Judge Our Youth Campaign


541 DC youth under age 18 were held in adult jail between 2007 and 2012. Numerous studies have shown that children prosecuted as adults are more likely to reoffend than those who stay in the juvenile justice system. Also, because the rehabilitative programs available in adult facilities are weaker than those in juvenile facilities, youth charged as adults are more likely to return to the community with few skills and the same issues they had prior to incarceration.

DC Lawyers for Youth and the Campaign for Youth Justice began the Judge Our Youth Campaign in May 2014, with the goal of decreasing the use of adult incarceration against DC youth. We named it the Judge Our Youth Campaign because we believe that judges should have a role in evaluating not only the facts of the alleged case, but also the facts of the youth to decide whether a young person would be better serve through rehabilitative services in the juvenile justice system. Having an impartial judge play a role in this decision restores balance to the youth justice system here in DC. 

Our Mission 

The Judge Our Youth Campaign seeks to create a justice system that is more fair, humane, and effective than the one we have today. To promote public safety and positive youth development, the JOY Campaign advocates for reforms of the District's criminal justice policies that would limit the use of adult punishment against youth to the most serious cases. We are currently promoting policy changes like the Youth Offender Accountability and Rehabilitation Act of 2014 that would prevent youth from being held in adult jails while awaiting trial and ensure that youth tried as adults have the opportunity for an impartial judge to decide whether they should instead be placed in the juvenile system.

Our Work 

In May 2014, the JOY Campaign published a report entitled Capital City Correction: Reforming DC’s Use of Adult Incarceration Against Youth. The report summarized the negative effects of adult incarceration on youth, documented the number of DC youth tried as adults each year, and provided policy recommendations that would restore balance to the District’s process for trying youth as adults.

The JOY Campaign is currently engaged in advocacy to support policymakers’ efforts to implement the report’s recommendations. We welcome the involvement of organizations and community members that would like to assist in this work.

Who We Are 

A group of advocacy organizations, researchers, service providers, and individuals engaged in a variety of issue areas, including juvenile justice, child welfare, youth empowerment, youth workforce development, special education, and civil rights.

Get Involved

There are four easy ways to get involved:

  1. Sign our statement of principles and recommendations.

  2. Join our email list through our home page to stay current on recent developments for the Judge Our Youth Campaign.  

  3. Contact Carmen Daugherty at cdaugherty@cfyj.org  to learn about ways to volunteer for the JOY Campaign.  

  4. Follow the conversation on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtags #CorrectDC and #JOYDC.