Open Society, Tow and Other Foundations Release Blueprint for Youth Justice Reform

Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Open Society, Tow and Other Foundations Release Blueprint for Youth Justice Reform
Amidst growing national concern over treatment of youth in our nation's justice system, the Youth Transition Funders Group (YTFG) released today a timely update of its seminal Blueprint for Youth Justice Reform. Drawing upon new research, the Blueprint provides concrete policy recommendations aimed at improving the well-being and life outcomes for young people up to age 25 who are involved in or at risk of entering our nation's juvenile and criminal justice systems.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of vulnerable young people, primarily youth of color, are funneled into the justice system—a system ill-equipped to meet their needs or foster their development. Study after study has proven that reliance on punishment and incarceration is harmful to young people and is associated with increased rates of reoffending, strained family relationships, lower educational and vocational attainment, and incarceration later in life.
"Since the first iteration of the Blueprint over a decade ago, we've continued to see a national shift toward more restorative and rehabilitative justice practices," said Diane Sierpina, Director of Justice Programs at The Tow Foundation and co-chair of the YTFG's Youth Justice Work Group. "We felt it was important to draw public attention to the latest research and capitalize on national momentum for reform. State and national policy changes, as well as Supreme Court decisions, reflect an understanding that age and development must be primary considerations when dealing with young people caught up in the justice system."
The key recommendations for justice reform are the following:
  • Divert youth from the justice system
  • Eliminate racial and ethnic disparities
  • Engage youth, families and communities
  • Improve cross-system collaboration
  • Ensure access to quality legal counsel
  • Keep youth out of adult courts, jails and prisons
  • Create a range of effective community-based supports
  • Recognize and serve subpopulations of youth
  • End the use of detention and confinement for youth
  • Improve aftercare and reentry
The Blueprint also highlights the distinct role that philanthropy plays in reform at the local, state and national levels.
"Foundations are critical to advancing reform," explained Luisa Taveras, Program Officer within the Justice Fund at the Open Society Foundations and Co-Chair of YTFG's Youth Justice Work Group. "Philanthropy has fueled large-scale systems change as well as targeted investments in research, education, and advocacy that continue to move the dial in the right direction. Our hope is that all funders who invest in improving the well-being of young people – whether in education, child welfare, youth development, housing or health – will see how justice reform intersects with their work and join the movement."
The Blueprint aligns with YTFG's recent publication, Investing to Improve the Well-Being of Vulnerable Youth and Young Adults: Recommendations for Policy and Practice, which emphasizes the need for policies and programs that support the healthy development of young people across a broad set of domains, including cognitive, social and emotional development, mental health and wellness, physical health, safety and economic well-being.
Copies of the Blueprint for Youth Justice Reform and the YTFG's Well-Being Framework are available at
The Youth Transition Funders Group (YTFG) is a national network of foundations whose mission is to help all youth make a successful transition to adulthood by age 25. The Youth Justice Work Group (YJWG) of YTFG comprises local, regional and national funders who are dedicated to promoting fair, effective and age-appropriate treatment and interventions for young people up to age 25 involved in the juvenile and criminal justice systems.