Taking Back our Children: A Call for Youth Justice Reform

July 16, 2014



In this program, we focus on the public awareness campaign to Raise the Age in New York State. The campaign is working towards raising the age of criminal responsibility, ending the practice of housing children in adult jails and prisons, and ensuring that children in the justice system receive age-appropriate rehabilitative services.


Our guests are Kelvin Lazaro, a St. Joseph’s College student and writer in Herstory’s Youth Writing for Justice Program on that campus; Elizabeth Powers, senior juvenile justice policy associate at Children’s Defense Fund, NY, and Angelo Pinto, campaign manager for the Raise the Age Campaign of the Juvenile Justice Project of the Correctional Association of New York. Our host is Silvia Heredia of Herstory Writers Workshop.


Herstory’s work with Raise the Age is funded by Long Island Community Foundation


Putting a Face on Statistics: A Teenager in Jail


Just days after his 17th Birthday, Kelvin Lazaro found himself at Riker’s Island, in 23-hour lock down. In a space where storytellers and activists meet, he shares an opening moment where the listener finds him dreaming of the life that can no longer be, as the reality of his new life comes forth with grim, heartbreaking reality. As Elizabeth Powers, of Children’s Defense Fund, shares her response to the story, Kelvin becomes not just one, but representative of 700 young people locked away in one of New York State’s most violent facilities.



Breaking Spirits Within Broken Systems/ A Call for Change

Kelvin reads into the second half of his day, where we learn that he has chosen to remain behind bars rather than render his family homeless through paying his bail, where he draws more deeply into his dreams in contrast to having to choose to join other prisoners who beat up upon newcomers or become one of the beaten. As the conversation goes from the empowerment of using one’s story to help others into the statewide movement for youth justice reform, Angelo Pinto speaks of what he has seen in Greene Facility, a state prison where many young people are housed, through the Correctional Association’s Prison Visiting Project that started in 1846.

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