, health, and mental health are critical for dismantling structural barriers that push youth of color out of school and into detention and incarceration.

We must examine state and local level investments and policies can prevent youth of color from entering the juvenile or criminal justice system in the first place and how policies can better support youth during and after detention, placement, and/or incarceration. We are at an important moment with an opportunity for change. These times call us to rebuild a vision created with youth in the pursuit of safety, well-being, and economic and racial justice.

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