Learning More About the Juvenile Justice System

The following is a guest post by Whitney Winn of YALS‘s Editorial Advisory Board.

In the winter issue of YALS, Barbara Roos writes about her experience with outreach to teens in the juvenile detention center in her Baton Rouge library’s service area. With large numbers of young people incarcerated in such facilities — there were about 70,000 youth in juvenile detention facilities on a single day census conducted in 2010 — this is an issue that librarians working with teens in all capacities should make themselves aware of. Here are some further resources to explore this topic:

  • To connect and share resources and ideas with others who work with teens in the juvenile justice system, join the YALSA-Lockdown listserv. According to the group’s description, discussion can include any issues related to incarcerated youth, including youth in juvenile halls, group homes, treatment centers, mental institutions, etc. The group will address issues such as working within several systems with differing values, issues of censorship within a structure that may or may not acknowledge ALA or its guidelines, issues of providing services to youth with mental health issues, serious criminal charges, etc. The list’s archives dating back to 2007 are also available and searchable, even to non-subscribers.
  • The paper selected for this year’s Trends Impacting Young Adult Services presentation at the Midwinter Meeting was also about juvenile detention center librarianship. Jeanie Austin, project coordinator for Mix IT Up! at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science, presented her paper, “Critical Issues in Juvenile Detention Libraries,” in Dallas. According to the press release, she explored the tensions present in juvenile detention center library services, such as institutional limitations and access to technology and how youth and librarians can navigate these tensions within the library setting. Look for the print publication in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults. You can also read more about Extending Library Services to Empower Youth (ELSEY), the outreach group with which Jeanie is involved at their blog.
  • Looking for more outreach groups? Books Beyond Bars consists of graduate students, faculty, and alumni from UCLA’s Department of Information Studies that are committed to bringing high-interest books to young people living at the Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Detention Center in Sylmar, CA. Does your library or library school have a juvenile detention center outreach program? Let us know in the comments.
  • For a literary perspective on life in and around the justice system, take a look at the Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults 2006: Criminal Elements list.
  • The ALA has also collected some resources for librarians or students currently working with or considering working with the incarcerated population.
  • If you have access to back issues of YALS, check out “Dream It Do It: At the Library! Technology Outreach at a Juvenile Detention Center” by Kelly Czarneck
    in the Winter 2009 issue (Vol. 7 Issue 2). In the article, the author explains how her libraru collaborated with several partner organizations on a technology project with five incarcerated teens.
  • For more numbers about juvenile justice, The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, part of the U.S. Department of Justice, collects all kinds of data in its Statistical Briefing Book.

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