On Sunday, October 17th, FFLIC will host its first National Campaign for Youth Justice 5K Walk/Run in New Orleans, with other races scheduled to take place in California, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, Oregon, Virginia and Wisconsin. FLLIC and its planning partner, The Campaign for Youth Justice, are hoping to use the walk as a platform to educate the public about the challenges youth face once they fall into the justice system, and about the very real links between growing up as a disadvantaged youth and winding up behind bars.
One person who's seen the darker side of the juvenile justice system up close is Tracy McClard, a Missouri mother whose son committed suicide while in custody at an adult facility. As McClard explains,
Incarcerated youth and their families are our society's most forgotten groups. If you do not have a child involved in the juvenile or criminal justice system you really have no idea what families endure. The isolation, pain, worry, agony, depression and the lack of resources and support are daily companions for these families and youth. Every time I share the story of what happened to my son, people are astonished and outraged that children -- in the United States of America -- are treated this way. We have this horrible state of affairs not because the general public doesn't care, but because they don't know.Since its founding, FFLIC has been fighting to build a better future for children and families in Louisiana, which ranks 49th out of 50 states in terms of quality of life for children (and which may in turn lead to higher incarceration rates among Louisiana youth). In 2003, the group scored a major victory for children caught up in the nightmare of Louisana's juvenile justice system by winning passage of the Juvenile Justice Reform Act, which called for the closure of the brutal Tallulah Correctional Center for Youth, and the creation of alternative community-based programs that could better serve the needs of Louisiana's youth.
Even with this major win under their belt, FFLIC marches on, recognizing that much work remains to be done to create a fair and truly just system of accountability for our nation's children. Since the closure of Tallulah, they group has played a crucial role in uniting families and their incarcerated children in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and in challenging the "school-to-prison-pipeline" that is destroying communities across the nation.
Organizing this important walk is just one more way that FFLIC is making a difference in the lives of children in their community -- and beyond. We're sending our best wishes that they'll have nothing short of a remarkable day!
For information about how to participate in a walk in your area, please visit the 5K Run/Walk for Youth Justice's registration page.