John Lash

Welcome to the Youth and Justice thematic page of youthpolicy.org. We can begin by asking how we might define “youth justice.”  Justice can be a difficult concept to pin down. It most commonly is connected with the procedures that begin when a crime is committed and might include court hearings, rehabilitation, punishment and many other facets of systems that address crime. There are more possibilities though. Wider views of justice also exist, and we hope to include some of these in our exploration. Social, procedural, and restorative justice are just a few of the lenses that are being used around the world. What are the roles of poverty, nutrition, education, war, and prejudice in examining youth justice?

Broadly, youth might include people who range from infants to young adults in their twenties. The term child, used in many international documents, is a little easier to define. According to the United Nations a child is someone under the age of eighteen. This standard is generally accepted in many places, though of course exceptions exist. In the United States for example, children can be legally classified as adults if they commit certain crimes. At that point they lose all rights that they may have enjoyed as children.

We will explore these ideas and others together here. This page will gather information about youth justice issues from around the world, including news, research, and trends in youth involvement with the criminal justice system. It will include links to relevant documents and groups in the field, aggregations of journalistic pieces, and original commentary analysis and reporting. Through these posts we hope to engage the community working in youth justice and related fields.

My name is John Lash and I work for the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE) an initiative of the Center for Sustainable Journalism at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia, USA. I am also a master’s student in the Conflict Management Program.

My own interest in the justice system started in 1985, when I was incarcerated at the age of 18. During my nearly 25 years of incarceration I studied methods of violence reduction and restorative justice, and continue that work now on this side of the wall. I have worked since August with JJIE as an op-ed writer and researcher, and have delved into many of the complex issues that face juvenile justice in the United States.

The hallmarks of JJIE have been professional integrity, quality journalism focused on substantive issues, and commitment to reporting on an important area that is often overlooked by other organizations. We hope to bring those same qualities here and to draw on the wealth of knowledge and experience at JJIE. Our goal is to accomplish much of the same work we have achieved in the United States, but on a larger scale, and to facilitate an ever increasing flow of ideas and information from diverse sources.

Broadly, we plan to use a two-pronged approach; providing content and addressing issues. Providing will mean pointing readers towards existing documents that guide the field of youth justice, e.g., An EU agenda for the rights of the child – Justice, The U.N. Approach to Justice for Children, and the Convention on the Rights of a Child and to frameworks such as restorative justice. It will also include links to peer-reviewed materials from experts. Addressing issues will include identification of best practices, aggregating material about larger trends, and op-ed pieces from around the globe.

Areas in which we are planning to focus include; prevention, rehabilitation, detention, policy, rights and victimization. As we proceed we will adapt as necessary, and we are eager for feedback from readers. I invite comments and suggestions. Let us know what you like, but more importantly let us know when we get something wrong or neglect an important topic. Ultimately the success of this endeavor will depend on participation by the community we are addressing. Please send in suggestions and information that you believe to be relevant.

We look forward with excitement towards our mutual venture!