By Amanda Eisenberg
Justice for Juniors is an interfaith organization that connects students from George Washington University and the University of Maryland to tutor and mentor juveniles in the system. The organization sends 20-plus students into D.C. every Monday and Tuesday, says Amy Weiss, director for Hillel’s service-learning initiatives.
Junior sociology major Shana Frankel is a Tzedek fellow and pretty heavily involved in the program.
“I have taken on fighting for the justice of youth as my social justice initiative,” says Frankel.
“Justice for Juniors is the program that led me to be so passionate about this cause; seeing how much these juvenile offenders had to offer through the discussion programming we do through justice for juniors opened me eyes to how important it is that the teenagers are rehabilitated rather than just being stuck in prison.”
George Washington University Chaplin Johnson started the program four years ago in attempts to lower the recidivism rate of juveniles in jail. According to Johnson, for every day a juvenile is detained in Washington, D.C., $662 is spent. Within a year, the cost reaches $238,320—that’s approximately the cost of a four-year Ivy League education.
The organization allows for students like Frankel to emerge as leaders. She, along with Zoe Klein and Noah Stein, create lessons plans centered on ethical dilemmas. Weiss believes this collaboration between college-educated students and juveniles in the system gives the volunteers a sense of “cultural humility.”
Justice for Juniors hosted a justice forum on October 2 at 7 p.m. in the Nyumburu Cultural Center. According to the description on Facebook, it was an “opportunity to hear from experts in the field about issues facing families, juveniles and incarcerated youth… highlight[ing] issues such as: education, drug use, mental health, sentencing and more.”
Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards attended, along with Prince George’s County Assistant State Attorney Jamilah Adams and State of Maryland Secretary of Juvenile Services Sam Abed.