The Mom Who Sparked #YJAM

October 1, 2013

On the afternoon of January 4, 2008, Tracy McClard, a mother in Jackson, Missouri, received a call from the Missouri Department of Corrections. The call was to inform her that her 17-year-old son, Jonathan, was dead.

Tracy McClardAt 16, Jonathan turned himself into police for a violent crime he committed in a moment of very poor judgement, as his mother recalled in a powerful personal story she shared with the Campaign for Youth Justice.  "While I believe that Jonathan needed to be held accountable for his actions, pay retribution, and undergo intense rehabilitation, I never would have imagined the conditions he would face in the adult criminal justice system, which ultimately took his life," Tracy writes.

Jonathan had taken his own life upon realizing that an adult sentence made it impossible to see a future for himself, especially a future that included his dream of becoming a doctor.

Jonathan McClard was one of the thousands of children that end up in the adult criminal justice system every year. His future and the futures of others like him are forever changed by adult convictions that put up barriers to education, housing and employment.

Determined to stop similar tragedies from happening to another mother’s son or daughter, Tracy began a 5K Race to bring public awareness to this issue and to educate her Missouri lawmakers. She joined the Alliance for Youth Justice, a project organized by Campaign for Youth Justice, and shared her vision of events that would be held in every state in the country promoting youth justice awareness.

Her enthusiasm was contagious and now, just five years later, twenty state campaigns will be holding community events to raise public awareness. Last year, with Tracy’s help, four new states held successfulevents which drew a great deal of media coverage.

Within a few short years, Tracy has educated countless numbers of people, including youth, state representatives, and congressional members. In addition to these barriers, children like Jonathan face bleak living conditions where they are 36 times more likely to commit suicide and are the most vulnerable population at risk of sexual assault.

For more on Tracy's story, check out Families Know Best: Tracy McClard's Story on the Campaign for Youth Justice site.

Get Involved this October (and Beyond!)

Youth Justice Awareness Month is an opportunity for families, youth, and allies to host community-led actions and events that expose the real-life consequences of children being processed in adult court and placed in adult jails and prisons. With events happening throughout the country, YJAM is not only a time to raise awareness but also a time to build collective action, to strengthen relationships with other advocates, and to join local advocacy campaigns working to create policy changes.

  • Learn more about planning an event and get flyers and tools
  • Donate to Y-JAM 2013 (through the Campaign for Youth Justice)
  • Find 2013 YJAM Events across the country

For more info, please contact Angela Bellota at  |   #YJAM on Facebook   |   Twitter #YJAM #YouthJustice


The Campaign for Youth Justice  (CFYJ)  is dedicated to ending the practice of trying, sentencing, and incarcerating youth under 18 in the adult criminal justice system. CFYJ works in partnership with state-based campaigns in a number of states, and makes their information, tools and resources available to those interested in learning and taking action on an issue that personally affects them.