What began as an idea to engage more faith leaders in issues of youth justice in California has grown into an annual week-long observance that has spread throughout the United States and is now known as the Juvenile Justice Week of Faith and Healing.

Javier Stauring, Co-Director of the Office of Restorative Justice at the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, started the observance in an effort to raise awareness of individual, community, and social needs arising from the current juvenile justice system. Events during the week also include dialogues between offenders, victims, and the community regarding the causes of crime.

“Through education, advocacy, and direct service projects,” Stauring’s Healing Justice Coalition explains, “participating religious congregations, high schools and universities will take leadership roles to stop the cycle of pain and hurt in our communities with a restorative model of justice.” Past projects have ranged from the installation of mock jail cells on university campuses and developing an advocacy effort to help students understand the physical reality of prison, to organized visits for members of clergy to juvenile prison facilities.

Juvenile Justice Week of Faith and Healing will be observed March 4-10 this year. In 2012, Esi Mathis of California was among the members of the National Family Network who undertook projects for that week. Esi sent letters to ministers in her community and held meetings with parishioners about the practice of sentencing children to life without parole. This year she plans to follow up with the ministers who didn’t respond last year and to reach out to new ministers as well.

To get involved in events in your area, or if you know a faith leader or community who may be interested, please visit the Healing Justice Coalition website or check out the CFSY Faith Outreach Toolkit. For more information, please contact CFSY Outreach Coordinator Emily Dillon at edillon@fairsentencingofyouth.org or 202-289-4673.