Celebrating Recent Policy Proposals from Columbia’s Justice Ambassadors Youth Council Grand Summit

July 11, 2019 JIE Updates

By Kayla Gillman

On Tuesday, June 11th, 130 people came together to celebrate the work of the Justice Ambassadors Youth Council

The event marked the culmination of an eight week course hosted by Columbia University’s Center for Justice in which youth, aged 16-24, worked alongside city officials to generate policy proposals intended to effect positive change for their communities. 

The course was established to give young people a platform to raise their voices and be agents of change and was inspired in part by “Inside Criminal Justice,” a course co-taught by Columbia University Professor Geraldine Downey and Manhattan DA Academy Executive Director Lucy Lang. The course put incarcerated individuals and prosecutors into the same room for conversations, which generated four policy proposals – two have already been implemented. 

Jarrell Daniels, one of the original participants in the “Inside Criminal Justice” course, is the program manager of the Justice Ambassadors Youth Council. Daniels recently delivered a TED Talk at TED Salon entitled, “What Prosecutors and Incarcerated People can Learn from Each Other,” which promotes the advancement of joint educational experiences that build functional bridges between incarcerated people and those entrusted to govern our criminal justice system. 

In his keynote address, Daniels talked about the power of young people’s ideas and implored the audience to hear him when he said, “We cannot continue to define people by the worst moments of their lives.” 

Reflecting further after the event, he said, “Imagine a future where no one can become a prosecutor, a judge, a cop or even an educator without first sitting in a classroom to learn from and connect with the very people whose lives will be in their hands.” The Justice Ambassadors’ policy proposals echoed that sentiment. The six presentations looked at a variety of topics, such as: 

  • Including social workers into the court process.
  • Mandatory training for youth service providers.
  • Expanding alternative-to-incarceration programs into youth recreational centers.
  • Expanding housing options for low income residents.
  • Altering crime reporting and the use of biopsychosocial case analysis.
  • Implementing restorative justice practices in educational institutions. 

District Attorney Cyrus Vance was present; he lauded everyone involved in the program and promised to try to implement their ideas. 

We would like to congratulate all of the Justice Ambassadors and recipients of certificates: Casie Addison, Saadiq Bey, Ana Bermudez, Jaden Burton, Tyler Campbell, Emmanuel Daudu, Aboubacar Diaby, Patrick Edge, Sade Folks, Mia Fox, Janine Gilbert, Nilda Hofmann, Joshua Laub, Rodney Levy, Jessica Mofield, Jose Palacios, Chauncey Parker, David Peters, Daryl Reed, Victoria Reing, Lovestar Rogers, Matthew Shuffler, Jordan Stockdale, Estelle Stryker-Santiago, Arjun Subakeesan, and Diovianne White.

Kayla Gillman is an intern with the Justice-in-Education Initiative.

Photo by Ariana Wescott.