The Incarcerated Children’s Advocacy Network (ICAN) is a national network of formerly incarcerated adults, that were sentenced to extreme or life sentences as children. ICAN provides support for its members and empowers them to create positive change in their communities. ICAN identifies, mobilizes, and amplifies the experiences of these leaders in order to advocate for legal system reform and an end to the extreme sentencing of children. Learn more about ICAN’s vision and how you can support our mission.
The Incarcerated Children’s Advocacy Network (ICAN) is a project of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, launched in 2014. This first-of-its kind national network is run in partnership with a growing number of leaders who were incarcerated as children with hundreds of members all over the country. Each and every one of the members of ICAN are living proof of the unique capacity for change that resides within every child and the one-of-a-kind leadership that often comes from directly impacted communities.
These individuals are experts who demonstrate through their advocacy that children, even those convicted of serious crimes, can mature and become rehabilitated. ICAN identifies, mobilizes, and amplifies the experiences of individuals incarcerated as youth to inform the public debate about children’s capacity for positive change and to debunk racially charged and dehumanizing narratives that seek to justify extreme sentencing of youth.
ICAN is committed to creating a truly equitable and transformative legal system that recognizes children’s capacity for change and provides them with equal opportunity for success. We are dedicated to using our stories to bring awareness to the mistreatment of children by the legal system and the racial, class, and gender disparities in incarceration. As ICAN members, we support each other by providing community care, professional skill-building opportunities, and connecting members to the reintegration resources necessary to rebuild our lives and advocate for change.
ICAN: What We Do
Speak publicly as subject-matter experts and living examples of positive change to legislators, stakeholders, and media networks about the realities of incarceration in order to change the damaging narratives about incarcerated youth.
Create a safe space for formerly incarcerated youth through mutual networks of support, regular check-ins, and self-care retreats.
Provide resources, training, and educational opportunities for ICAN members to help them become successful in their communities and empower them to use their voices for change.
Advocate for changes in punitive policies that impose harsh sentences on youth and disregard the differences between children and adults.
Fight for racial equity and equity for all by changing the carceral system that disproportionately targets children of color and subjects them to extreme sentences.
Engage with survivors of youth violence, their families, and the families of incarcerated people to emphasize age-appropriate accountability and to facilitate collective hope, healing and restorative justice while increasing understanding of children’s capacities for change.
ICAN Self-Care Convening
Now in it’s second iteration, the ICAN Self-Care Convening seeks to help ICAN members recognize and heal from trauma. These gatherings create an opportunity for formerly life-sentenced children to engage in conversations about self-forgiveness with the assistance of fellow ICAN members, licensed clinical social workers, CFSY staff members, and spiritual guides. These discussions focus on creating personal wholeness and retaining a sense of personal accountability while overcoming the shame they bear for the harm they have caused.
Our NationalFamilyNetwork (NFN) is a community of friends and family members of people impacted by youth violence. This includes individuals whose loved ones are serving extreme sentences for crimes committed as children, as well as individuals who have lost loved ones to youth violence. The NFN engages in dialogue, action planning, and information sharing to advance efforts to end the practice of sentencing youth to life in prison without the possibility of parole. If you are interested in becoming a part of this community, please fill out our NationalFamilyNetwork Interest Form and contact Crystal Carpenter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We Are the Formerly Incarcerated Youth
Laura Berry, ICAN Member
Steve Austin, ICAN Member
Xavier McElrath-Bey, Dolphy Jordan, and Vance Webster