The title of this post are words spoken by Dr. Clarice Bailey last night at Juvenile Justice: Policy in Practice. Along with the Social Policy Caucus the Criminal Justice Caucus hosted a very successful discussion around juvenile justice issues with Dr. Bailey from Bailey Associates and Kate Barrow from Bronx Futures, a project that provides community support for juveniles with mental illness who are involved in the criminal justice system.
With over forty in attendance, including members of a class from Teacher’s College and students from other social work schools, a number of important issues were raised. Dr. Bailey stressed the importance of giving kids a chance to speak, a chance to be a part of a dialogue rather than simply attempting to punish them. She shared that Missouri is the best example of a state system where this philosophy flourishes.
When asked what to do about the lack of preparation in school for working with criminal justice populations, specifically juveniles, Barrow shared that the most important thing is to “learn how to work with people. How to have real and genuine conversations with people.” It is not about the crime the person committed or trying to talk like the person in front of you. What is important is that professionals are able to engage with people. Barrow also emphasized the importance of taking an anti-racist analysis because we must never forget how racism plays a key role in these systems.
In terms of the interaction of policy and practice Dr. Bailey made the excellent point that “policy change does not mean practice change.” It is not as simple as creating a new policy or enacting a new law (two things that are not simple to begin with). Just because a policy is in place does not mean it is being followed and just because there is a standard practice does not mean that it follows policy.
Perhaps the most important take away from this evening’s discussion was that it is not enough to work in these systems. One must work to challenge the status quo. There are various intersecting systems that impact youth including criminal justice, education, and child welfare and despite the connections between these systems they do not communicate well and as a result the youth in this country suffer.
This was an interactive and engaging discussion and we hope to have more in the future. Remain alert and keep posted for more.