Building Blocks for Youth
Building Blocks for Youth was a multi-strategy, multi-site initiative that featured an alliance of children and youth advocates, researchers, community organizers, and law enforcement professionals working to address Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) by:
- Reducing the overrepresentation and racial and ethnic disparities affecting youth of color in the juvenile system and
- Promoting fair, rational, and effective juvenile justice policies.
The partners in Building Blocks for Youth were the Youth Law Center, American Bar Association Juvenile Justice Center (now National Juvenile Defender Center), W. Haywood Burns Institute, Juvenile Law Center, Justice Policy Institute, Minorities in Law Enforcement, National Council on Crime and Delinquency, and Pretrial Services Resource Center. Mark Soler, now the Executive Director of CCLP, was the overall coordinator of the initiative.
Building Blocks pursued five major strategies:
- Supporting new research on various aspects of DMC;
- Conducting site-based work to reduce DMC;
- Engaging in direct advocacy on behalf of youth of color in juvenile facilities;
- Building a broad constituency for change on DMC policies among national, state, and local organizations and agencies; and
- Developing new communications capacities
The initiative operated from 1998 to 2005. Descriptions of its site-based work can be found in its final report, No Turning Back: Promising Approaches to Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Justice System. In all, including No Turning Back, Building Blocks released eleven reports on a variety of aspects of DMC, including over-incarceration and disparate treatment affecting youth of color; transfer to adult court; criminalization of youth in public opinion and the media; Hispanic/Latino youth in the juvenile justice system; the effect of "zero tolerance" policies in schools; and an advocate's guide to public opinion on youth, race, and crime.
CCLP maintains the Building Blocks for Youth website in order to keep its resource materials available. The website, http://buildingblocksforyouth.org, provides access to the full text and press release materials for all eleven reports, information on the initiative, and a variety of fact sheets on juvenile justice issues.