Capstone Project in Partnership with the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health

This year’s Capstone is a community-led, group-based, mentored service-learning course that is a vital part of SCSJ’s Youth Decriminalization Campaign. Capstone-specific members will take on community-based research that contributes to the larger network of resources used by organizations, academic institutions, and others, in understanding the effects of youth criminalization both in and outside of North Carolina.

By centering justice-impacted youth, we stand to make the biggest influence.

The goal of this project is to amplify the voices of impacted community members to guide future discussions regarding ending youth criminalization in North Carolina. This project will allow us to build on the divest-invest narrative framework of our Youth Decriminalization Report, meaning we bring attention to misguided, harmful, and racist systems, and call for a reinvestment of resources into community-led alternatives that support and nourish youth of color and their communities.

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Invest In Our Children, Invest In our Youth: Ending Youth Criminalization in North Carolina highlights the harms of, and alternatives to, vilifying and incarcerating our young ones. Throughout America’s history, Black, Latine, and Indigenous youth have been traumatized by racial violence and dehumanized by a society that often views their presence as a threat to public safety. These same young people are at constant risk of state-sanctioned violence from discriminatory law enforcement, which criminalizes age-appropriate behaviors and suppresses their freedom of movement.

Disparities for Black, Latine, and Indigenous youth exist at almost every stage of the juvenile criminal legal process in North Carolina, and the disparities are most stark for Black youth. These disparities are not due to higher rates of misbehavior but are driven by intentional policy choices and structural factors.

Our report follows a divest/invest framework, which brings attention to the choices that resource a misguided and racist system as we call for a reinvestment in community-led alternatives that support and nourish youth of color and their communities.