This day-long conference delved into key issues affecting the New Jersey juvenile justice system. Keynote speaker Marsha Levick, Deputy Director and Chief Counsel of the Juvenile Law Center, opened the event. Our first panel discussion focused on opportunities for reform and the second panel focused on preventative measures at the school-based level. Our panel of experts provided great insight into specific practices and resources utilized to partner with stakeholders involved in the juvenile justice system.
Marsha Levick, Deputy Director and Chief Counsel, Juvenile Law Center
Marsha Levick co-founded the Juvenile Law Center in 1975. Throughout her legal career, Levick has been an advocate for children’s and women’s rights and is a nationally recognized expert in juvenile law. Levick has successfully litigated challenges to unlawful and harmful laws, policies and practices on behalf of children in both the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. She has authored or co-authored numerous appellate and amicus briefs in state and federal appeals courts throughout the country, including many before the US Supreme Court, and has argued before both state and federal appellate courts in Pennsylvania and many other jurisdictions.
Panel 1: Focusing on the Deep End of New Jersey’s Juvenile Justice System: Addressing Concerns and Creating Opportunities for Reform
Sandra Simkins, Esq., Rutgers School of Law–Camden
Sandra Simkins is the Director and Co-founder of the Children’s Justice Clinic at Rutgers School of Law–Camden. In 2012, she received the Robert E. Shepard Jr. award for excellence in Juvenile Defense. Her book, When Kids Get Arrested, What Every Adult Should Know, was released in 2009. Prior to joining Rutgers in 2006, she spent 15 years working in criminal and juvenile defense, particularly with the Juvenile Unit of the Defender Association of Philadelphia. In 2008, she was selected by the MacArthur Foundation to participate in the Models for Change Juvenile Indigent Defense Action Network. She also co-directs the Northeast Region Juvenile Defender Center, a subsidiary of the National Juvenile Defender Center, where she provides consultation and training to child advocates in Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.
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Laura Cohen, Esq., Rutgers School of Law–Newark
Laura Cohen is a Clinical Professor of Law, the Justice Virginia Long Scholar, and Director of the Criminal and Youth Justice Clinic (CYJC) at Rutgers School of Law–Newark. Prior to joining Rutgers, Professor Cohen was the Director of Training for the New York City Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Division, where she oversaw the attorney training program and public policy initiatives relating to child welfare and juvenile justice. In 2012, Professor Cohen received the MacArthur Foundation’s “Champion for Change” award in recognition of her work with system-involved youth. She also is the recipient of the National Juvenile Defender Center’s Robert E. Shepherd Award for Excellence in Juvenile Defense and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey’s Legal Leadership Award.
Bill Curry, Reentry Coalition of New Jersey
Bill Curry is the Executive Director of the Reentry Coalition of New Jersey – a multi-agency organization that contracts with the NJ Department of Corrections, the NJ State Parole Board, and the NJ Juvenile Justice Commission to identify and provide community corrections programs and services that meet the standards for best practice. His career in the field of criminal justice spans 25 years, starting first as an educator working with juvenile offenders in secure institutional settings. Bill’s experience in both the public and private sectors includes adult and juvenile offenders, parole management, community-based residential and day treatment facilities, as well as various levels of secure institutions, faith-based groups, law enforcement agencies, schools, local municipalities, judiciary, and union representatives.
Ann Adalist-Estrin, Rutgers University–Camden
Ann Adalist-Estrin is Director of the National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated (NRCCFI) at Rutgers University–Camden, where she also teaches in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice. Under Ann’s leadership, NRCCFI has provided training and consultation to government and non-government agencies and community programs in 48 states, including Sesame Street’s “Little Children, Big Challenges” Campaign; Connecticut’s Children of Incarcerated Parents Initiative; OJJDP Youth Violence Prevention Forum Multi Discipline Trainings on Children of Incarcerated Parents; and programs in Taiwan, Uruguay and Argentina. In 2013 she was honored at the White House as a “Champion of Change” for her work as an advocate for children and families of the incarcerated. CLICK HERE FOR Presentation
Panel 2: Alternative Models for Juvenile Offenders: Best Practices for Youth Mentorship and Prevention Tactics
Dr. Gloria Bonilla-Santiago, Community Leadership Center, Rutgers–Camden
Dr. Goria Bonilla-Santiago is the Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor of Public Policy and Director of the Community Leadership Center, Rutgers–Camden. Dr. Santiago has established a track record in coordinating large scale programs and private and public ventures that bring together external and internal stakeholders from a range of organizations, including government, business, non-profits and philanthropic sectors at the local, national and international levels. She is the Board Chair of the LEAP Academy University Charter School and is the author of numerous articles and three books: The Miracle on Cooper Street, Breaking Ground and Barriers: Hispanic Women Developing Effective Leadership, and Organizing Puerto Rican Migrant Farmworkers: the Experience of Puerto Ricans in New Jersey. CLICK HERE FOR Presentation
Khary Golden, LEAP Academy University Charter High School
Khary Golden serves as the Director of the Center for College Access, where he has helped LEAP to build a legacy of 100% graduation and college placement. Khary has spent the majority of his life living and working in the city of Camden, and he attended both Morehouse College and Rutgers University, where he graduated with a Bachelors in Political Science and a Masters in Public Policy and Administration, with a concentration in Education Leadership from Rutgers.
Carmen Ubarry, LEAP Academy University Charter High School
Carmen Ubarry has been with LEAP Academy for over 18 years serving in numerous roles including Parent Coordinator, College Access Director, Dean of Students, Coordinator of Behavioral Health Services. She has a Masters in Human Services from Lincoln University and is currently working on her Director of Counseling Services Certification. Carmen’s present responsibilities are to foster, implement and oversee Character Education throughout the LEAP district. In this capacity she was able to reduce incidents of harassment, intimidation and bullying.
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Melinda Sanchez, Esperanza, Inc.
Melinda Sanchez serves as a National Programs Director for Esperanza, Inc., one of the largest Hispanic Faith-Based Evangelical networks in the United States, based in Philadelphia, PA. Through her work, Melinda oversees community development programs geared towards Hispanic youth who have encountered the juvenile justice system. Also, she is Board Chair for the Cramer Hill Community Development Corporation, serves on the Executive Committee for the Salvation Army Kroc Center – South Jersey Advisory Board, and on the Board of Trustees of LEAP Academy University Charter School.
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Father Jeff Putthoff, SJ, Hopeworks ‘N Camden
Father Jeff Putthoff is the founder and Executive Director of Hopeworks ‘N Camden, a youth development program using web site design/development and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Salesforce.com to work with youth ages 14-23 in Camden, NJ. He founded Hopeworks in Camden as a direct response to the current youth crisis that exists. Over 50% of the population is under 25, only 25% of adults have a high school diploma and the per capita income is $5700. There is an estimated 70% dropout rate from the public high schools in the city of Camden while 53% of all youth live below the poverty line. These factors combine to make life challenging for young people. Hopeworks is a direct response to this situation.
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