As a staff attorney at the Public Justice Center, Camilla Roberson focuses on issues related to juvenile justice and health rights. Through her work with the Just Kids Partnership, Roberson is aiming to end the automatic prosecution of youth as adults in Maryland.
The incarceration rate in the United States is the highest in the world. In 2012, one of every 108 adults was in prison or jail—a staggering 2.2 million people. Prison reform is needed for numerous injustices, especially in regard to two of the most vulnerable prison populations: women and children. On any given day in America, an estimated 10,000 children are housed in adult incarceration facilities, where they are at an increased risk for suicide and are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted. And, youth sent to adult jail facilities go on to commit more – and more violent! – crimes than those receiving rehabilitative services in the juvenile system.
Camilla Roberson, an attorney at the Public Justice Center, sought justice for children caught up in the legal system. Camilla and the Just Kids Partnership (a joint venture of the Public Justice Center and Community Law in Action, Inc.) launched a campaign through MMFN to minimize the numbers of youth held in adult jails, and prevent the construction of a jail dedicated for youth tried as adults. MMFN made sure people across Maryland knew the facts and helped get folks signed up to stay involved. The network deployed online advocacy tools and techniques such as a custom website, social media outlets, targeted social action platforms, blog posts and online advertisements that called upon people to take action.
Over 8,300 Marylanders expressed support for juvenile justice. Camilla and Just Kids ensured that communities had data-driven policy language rather than ill-informed and politically expedient rhetoric. After public education and outreach about jailing children with adults, Baltimore stepped up and banned the practice. Shortly after, Governor Hogan made the policy statewide. In addition to this victory, Camilla and Just Kids grew their support base by 1,689 percent—adding 3,377 voices to the movement who continue to speak to speak out for juvenile justice.