Citizens for Juvenile Justice
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CfJJ’s Leadership Celebration 2009

December 3, 2009

More than 120 guests joined CfJJ’s Board and staff at its annual Leadership Celebration on Thursday, December 3, 2009 at the Boston Bar Association. The Celebration marked CfJJ’s 15th “birthday”.

Executive Director Lael Chester recalled the grim juvenile justice climate of the early 1990’s that led a group of concerned citizens – many present on this occasion – to found CfJJ in 1994 and how far we’ve come since the dark days when predictions of waves of teenage “super predators” shaped policy debates.  The statewide Juvenile Court survived the attacks of that period, and Massachusetts now has a statewide Juvenile Court Clinic and a statewide Youth Advocacy Department. CfJJ itself has grown from a largely reactive organization staffed by an intern to an organization setting the agenda in policy reform in the Commonwealth with a staff of 3.

Lael introduced  recently-retired Juvenile Judge Martha Grace and presented CfJJ’s Leadership Award to her, noting that  “It is due to her devotion, hard-work and eloquent advocacy that we have a separate statewide juvenile court system with the expertise to deal with all the tough and complex issues before it.” Judge Grace demonstrated some of that eloquence in her remarks reviewing some of those tough issues facing the Court, and urging everyone to be dissatisfied, not complacent, and to “give the kids your concern and attention.”

CfJJ Board Member and UMass Medical School researcher Tom Grisso introduced Keynote Speaker Bob Schwartz, co-founder and Executive Director of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia.  Bob Schwartz described the corruption of Juvenile Court judges in Lucerne County. That situation demonstrated the problem of lack of oversight, ineffective defense counsel, and prosecutors who failed to check that pleas were entered knowingly. The key factors in uncovering and correcting the abuses were strong judicial leadership, strong community involvement, effective use of data and strong probation leadership.  He demonstrated the importance of collecting and analyzing detailed data to identify problem areas and effective solutions.

The event was catered by the Madison Park Technical Vocational High School Catering Club and supported by Lead Sponsors Proskauer Rose LLP and Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps and by Sponsors Children’s Services of Roxbury; Communities for People; Community Resources for Justice; Donoghue, Barrett & Singal; Dwyer & Collora; EDC; John Bartley; Justice Resource Institute; Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership; Massachusetts MENTOR; Old Colony YMCA; Spectrum Health Systems, Inc.; The Key Program; Wainwright Bank; and YouthBuild Boston.

See photos of the Celebration here.