Policy Research & Advocacy

Represent Justice turns stories into action. Using the power of storytelling,  we raise awareness and bring policy-makers and the general public proximate to the history and issues of the justice system. We also engage in and support advocacy initiatives designed to create public demand around the need for justice-system transformation, with a focus on tipping-point issues where our involvement alongside other community organizations and system-impacted advocates can be the most effective, and where we can make the greatest impact. 

Youth Justice Initiative

Represent Justice supports and advocates for laws, policies, and practices that treat children as children, respect their humanity and dignity, and recognize their great capacity for change. These include, but are not limited to, measures that:

  • Eliminate the school-to-prison and foster care-to-prison pipelines
  • Prioritize diversionary programs and alternatives to incarceration
  • Do not permit children younger than 14 to be charged with an offense
  • Prohibit or limit the transfer of children to adult courts
  • Ensure that children are adequately represented by legal counsel during interrogation
  • Prevent children from being sentenced to life without parole (JLWOP) and other extreme sentences that do not allow meaningful opportunities for release 

Collective messaging to countering harmful narratives
Use of phone-to-action tool targeting elected officials
Virtual discussions centered around important justice-system related issues
Direct-to-Camera videos with system impacted leaders
Media storytelling/Op-Eds featuring system impacted leaders

National Legislative Priorities

  • Leading/Partnering Organization: Human Rights for Kids
    • S. 1014  (2021) – The First Step Implementation Act grants sentencing review after 20 years to individuals prosecuted in the federal criminal justice system who are serving life and de facto life without parole sentences for crimes they committed as children.
    • S. 3946 (2022) –  The Abolishing Human Trafficking Reauthorization Act is a bipartisan bill that provides the legal framework for the U.S. to combat, monitor, and prosecute human trafficking crimes and would effectively abolish life without parole for people sentenced as children in the federal system.

State-based Legislative Priorities

  • Leading/Partnering Organization: Restore Justice (Illinois)
    • HB 1064 (2021) – Provides parole review for people who were under 21 years of age at the time of the commission of certain offenses and sentenced to life without parole
  • Leading/Partnering Organization: Louisiana Parole Project (Louisiana)
    • HB 254 (2021) – Ensures that juveniles convicted of serious crimes are eligible for parole


  • Federal Youth Justice Coalition – is a broad coalition of victim and child advocacy groups advocacting for youth justice reform at the federal level.
  • Abolish Slavery National Network (#EndTheException) –  is a national coalition focused on ending the exception in the thirteenth amendment that allows for slavery as punishment for crime.
  • Justice for LaKeith Smith – a coalition of concerned Alabama residents and organizations that are currently working to identify and cultivate potential champions among local elected officials and leadership organizations to help highlight and amplify the case of LaKeith Smith.

Letters of Support/Opposition