Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project Trainings (YSRP)

1) Describe the project a STAKE Grant would help you accomplish (100 words)
A STAKE Grant would enable us to conduct training sessions for local attorneys who represent children charged in the adult criminal justice system. Often, these lawyers have little experience representing children in adult court, and they lack critical information about the distinct developmental issues presented by young clients. Our trainings will provide tools to represent young clients effectively, including a deeper understanding of adolescent brain development and strategies for conducting pre-sentence investigations. This will help them provide judges with a fuller picture of the children’s lives and the issues they faced prior to arrest (i.e. foster care, abuse, mental health).

2) How will you use the grant toward the realization of your project? $800 is your imaginary budget (50 words):
The grant will allow us to conduct 3 trainings over 6 months in Philadelphia. Each training will cost $250 (totaling $750; $50 remaining for incidentals), which includes speaker travel reimbursement, food for attendees, and printed materials (each participant will receive a training manual; the materials will also be available online).

3) A little about yourself and what led you to your current creative goals. This may include a previous project of yours, ways it both succeeded and failed (this can be entirely unrelated to your proposal) (100 words)
As lawyers, we have represented kids who have been in foster care, kids who have been homeless, and kids who have been abused. We lead a coalition of families of youth sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole—we have heard their anguish at not getting to present information to the judges who sent their children away and have felt their fear of loved ones being released from prison unprepared for reentering the community. On a trip across Pennsylvania to visit women serving these sentences, we discovered our mutual passion for this work and devised this idea.

4) Why is this project important? How will it benefit the community (100 words):
MJ, a 16-year-old, said, “In criminal court, I felt like I was the smallest person in the room, with the biggest problem.” Our project will empower lawyers to prevent additional children from suffering this fate. By training attorneys to tell stories that may not otherwise be told at trial, this project will lead to shorter sentences with enhanced services. It will equip lawyers to help devise reentry plans for their clients and to act as intermediaries between youth and existing reentry-services. This will have a ripple effect on families and the community due to increased employment, stability and reduced recidivism.