February 2023, Saroeum Phoung, was invited to participate in a panel discussion on Community Violence Intervention & Prevention with Liz Ryan, administrator of the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).
“It was an honor to be involved with this important governmental agency that is embracing ending the incarceration of youth in favor of community-based alternatives”, said Phoung.
“Liz Ryan is an incredible leader in the new approach to help end gun violence and offer the first of its kind federal grant program tailored to expanding the role of community partners as a complement to law enforcement.”
The new $100 million grant from the Justice Department and Bi-partisan Safer Communities Act, includes support for 47 sites nationwide to implement community-driven efforts that rely on cross-sector partnerships and trusted messengers to interrupt violence, expand opportunity, and save lives. The conference hosted approximately 400 invited attendees, including representatives from grantee sites and training and technical assistance provider organizations.
Liz Ryan became Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention on May 16, 2022, following appointment by President Joseph R. Biden. Prior to leading OJJDP, Ms. Ryan served as president and CEO of the Youth First Initiative, a national campaign focused on ending the incarceration of youth by investing in community-based alternatives. Ms. Ryan founded the Youth First Initiative in 2014; under her leadership, it achieved the closure of youth prisons in six states and redirected more than $50 million to community-based alternatives to incarceration.
Ms. Ryan founded the Campaign for Youth Justice in 2005 and served as its president and CEO until 2014. The national, multistate initiative sought to end the prosecution of youth in adult criminal courts and the placement of youth in adult jails and prisons. During Ms. Ryan’s tenure, the campaign’s work led to legislative and policy changes in more than 30 states, a 60 percent decrease in the numbers of youth in adult courts, and a greater-than 50 percent decrease in the numbers of youth placed in adult jails and prisons.
A staunch advocate for youth, Ms. Ryan cofounded and cochaired Act 4 Juvenile Justice, a campaign to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. She also served as advocacy director for the Youth Law Center, national field director for OJJDP’s Juvenile Court Centennial Initiative, and as an advocate for the Children’s Defense Fund. She has written extensively about juvenile justice reform, including articles, editorials, reports, and chapters of books.
“It is our hope that this is only the beginning of a trend by government and community to spend more on helping youth stay out of the treadmill of incarceration and crime and become good citizens in their neighborhoods,” Phoung added. “It enhances what we are trying to do on local levels throughout the country.”