Episode 167 - Ronjonette Harrison: Innovative Change for Juvenile Offenders Through Legislation and Intervention

Monday, May 11, 2015, 9:32:02 AM

Image of Ronjonette Harrison, LCSW-R

In the majority of U.S. states, individuals age 16 or 17 who are arrested will have their cases heard in juvenile or family courts. However, in the states of New York and North Carolina, 16 and 17 year olds who are arrested find their cases handled in adult criminal court. In New York State, the "Raise the Age" campaign is an effort to change that state's law and move cases involving 16 and 17 year old offenders out of the adult courts. In this episode, Ms. Ronjonette Harrison explains why raising the age is important and describes an alternative to adult court.

Download MP3 (37.0 MB)

Audio Transcript PDF document.

Listener Reviews

3 Reviews
5 star:
4 star:    (0)
3 star:    (0)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
Average Listener Review

Average Rating: 5 stars (3 listener reviews )

Share your thoughts with others

Create Your Own Review

Average Rating: 5stars  raise the age!, Sunday, February 07, 2016

By Christina Cali :

I completed an undergrad internship with a crossroads program in Ohio. To me, this program was amazing, the juveniles were truly learning about themselves, restoring justice & helping their families become a stronger unit. After completing my undergrad degree I began working in the department of rehabilitation&corrections, where I met many 18 year olds doing years in prison. My immediate thought was, if only that crossroads program was offered in their county, perhaps they wouldn’t be here today. I then returned to my home community in Rochester, NY & began working with for a non-secure detention program for youth who were deemed a persons in need of supervision. Time & time again our clients would cross the line of being a PINS violation to committing a crime, & they would be gone to the adult system, never to return to their PINS status. I could not understand how this had not been changed yet. It was very clear through my time at the Ohio crossroads program that diversion programs worked. So why was Monroe County not using them? I quickly learned about the Raise the Age campaign & unbelievably, the program I worked for was not looking forward to it being passed. Their concern was that when these juveniles violated the program they could not be sent to jail, they would need to be held at a juvenile detention center. The one in our county is pretty small meaning we “bed borrow” from other counties, costing the county a pretty penny. Knowing this, many judges would therefore find a way to put the juvenile back on PINS status making the juvenile our agencies “problem.” This continued to baffle my mind as statistics clearly show that diversion programs can work with 16 and 17 year olds. Thank you for continuing the conversation and giving information on how we, as social work community, can become involved. I have a passion for both social work and the juvenile justice system. The Raise the Age campaign gives me hope for the juveniles of our future.

Flag This


Average Rating: 5stars  raise the age, Monday, February 01, 2016

By Thea Kegler :

This podcast was extremely informative; the discussion was thorough, and the topic useful. Given the social and economic implications of incarceration, especially for youth, everything that can be done to divert young offenders is worthwhile. Furthermore, understanding and addressing the underlying conditions and issues that lead to involvement with the criminal justice system, as well as understanding the double standards and conflicting messages imposed upon youth, is key to truly helping correct behavior and improve lives. The effectiveness of the pilot programs described here and implemented at Buffalo City Court further justify the goals of the campaign. Ms. Harrison offered a thought-provoking contextual background for the “Raise the Age” campaign, as well as a comprehensive description of the programs involved in Buffalo, and their implications. Using the Relational Ecological model, the HEART program has actually led to true change in behavior and perspective of young offenders, and the strengthening of families. It was clear that Ms. Harrison’s experience has earned her expertise on the complexity of the topic, and she gave concrete examples of how these policies and conditions affect individuals. She also gave feasible examples of what Social Workers can do to become involved and promote the cause. It was heartening to hear that some of the principles and paradigms of the Social Work profession are being valued by and integrated into the criminal justice system, where they are sorely needed.

Flag This


Average Rating: 5stars  jasmine westbrook review, Monday, February 01, 2016

By Jasmine Westbrook :

As a MSW student interested in working with this population, I am truly inspired by this conversation. I believe the “Raise The Age” campaign is imperative for all states in America to follow. I agree that 16 and 17 year old individuals should be treated like younger children in the juvenile criminal justice system. It is unfair to treat them like an adult in the criminal justice system but not in other legal scenarios such as employment opportunities, age of consent, and voting rights. Treating them like an adult is contrary.

I love the idea of the children receiving services along with their families through the family court system. Ms. Ronjonette Harrison mentioned the impact that these services have on the child and the family. Implementing restorative justice practices instead of punishing the child have lead to less re-occurring offenses.It also helped to repair the connection between the chid and their systems which include their families and communities.

Flag This

DISCLAIMER: The content shared by the presenter(s) and/or interviewer(s) of each podcast is their own and not necessarily representative of any views, research, or practice from the UB School of Social Work or the inSocialWork® podcast series.