CBPR Institute 2013

Home » Families Unlocking Futures: Solutions to the Crisis in Juvenile Justice

Families Unlocking Futures: Solutions to the Crisis in Juvenile Justice



Crisis in Juvenile Justice, the first-of-its kind analysis that details how the juvenile justice system does more to feed the nation’s vast prison system than to deter or redirect young people from system involvement; and demonstrates the incredible damage the system causes to families and communities.We collected over 1,000 surveys with parents and family members of incarcerated youth and conducted 24 focus groups nationwide. We reviewed hundreds of news articles in order to understand the way in which families are portrayed, and the material impacts this portrayal has on families and family engagement. Finally, we sought working models and case studies that provide promising new directions for a transformed system. the report: presents a body of data that has never been captured or examined before; aims to correct misperceptions about system-involved youth and their families; demonstrates the need for families’ active participation in redesigning juvenile justice systems; and uncovers crucial flaws in the system that burden, alienate and exclude families from the treatment of system-involved youth. While detailing how the rapid growth of the prison system, zero-tolerance policies, and aggressive police tactics, coupled with the decline of social services and public education have wreaked havoc on low-income communities and communities of color, the report also puts forth viable, proven solutions and offers a Blueprint for Youth Justice Transformation. The research methods used in this report not only recognize the expertise of families, it engaged them directly in all aspects of the research process. By orientation, our research approach privileged the engagement of those who are directly impacted by an issue or policy to determine how the given issue is studied. As a transformative research agenda, it challenges structural inequalities in knowledge production and access to information, and seeks to center community knowledge and leadership in movements for social change. We call this Research Justice. Together with families wedeveloped the research design, tools, data collection processes and analysis. Utilizing a participatory action research model, informed by a research justice approach, the Justice for Families research team sought to analyze the experiences of families confronting the juvenile justice system, the impacts of the juvenile justice system on families and communities, and the vision for change held by families. We welcome you to join us for a case study around this research justice project, and lively discussion around the theory and practice of ‘research justice’ and CBPR.



Christine Schweidler



Zachary Norris

Justice for Families


Tanisha Denard

Youth Justice Coalition



Christine Schweidler – A long time practitioner and advocate of research by and for grassroots-led movements for social justice, Christine Schweidler works to support social justice advocacy through community-driven participatory research and popular education. She has collaborated on a broad range of community based research projects across areas including public health, workers’ rights, urban peace and criminal justice, and housing rights. Prior to joining DataCenter, Chris directed research at Healthy City, a program of Los Angeles-based civil rights nonprofit, the Advancement Project. At Advancement Project, she helped develop and launch the Community Research Lab, a program that partners with community-based organizations in order to advance their advocacy and strategic goals through the use of research, maps, and digital media. Chris received an MA in History and Sociology of Science from UPenn and an MPH in epidemiology from UC Berkeley, and has published on access to knowledge from a human rights perspective.


Zachary Norris is an attorney from Oakland, California, a former Soros Justice Fellow, and former director of Books Not Bars, a campaign of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. For seven years, he worked to build California’s first statewide network for families of incarcerated youth. The campaign contributed to efforts to close five youth prisons in the state, passed legislation to enable families to stay in contact with their loved ones and defeated Prop 6 — one of the state’s most destructive and ineffective ballot measures. He attended the Labor Community Strategy Center’s National School for Strategic Organizing in Los Angeles, California, is a former board member at Witness for Peace as well as Just Cause Oakland, and is a graduate of Harvard University and New York University School of Law.


Tanisha Denard is from Los Angeles California and has been involved in the juvenile justice system. She was a lead contributor to the Families Unlocking Futures Report. She helped design and lead focus group sessions as well as collect surveys in Los Angeles. She also convened with about a dozen other family members in Baltimore, MD to analyze report finding from over 1,000 surveys and two dozen focus groups from across the country. Tanisha has been engaged in campaigns to end the solitary confinement of youth as well as other Youth Justice Coalition campaigns such as their 1% campaign to reinvest 1% of dollars spent on police, probation and prisons in Los Angeles county toward employment, educational, and recreational opportunities for youth. In her capacity at Youth Justice Coalition, Tanisha has been engaged in legislative advocacy, media advocacy, participatory research and community organizing.


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