Friday, September 26, 2014

How Committed Are We?

By Kathleen Kelley
JPI Intern

Maybe it was the location or my personal perspective being a first timer on the Hill, but Rep. Tony Cardenas opening remarks for
the Building Safe and Strong Communities: A Conversation about Community-Based Alternatives for Juvenile Justice-Involved Youth Congressional Briefing really resonated with me.  His words were powerful and passionate.

He was addressing the gathering of policy makers, advocates, lawyers, and other juvenile
justice related professionals that filled the seats, but yet Rep. Cardenas was also reaching out to the whole Hill, the others beyond the room.  He asked just how committed are we?  Are we as committed as Martin Luther King Jr. who marched on Washington with thousands of committed individuals?  He expressed the dire need for truly committed individuals to express their commitment strongly with the issue of the incarceration of juveniles and the overrepresentation of minority youth, especially African-American youth. 

Rep. Cardenas makes an excellent point, but as I enter the public policy sector of criminal justice and especially of public policy, I see the march being made.  The current group of extremely passionate and driven individuals making that march is very much present and devoted.  Good examples are the very panelists that were introduced by Rep.Cardenas. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

It’s Time for Pell Grant Justice

This Just Policy Blog re-post was originally featured on the website of the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings.

Picture this. Rodney, an 18-year-old who was adjudicated delinquent in the spring, is being held in a secure care facility where he will likely stay for another three to six months while
he completes his rehabilitative program.
 He just passed the new GED and hopes to start taking online courses from his local community college. His facility just implemented a new policy that enables him to have secure Internet access. Rodney is interested in technology and wants to take Introduction to Coding along with English 101. His initial plans are to get an associate’s degree and accumulate a number of programming badges.*
There’s one big problem: he can’t afford the tuition, and both the counselor at his school and the financial aid officer at the community college are telling him he doesn’t qualify for a Pell Grant. It is their understanding that under federal law, criminals who are serving sentences don’t qualify for Pell Grants. No one seems to listen to Rodney when he keeps saying, “I’m not a criminal. I made a big mistake, and I want to get back into school now so I don’t fall further behind.”
So, instead of taking those two post-secondary courses, Rodney is slated to spend his days working on the facility’s grounds and sitting in high school classes that he doesn’t need to graduate, that don’t offer him any credits, and that aren’t in the field he is interested in. When he gets released later this year, mid-semester, he will be jobless and not enrolled in a postsecondary program. He will have to keep himself busy while starting the college application and financial aid process all over again. The odds are that a young man like Rodney won’t take those steps on his own, and that his education will end with his GED.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

JPI is On the Air!

By Tony Mastria

We have landed in the pod-o-sphere! JPI is excited to announce the creation of its brand new podcast, available now on iTunes and Podbean. Listen, download, and subscribe to stay informed on the latest and best news in justice reform.

Tune in to our inaugural episode to hear the first in our Incarceration Generation series. In honor of Incarceration Generation's first anniversary, we will be interviewing the authors who made this compilation possible, including researchers, advocates, community members, and other individuals in the justice field.

In this episode, we talk with Alex Friedmann, managing editor of Prison Legal News, to discuss private prisons and the role they play in the American justice system.