Justice For Demi is devoted to a long-term struggle to retroactively secure Demi’s juvenile rights and free her to help others. In line with principles of restorative and transformative justice, we embrace a harm reduction approach, seeking to limit the harm caused by the juvenile justice system, but to ultimately rehabilitate the juvenile justice system to be useful to society. 4
Justice For Demi is founded on principles of restorative and transformative justice. We believe that fundamental to remediating harm, is doing our best to repair harm already done (restorative justice) and fix systems of power and behavioral habits that lead to harm in the first place (transformative justice). Demi has had almost a decade to think about the circumstances that led her to where her life is today. Throughout her time in prison, she has worked to pursue legal action against the systems that failed her throughout childhood, as well as the prison system, which consistently fails all inmates.
Our organizational philosophy is to bring people in to work together to repair social harm. Even against our better judgment, we always approach our antagonists with an olive branch and assume good intentions. Where this approach fails, however, we are prepared to pursue every avenue at our disposal to ensure the triumph of justice.
Despite reforms in 2016, the juvenile waiver remains one of the cruelest ways the state of New Jersey deals with children who run afoul of the law. Despite bearing heavily upon children of all races who find themselves in the juvenile justice system, juvenile waivers are overwhelmingly applied to those whom the state deems Black boys.
According to a study cited by the Juvenile Law Center, 90% of foster children with five or more moves end up involved in the juvenile justice system. Another study they reference, over half of foster kids will have an encounter with the criminal justice system by the age of 17. These effects are particularly acute for LGBTQIA+ youth and youth of color.
Demi’s name was not nor had it ever been David. But that was the name her court-appointed public defender called her as she mistakenly read someone else’s case file. Only 16 years old and succumbing to the social pressure to be a boy, Demi’s actual charges for manslaughter stemmed from an act of misdirected hostility in which she killed her former foster father whom she wrongly blamed at the time for the sexual abuse she suffered while under his care.
Demi was thrown into the foster system at the age of 8 after being removed from her household because the beatings her father gave her made her unable to sit down at school. After bouncing around the foster system, she ended up being placed in a foster home where she faced sexual abuse from another foster child. When she reported the abuse, she was told that there was no place in the foster system for a black boy.
After leaving that abusive situation, she kept bouncing around the foster system, until she eventually ended up homeless. While on the streets, she returned to the foster home where she faced sexual abuse, got in an altercation with her foster father, and stabbed him to death.
With an overworked public defender managing her case, Demi was pressured into taking a plea that waived her rights as a juvenile and sentenced her to 30 years with a 25 year minimum in an adult prison as a child. Since then, she has devoted her life to making amends for her actions and fixing the institutions that failed her.
Since receiving her sentence, Demi has devoted herself to serving others. During her time in prison, she has received paralegal training, and has helped other inmates with legal paperwork to redress their grievances. She has helped other inmates to receive gender affirming items, hormone replacement therapy, and gender appropriate housing.
She has also built bridges with numerous elected officials and nonprofits to craft legislation addressing the broken juvenile justice system, the prison system, and the foster care system. When Demi is freed from incarceration, she intends to take over this organization and devote her life to reforming the juvenile justice system.