Amplifying Youth Voices on Criminal Justice

Amplifying Youth Voices on Criminal Justice

October 8, 2015 | Brett Myers, Senior Producer, Youth Radio - 2015 MJS Finalist

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For two decades, Youth Radio has worked with young people engaged in the juvenile justice system. From onsite programs at Camp Sweeney, a residential center for juvenile offenders, to six-month media training sessions for young men and women on probation, Youth Radio has worked directly with young people to train them in media production, identify pressing issues relevant to their lives, and help them tell their stories. 

For two decades, Youth Radio has worked with young people engaged in the juvenile justice system. From onsite programs at Camp Sweeney, a residential center for juvenile offenders, to six-month media training sessions for young men and women on probation, Youth Radio has worked directly with young people to train them in media production, identify pressing issues relevant to their lives, and help them tell their stories. 

Covering the juvenile justice system is challenging. Shining a light on the issues youth and their families face requires navigating the complexities of juvenile law. As a protection to young offenders, courtrooms are closed to the public and records are private, which makes it difficult for journalists to find sources and fact check stories. Youth Radio’s producers and reporters haunt juvenile halls, courtrooms, and legal circles, building networks and penetrating bureaucracy to tell the personal stories of young people and their families.  

What is often lost in the headlines about young people caught up in the justice system is the story behind the story, including structural inequalities that disproportionately impact young people of color and the often unconscious biases that fuel societal inequity—biases that are now in the spotlight with a growing national response to police shootings of unarmed youth. 

We are honored that two 2014 stories from our juvenile justice desk, which tell the stories of young people and the justice system, have been selected as finalists for NCCD’s 2015 Media for a Just Society Awards. 
 

“Double Charged” 

Double Charged is the culmination of a year-long investigation into three underreported trends in the juvenile justice system: (1) fees billed to parents for their kids’ jail time and probation—even after their children are deceased; (2) increased use of GPS monitoring; and (3) high sums of victim restitution owed by juvenile offenders. The resulting reporting reveals the hidden costs of these practices on families that are already struggling as they attempt to put their lives back together after a child’s arrest.  
 

“The Disconnect Between Young People and Police”

In this story, Youth Reporter Joi Smith examined the relationships between police and youth in Oakland, California, where there is a long history of police brutality and public scrutiny. The story sparked a thoughtful response from an Oakland police sergeant about the issue of youth/police tensions, which Youth Radio also excerpted for a column in the San Francisco Chronicle

Our young journalists investigate and report on the many facets of the criminal justice system, and their fresh perspectives reach large audiences on outlets, including National Public Radio (NPR), Huffington Post, and Marketplace. Youth Radio pairs experienced journalists with teens and young adults to identify, research, report, and produce Youth Radio’s unique coverage together, creating stories with more impact than either youth or adults could produce on their own.  

At Youth Radio, we are dedicated to covering juvenile justice stories through the lens of those closest to the issue: youth.  

 

Brett Myers is a senior producer at Youth Radio. He leads the organization’s juvenile justice desk and works hand-in-hand with students filing stories for national outlets at Youth Radio. He has contributed to multiple award-winning productions, including Trafficked, an investigation into child sex trafficking. Before Youth Radio, Brett worked at Sound Portraits Productions, StoryCorps, and The Kitchen Sisters, and before that, he was a photographer.