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Listening to Experts – Real Experts

Since I started my career in juvenile justice more than 30 years ago, I’ve listened to many juvenile justice experts, researchers, agency directors and policy-makers and I’ve learned a lot.

However, during our Second Chance Month webinar on April 4, I learned much more listening to four young people who shared their experiences with the juvenile justice system and what it was like when they returned to their communities. It was hard, they said, it felt scary, there were a lot of unknowns and not many supports. It took courage, resilience, determination and inspiration from peers who were successful. They want and need opportunities to gather with peers who understand them, who have shared their experiences and who they can feel safe with.

I want to thank Amiyah, Derrell, Jaclyn and Stephen for sharing their stories, their traumas, their ideas and their dreams during the PbS webinar: Listening to the Experts: What Young People Tell Us They Need for Successful Reentry. I know from the dozens of comments and emails during and after the webinar that I can speak for the more than 400 people who tuned in when I say “thank you” for your authenticity, candor and patience. There is much work to be done to improve our juvenile justice system. We need your help and youth like you.

Despite challenging circumstances that led to their system-involvement and the subsequent collateral consequences that the involvement caused, these remarkable young people are thriving: they are leaders in national organizations, they mentor and support justice-involved peers and they have learned to take the challenges they face with grace. Each accepts the fact that they have to work harder than other young people to overcome the stigma of somehow being not as good as non-system involved young people. These extraordinary young adults have set very high expectations for themselves and have learned to accept their humanness when they don’t live up to every expectation.

They are passionate, talented and want to make a positive impact. They want justice leaders to pay more attention to young peoples’ trauma and mental health issues and provide more and better supports. They ask us to define reentry success to as making progress toward a goal, not perfection and give opportunities to show what they can do – it’s that simple.

Their list isn’t too long and our full attention to their requests is long overdue.

Read more about:  Second Chance Month, Webinars

About the author

Kim Godfrey Lovett

Kim Godfrey Lovett

Kim is the executive director of the PbS Learning Institute. Kim was hired when CJCA incorporated in 1994 and has worked since it's inception to create the PbS system of continuous improvement to help facilities and agencies raise the quality of life and better conditions of confinement in youth facilities nationwide. She earned two master’s degrees: in journalism (Northwestern University) and criminal justice (Northeastern University.) She worked as a newspaper reporter for seven years prior to joining CJCA.

PbS has been a partner in assisting this facility to become a dynamic work environment that is not satisfied with maintaining the status quo.