Advocacy groups form coalition to defend Alabama's Youth | News
More than a dozen advocacy groups from across the state have joined forces to renew a partnership – the Alabama Youth Justice Alliance (AYJA), formerly AYJC – dedicated to ending conditions that are cutting short the futures of countless young Alabamians every year, the groups announced today.
The alliance was formed to harness the power of these groups as they address these statewide issues. They will focus on matters ranging from harsh school policies that needlessly push children out of class and into the juvenile justice system to services provided to youth reentering the community from the custody of the Department of Youth Services.
The alliance will embark on a listening tour to determine what juvenile justice issues Alabamians believe should be addressed. It also will host workshops across the state to inform parents about their legal rights in school, the juvenile justice system and elsewhere.
“Many of Alabama’s children face daunting obstacles in their lives,” said Ebony Howard, a Southern Poverty Law Center juvenile justice policy expert and coordinator of AYJA. “Whether it’s poverty, education or a juvenile justice system that does little to get young lives back on track, there’s a desperate need for change across the state. That’s why we formed the Alabama Youth Justice Alliance.”
The alliance is concerned about schools using police officers to arrest students for typical adolescent misconduct – a practice that unnecessarily criminalizes students. It also will work to ensure children held in juvenile facilities are in a safe environment.
Addressing these issues is key to changing the dire landscape many Alabama children face. According to the 2012 Alabama Kids Count Data Book:
- Twenty-five percent of Alabama children live in poverty.
- Thirty-five percent of Alabama children never graduate from high school.
- Approximately 1,800 Alabama youths are held in juvenile detention or correctional facilities. Of these, about 800 are 10 to 15 years of age.
“It’s clear that many of Alabama’s children need help,” Howard said. “They need a real chance to grow up to be happy and healthy adults.”
Alliance members include:
- 100 Black Men of Greater Montgomery
- Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program
- Alabama New South Coalition–Montgomery Chapter Alabama New South Coalition–Birmingham Chapter
- Alabama Possible–From the Alabama Poverty Project
- Alabama Poverty Project
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Birmingham
- Birmingham Faith in Action
- The Children’s District
- Federation of Child Care Centers of Alabama
- Legal Aid Society of Birmingham
- National Alliance on Mental Illness of Alabama
- Southern Poverty Law Center
- VOICES for Alabama’s Children.
To learn more about AYJA, visit their website.
Source: Southern Poverty Law Center
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