Grantee Spotlight: Youth Art and Self-empowerment project

Last month, Jasmine Jackson got a chance she never thought she’d have: She got to talk face-to-face to someone who could be Pennsylvania’s next governor.

At a community forum for Pennsylvania’s next governor, co-sponsored by Bread & Roses and many grantees, Jasmine asked the candidates how they’ll change the law to prevent youth from landing in adult prisons. The candidates promised reform, but according to Jasmine, “they could have done better.”

Jasmine is an organizer at Youth Art & Self-empowerment Project (YASP), a Bread & Roses Phoebus Criminal Justice Initiative grantee.

In 2009, YASP launched a campaign to get the legislature to stop the automatic transfer of young people accused of certain crimes to the adult criminal justice system.

Organizers, like Jasmine, have been collecting petition signatures and holding meetings with elected leaders around this issue. YASP organizers also provide workshops in the jails every Saturday using music, art, poetry and spoken word to get incarcerated young people involved.

YASP is a youth-led organization. Jasmine got involved at the age of 16 after she was charged as an adult and locked up in county jail. She’s 21 today and says “I never want to go back.” She plans to finish school and continue to serve as an organizer for change in the criminal justice system.

According to Jasmine, incarceration in adult jails is not good for young people. “If you don’t have any money or your family doesn’t have any money, you are stuck. You are in the county jail. It’s not a good place to be. And if you don’t have anyone in your corner in your home, it’s even more hectic.”

Thanks to the donors who provided the funds that allow Bread & Roses Community Fund to support the work of grantees like YASP and organizers like Jasmine.

 Jasmine Jackson at the 2009 Bread & Roses Retreat. Photo by: Ray Murphy