Tara Huffman, director of OSI’s Criminal and Juvenile Justice Program recently contributed to the newsletter published by the University of Baltimore School of Law’s Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children, and the Courts (CFCC), Unified Family Court Connection in which she discusses four non-violent policies and practices to respond to youth violence.
As she writes in “’First, Do No Harm’: Nonviolent Ways to Address Youth Violence,” children who are “exposed to violence undergo lasting physical, mental and emotional trauma, and may be more prone to aggression, delinquency, further victimization and involvement with the juvenile justice system.” Yet, she notes, the very systems in place to respond to young offenders often create and inflict additional trauma and violence. It’s of utmost importance, then, that adults who interact with children and youth create interventions that address harmful behaviors but do not increase their exposure to violence and trauma.
Huffman outlines four existing ways adults can respond in non-violent ways to addressing youth. These practices and policies not only address the response to or the prevention of youth violence, but also ways to help youth who have been exposed to violence cope and recover from trauma. Those practices include mindfulness training, restorative justice principles and practices, removing youth from adult jails, and strengthening and reauthorizing the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA).
At OSI, we understand that responses to youth behavior must minimize exposure to violence and ensure the youth does not come to physical, mental or emotional harm. We support programs that seek to reduce incarceration and promote justice systems for juveniles that are fair, used as a last resort, and offer second chances.