Friday, May 8, 2009

Youth PROMISE Action Day - Report from DC

(Guest blog from the Youth PROMISE group on Facebook.)

WASHINGTON – A broad coalition of civil rights, religious and juvenile justice groups called on Congress to pass H.R. 1064, the Youth PROMISE Act, a bill that would use proven prevention and intervention strategies to curb youth violence.

This bipartisan legislation would promote local youth violence prevention strategies by establishing Promise Coordinating Councils that include a broad range of representatives from law enforcement, community organizations, schools, health, social services and mental health providers. The councils would generate comprehensive community-centered strategies to help young people live safe and healthy lives, free from gangs, delinquency and violence. Representative Robert Scott (D-VA, pictured above with activist Jessica Carla) and Michael Castle (R-DE) sponsored the Youth Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support and Education Act.

The Youth PROMISE Act, was the centerpiece of a 24-hour online and off line Youth Advocacy Day that started with an evening film screening of a movie on gang life, “Crips and Bloods: Made in America,” followed a morning forum; and ended with phone calls and emails to lawmakers as well as congressional lobby visits. During the forum, advocates received last minute inspiration from a list of speakers that included Representative Robert Scott (D-VA), Sheriff Gabe Morgan, the City of Newport News, producers of the Made in America film Cash Warren and Baron Davis, Los Angeles Councilmember Tony Cardenas and Khalid Samad of Peace in the Hood.

As part of the Youth Advocacy Day, representatives from this ideologically diverse coalition issued the following statements:

“We have to reach young people before they become involved in a cycle of violence,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “The Youth PROMISE Act is an ounce of prevention and intervention for communities at risk of gangs, delinquency and crime. This legislation recognizes that for young people to lead productive lives they belong in schools, not prisons."

"It is morally and fiscally responsible to do all we can as citizens, elected officials, policy makers, mentors, teachers, artists and athletes to intervene in and prevent gang violence and juvenile crime by providing options and support for the most vulnerable and at-risk youth in our communities,” said Beto "Boneco" Simas, Founder and Executive Director of ALMA Vida Foundation. “The YPA creates a unique framework that will address the specific needs of a community. This legislation is not a band-aid, it is a long term solution to a fundamental crisis in our cities. We must care for our youth, show them direction, and give them the opportunity to succeed."

“We are calling on Congress to reduce our country’s over-reliance on incarceration and prosecution of children in adult court as a response to juvenile crime and instead promote more effective approaches that will help our youth become successful and productive adults,” says Liz Ryan, President & CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ). “The Youth Promise Act will help communities to increase positive supports for youth, reduce crime and keep our young people out of adult jails and prisons.”

“CJJ’s nationwide membership believes that we have spent an inordinate amount of public dollars on interdiction and incarceration practices that splinter families and communities and relegate young people to long prison sentences and a lifetime of barriers to education and employment, said Tara Andrews, Deputy Executive Director for Policy & Programs. "The balance of federal funding should focus on family-engaged and community-connected prevention and rehabilitation programs that have been shown to yield healthier and longer-lasting outcomes for everyone involved. That is why CJJ supports the PROMISE approach.”

“NCLR supports the Youth Promise Act as a step in the right direction for addressing the root causes of crime and violence in a manner which is least expensive and most effective,” said Cassandra Villanueva, Legislative Analyst, Criminal and Juvenile Justice Policy of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR).

“The Youth Promise Act is common-sense legislation based on research about what works with youth in conflict with the law to help them become productive citizens,” said Sarah Bryer, Director of the National Juvenile Justice Network. “The Act incorporates community engagement, a youth development approach and adequate resources so that communities in need can respond effectively and appropriately to crime problems in their jurisdictions.”

“Voices for America’s Children demands new approaches to combating youth crime and violence,” said Bill Bentley, President and CEO of Voices for America’s Children. “We want to promise our children that we’ll give them the best possible start, and that’s why we support the Youth PROMISE Act.”

"The Youth PROMISE Act provides an effective approach to addressing the complex issues of youth crime and violence,” said Joseph Mettimano, Vice President of Advocacy of World Vision. “Supporting vulnerable youth with programs designed to reduce the risk of delinquency will help steer them away from a life of crime and toward a productive future."

To add your own voice in support of H.R. 1064 - the Youth PROMISE act - go to to learn more about the legislation and send letters to your Representative and Senators.


  1. Great idea. We spend too much on prisons. Prevention saves money and lives.

  2. Congratulations to everyone involved in this effort. Let's keep it moving so it won't be just too little too late for too many.