The National Judicial College (NJC) has been awarded a two-year, $1 million grant from the Walmart Foundation through the Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity to support a program that aims to reduce racial disparities in youth incarceration rates. The NJC will launch a program for educating the judiciary and articulating best practices, not only for alternative sentencing of youth offenders but also for promoting mentoring to help judges eradicate the cycle of crime and incarceration.
Black youth are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system. Studies have established a correlation between juvenile incarceration and long-term difficulties in future employment, education and housing opportunities, which further contribute to a likelihood of recidivism. The NJC will educate judges on alternative sentencing programs focused on addressing root causes and developing better remediation pathways for Black youth to successfully exit the justice system and to help strengthen their communities for generations to come.
The Walmart Foundation grant supports the Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity’s aim to strengthen community-based crime-prevention initiatives. Under the grant, the NJC will work collaboratively with judges and other stakeholders in the justice system nationwide to provide education about alternative sentencing, diversion programs and mentorship opportunities for at-risk youth who take responsibility for qualifying criminal offenses. In seeking to curtail over-incarceration, the NJC plans to help judges balance the goals of addressing the root causes of criminal misconduct by young offenders and holding offenders accountable.
“We are honored that the Walmart Foundation has recognized The National Judicial College’s role in educating state and local judges who preside over cases involving youth offenders,” said NJC President Benes Z. Aldana. “Preparing judges to render equal justice under law has always been the College’s number one priority. This support from the Walmart Foundation will help address the persistent problem of racial disparities in criminal justice outcomes.”
The NJC will collaborate with the National Bar Association (NBA), the nation’s oldest and largest national network of predominantly African-American attorneys and judges. This initiative was partly inspired by the Alternative Sentencing Accountability Program (ASAP) led by former NBA President Carlos Moore, a judge in Mississippi. Under ASAP, Judge Moore identifies alternative sentences for non-violent, first-time offenders when circumstances warrant providing the youth offender a second chance. The NJC and NBA plan to broaden the ASAP model into a national initiative. The NJC is the nation’s oldest, largest and most widely attended school for judges. It educates judges, including those in state, local, and tribal courts, that decide more than 95 percent of the cases in this country.