One of MSPJC core principles, is that no amount of education or empathy can equal the lived experiences of those who have lived under a problem and that those who are most affected by a problem have and are the solutions to said problem. They are the experts. In that to address the issue of youth violence and crime, we have to engage with those most affected by the issue…our young people.
We are proud to announce that local activist and long time supporter HAPPY JONES has made a generous matching donation of $10,000 to seed a bold new endeavor from our MEMPHIS UNITED-JUVENILE JUSTICE PROJECT program. Help us reach our goal by making a donation today at midsouthpeace.org
We have all seen the media fueled vitriol about the issues related to youth crime and criminal justice, as well as the great racial disparities in our communities’ approach to addressing these issues. We have seen a response of fear and condemnation but have also seen a lack of comprehensive intervention and holistic alternatives. We feel there is a better way.
MSPJC has been a supporter of Shelby County Juvenile Court’s efforts to better engage the community with court ordered community service and seeks to build on these efforts with our two-pronged Juvenile Justice Project.
I. NEIGHBORHOOD BASED COMMUNITY SERVICE
At any given point in time there are scores of young people who have up to 16 hours of court ordered community service who are unable to complete this in the allotted time, as a result of many issues. Part of the challenge is finding willing partners who want to create meaningful service projects and not simply free labor. One of the other chief barriers is that Juvenile court lacks adequate resources to perform outreach to recruit new partners and the practice of assigning community service by ZIP CODE as opposed to a more neighborhood based approach, means sometimes the available service opportunities are far away from where the young person lives. As a result the process is alienating, lacks parental and community buy in, creates hardships, and adds both needless court appearances and administrative costs.
Part of our process has been partnering with SCJC to pilot using GIS (Geographic Information System) software to locate and match up young people with court ordered community service opportunities as close to, if not within, their own neighborhoods as possible. We want to thank the office of Court Ordered Community Service for providing a snap shot of this information and you can see the map we made from such data above.
As we continue to work with the courts to analyze this data we will be looking to identify three neighborhoods with the highest concentrations of young people who have unserved court ordered community service. Then performing door-to-door outreach to inform and recruit local churches, neighborhood and civic organizations, and grassroots leaders within these communities into becoming partners to create service opportunities within these neighborhoods.
MSPJC would then work with these local leaders and shareholders in convening semi-regular meetings with representatives from each partnering organization that is moderated by the youth from within these communities to discuss and plan more community based solutions around the issue of juvenile offenders. Through engaging directly with the youth, we feel this program could go beyond simply increased compliance with ordered community service, but also remove transportation barriers, secure more community support, and become a vehicle for long-term engagement with a grassroots organizing capacity as well.
The ultimate result would be the development of a community led approach to addressing crime that is developed, enacted, and led by youth and adult leaders from the community and for that community.
II. KNOW YOUR RIGHTS THEATRE
Memphis United, part of the Mid-South Peace & Justice Center is providing free Community Arts programming over the Summer for area youth with interactive theatre workshops that, with the assistance of trained facilitators and experienced local attorneys or former police officers, educate young people about their rights and how to better communicate with law enforcement.
This unique presentation style has already allowed over 250 participants to become actors, role-playing in scenarios that engage our young people in meaningful dialogue to strengthen youth and police relationships. After a review of the information covered, and a time for Q&A, facilitators distribute “Know Your Rights Handbooks”, and participant surveys to help guide the development of this important work.
Just last weekend at LeMoyne Owen College, members of of the Memphis United team conducted a KNOW YOUR RIGHTS THEATRE workshop for the event BEING BLACK IN COLLEGE hosted by OUR GRASS, OUR ROOTS. You can watch video of this training below!
We have done these workshops at Soulsville Charter School, Bridges USA, and the 2015 Gandhi King Youth Conference, ranging from elementary to high school students. Additionally, here is a link to more information and a printable pdf of our “Know Your Rights Handbooks” that we’ll be providing: http://midsouthpeace.org/media-cent…
We again want to thank Happy Jones for her generous donation and we hope that we can count on your support to help us reach our goal.