ICAN (Incarcerated Children’s Advocacy Network) — a project of the CFSY — is a growing network of leaders who were incarcerated as children with dozens of members all of over the country. Three of its members are full-time CFSY staffers, and all 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. Learn more about ICAN’s vision and how you can support our mission.
In 2014, CFSY partnered with leaders who were formerly incarcerated for murder and/or sentenced to life without parole as children to launch a first-of-its-kind national network called ICAN, the Incarcerated Children’s Advocacy Network. 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 woven into every aspect of the CFSY’s efforts. ICAN members write op-eds and editorials; speak at conferences and events; meet with legislators and testify before committees; shape CFSY programmatic strategies; and, ultimately, demonstrate with their lives the imperative need to overhaul accountability measures for children in the U.S. justice system—particularly for children of color who disproportionately receive life without parole and other extreme sentences. Because of successful reforms made possible by CFSY and its partners, ICAN now serves as a guiding light and resource to individuals returning home after decades in prison since childhood. Currently, three members of ICAN are full-time CFSY staffers.
Speaking publicly to provide living examples of positive change
Educating stakeholders and other strategic audiences about the impacts of extreme sentences upon individuals, families, and communities
Highlighting in the media and in amicus briefs stories of individual change that demonstrate the potential of formerly incarcerated youth to become positive and productive members of society
Advocating for reforms to justice policies at the state and federal levels that fail to reflect the fundamental differences between adolescents and adults
Supporting campaign partners and other organizations and initiatives that advocate for age-appropriate and trauma-informed consequences for children
Sharing our unique insights gained from experience to inform institutional policies and practices in working with youth
Connecting and collaborating with other advocacy organizations and initiatives that are headed by, are staffed by, and/or are informed by formerly incarcerated leaders
We Are the Formerly Incarcerated Youth
Videos and Documentaries
Chance for Change, featuring ICAN members Dolphy Jordan and Xavier McElrath-Bey, and formerly incarcerated youth Vance
Chance for Change, Dolphy’s story
Chance for Change, Xavier’s story
Lost for Life
Featuring ICAN member Sean Taylor, Director Joshua Rofé, and Producers Ted Leonsis, Rick Allen, and multiple-Oscars winner Mark Jonathan Harris. Explore the complexities of the stories of those sentenced to life without parole as juveniles – and the stories of their families and of the families of juvenile murder victims.
15 to Life
Dealing with related issues, 15 to Life shows a current Florida incarcerated citizen, Kenneth Young. Kenneth was locked up with four life sentences at the age of 15, despite his drug-addicted mother leaving Kenneth and his sister to fend for themselves for days, and his mother’s drug dealer threatening her life if Kenneth didn’t assist in a string of robberies. Director Nadine Pequeneza explores his life and relationships, the mitigating circumstances, and his chances for release.