Youth First is a national advocacy campaign to end the incarceration of youth by closing youth prisons and investing in community-based alternatives to incarceration and programs for youth.
Our country’s system of youth incarceration is unjust. We see urgency in this crisis and demand that ending youth incarceration becomes a national priority.
The overwhelming evidence shows that there are alternatives to youth prisons that are more fair, more safe, and more economically sound.
The American public strongly supports policies that favor rehabilitation and treatment over putting our youth behind bars. Many states and localities are seeing success closing their youth prisons and implementing policies that hold youth accountable for their actions while giving them opportunities for meaningful restoration in their lives.
To meet this crisis head on, the Youth First Initiative is:
- Elevating awareness about the negative impacts of incarcerating youth.
- Creating a national dialogue about the need to invest in alternatives, not incarceration for youth.
- Working with youth, families and allies on the local and national level to build a critical mass of Americans calling for change.
Together we can change this broken system. Join us.
Liz Ryan, President & CEO
Liz Ryan, a campaign strategist and youth justice expert, directs Youth First. In her capacity, she manages the overall initiative. She is the founder and former CEO of the nationally recognized Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ), which leads the national effort to end the practice of trying, sentencing and incarcerating youth in the adult criminal justice system. Since CFYJ was launched in 2004, nearly half the states have reduced the prosecution of youth in adult court. Liz has worked on many campaigns, including spearheading the launch of the Act 4 Juvenile Justice campaign (Act4JJ) to overhaul the main federal law on youth justice, the Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), and the No More Oak Hills campaign to successfully close the notorious Oak Hill Youth Detention Center for DC’s youth. An author of numerous opinion editorials, articles and reports, Liz frequently serves as an expert resource to reporters and national media outlets.
Mishi Faruqee, National Field Director
Mishi Faruqee is the National Field Director of the Youth First Initiative. In her capacity at Youth First, Mishi supports the state-based campaigns by providing technical assistance, training and strategy support. Previously she worked as the juvenile justice policy strategist for the national ACLU and and as a campaign director at the Washington State ACLU. She worked as an advocate for juvenile justice and criminal justice reform in New York, with the Correctional Association of New York, first as director of the Women in Prison Project and later as director of the Juvenile Justice Project, as the director of youth justice programs at the Children’s Defense Fund-NY, and as special assistant to the Commissioner at the New York City Department of Probation. Mishi holds graduate degrees from Oxford University and the New School for Social Research and received her B.A. from Swarthmore College.
Carmen Daugherty, Policy Director
Carmen Daugherty is the Policy Director for Youth First Initiative. In this capacity, Carmen supports the state-based campaigns by developing policy options, reviewing legislation, proposed budgets, and creating state and national reports on youth incarceration. Before coming to Youth First, Carmen served as Policy Director for Campaign for Youth Justice focused on ending the prosecution and incarceration of youth in the adult criminal justice system. Carmen also served as Deputy Director and staff attorney for Advocates for Justice and Education, a DC based non-profit, formed to educate parents, youth, and the community about the laws governing public education, specifically for children with special needs. In 2008, Carmen was appointed to the D.C. Mayor’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Group where she works with city stakeholders to provide recommendations on compliance with the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. She also co-chairs the American Bar Association,Section on Civil Rights and Social Justice’s Criminal Justice Committee. Carmen received her undergraduate degree from Vassar College and her Juris Doctor from Tulane University School of Law.
Jill Ward, Senior Advocacy Consultant – Jill is a senior consultant to the Initiative. She also works for a variety of state and national clients on juvenile justice reform and related children’s policy issues. Jill has more than 20 years experience in the public sector, including legislative positions with two U.S. Senators and senior policy positions at the Girl Scouts of the USA, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and the Children’s Defense Fund where she co-chaired the National Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Coalition. She was a member of Maine’s 2010 Juvenile Justice Task Force, coordinates the Maine Juvenile Justice Reform Work Group and serves as the President of the Maine League of Women Voters. Jill is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the Georgetown University Law Center.
Hernan Carvente, National Youth Partnership Strategist
Hernan Carvente is the National Youth Partnership Strategist for the Youth First Initiative. He manages the Youth First Youth Leaders Network, which provides young emerging leaders with the training and tools to lead the fight against youth incarceration. Previously, he served as a Program Analyst for the Center on Youth Justice at the Vera Institute of Justice, where he worked on policy analysis, program development, and elevated the voices and needs of youth and families in statewide policy reform. Mr. Carvente has served on state-appointed boards including the New York State Juvenile Justice Advisory Group and the Citizens Policy and Complaint Review Council. Through these appointments, he participated in the development and implementation of New York’s federal juvenile justice plan and helped ensure that local correctional facilities were treating individuals fairly and humanely. He has also served as National Youth Chair for the National Youth Committee of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice as well as an advisor to the National Academies of Science and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Utilizing his experiences, Mr. Carvente trains policymakers, researchers, students, and professionals in probation, child welfare, juvenile justice and corrections on ending youth incarceration and moving toward more holistic, community-based, trauma-informed programs for young people. He was awarded the “Spirit of Youth Award” by Coalition for Juvenile Justice and the “Next Generation Champion for Change” award by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. He is a first-generation Mexican-American and the first male in his family to graduate from college, earning a degree in Criminal Justice from John Jay College.
Policy Advisory Council
The initiative has a Policy Advisory Council of leading national, state and local experts on training schools, incarceration, organizing and advocacy. The Policy Advisory Council members have a broad range of expertise, and include state and local systems administrators, advocates, and individuals personally impacted by the system, and others with relevant expertise:
- Neelum Arya, Research Director, Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy, UCLA School of Law
- Sheila Bedi, Senior Policy Consultant, Clinical Associate Professor of Law at the Northwestern School of Law, Attorney with the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center.
- Gladys Carrion, Former NYC Commissioner for the Administration for Children’s Services
- Shaena Fazal, National Policy Director, Youth Advocate Programs, Inc.
- Jessica Feierman, Supervising Attorney, Juvenile Law Center
- Jabriera Handy, Youth Organizing Consultant
- Deon Jones, Program Associate, Opportunity at Work
- Michael Mitchell, Policy Analyst, Center on Budget & Policy Priorities
- Vincent Schiraldi, Senior Research Fellow, Program in Criminal Justice, JFK School, Harvard University
- Brenda Smith, Professor, Washington College of Law, The American University and Director, Project on Addressing Prison Rape