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Atty. Sherri Jefferson

... for founding African American Juvenile Justice Project
Attorney Sherri Jefferson

Attorney Sherri Jefferson, for founding African American Juvenile Justice Project, a program that focuses on community accountability and responsibility, youth leadership and legislative initiatives for juvenile justice and reform.


Like a fighter in the ring, Jefferson is a fighter in the courts. She's got to be, because her opponent is judicial system itself.

It is an ongoing battle for fairness in a system that is often too quick to condemn and too slow to care. Not about hardened criminals, but about children.

"We are at a place in society, not just here in Georgia, but the country over where we've given up on our children so it's a lot easier to lock them up and throw away the key as opposed to us being accountable and responsible," Jefferson said.

Jefferson is the founder of the African American Juvenile Justice Project. The mission is simple, but the task is herculean: dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline...

"Less than 15 percent of all the children that are incarcerated in Georgia are for violent offenses, so let's deal with the core group of 85 percent, according to [Department of Juvenile Justice's] own statistics who are not violent offenders, but who are still being subject to arrest and conviction," Jefferson said.

Jefferson believes in the power of the community, and a simple formula involving "the six P's."

"Those six P's include the role of the parents the principals and the pastors because those are the first three lives that children will interact with before they have a police citizen encounter," Jefferson said. "The fourth would be the role of the police the prosecutor and the prison system..."

Jefferson says each is as much to blame as the other for the failure -- or the success -- of our children.

That goes for the next set of P's as well, which includes physicians, psychologists and big pharma.

"The other six P program is our goal to cease and desist with the forced medication of most children," Jefferson said. "We have children as young as three and 4 years of age who are being declared bipolar who are being placed on drugs like Depokote, Neurontin, Ritalin and Seroquel."

Jefferson helps young people who are at risk as well as those already touched by the justice system, helping them expunge criminal records so they can get into college or find jobs. Many of them, she believes, are the victims of laws that have been misapplied.

"We have a child that goes to school and says, 'I'm going to kick your butt,' Georgia has where many of our children are being charged -- black and white alike and Latino-- are charged with terroristic threats it was never the legislative intent to charge juveniles with terroristic threats for telling another classmate they're going to kick their butt," Jefferson said.

jefferson believes in straight talk, no nonsense, no pity parties. Because in the end, the fight to succeed is long and hard and will leave a mark. How you deal with it determines whether you win.

"Are you living in excuses, denying justification and blaming everybody for your plight or are you doing something to change it," she said.


LEARN MORE: http://www.thefamilylawcenter.org