Luther College student works to eliminate disparities in Hennepin County juvenile justice system

Luther College sophomore, Sarah Edgington, has been selected to serve on a newly formed committee in Hennepin County focused on eliminating disparities in the juvenile justice system. As someone who has witnessed the negative effects of the system and has seen the inequalities firsthand, Edgington provides a valuable voice on the Youth Justice Council. 

"What I’ve seen too often is young people of color being put into the system and then because of that exposure, they’ve reentered the system multiple times," said Edgington. "The unfortunate thing is, the initial interaction could have been avoided." 

The mission of the Youth Justice Council is to improve and reform the juvenile justice system by eliminating the unnecessary use of secure detention, eliminating disparities based on race, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability and providing resources to effective community-based and culturally appropriate services for youth and their families.

On the council, Edgington serves as a member of the Executive Steering Committee as well as the Youth Advisory Board. 

"They (youth who have been in the system) have a story to tell and expertise to share," said Adesola Jaiyesimi, the youth innovation and equity manager for juvenile probation in Hennepin County. "When we're considering options for fixing the problem, not having a voice can be detrimental because our previous experiences teach us about things that others may not know. Additionally, it is so important that we continue to talk about how we got here in terms of structural constitutions that have allowed some groups to thrive and prohibited others from having the same access and experiences to achieve success."

As a political science major, systematic discrimination is of special interest to Edgington.

"One of my main goals is to target the historical damage and aftermath of how this country was systematically structured. To be the person who can write laws and actually make change is ultimately what I want to do," said Edgington. 

Edgington believes she was asked to serve on this council because of the work she has been doing on the Youth Advisory Board for the YMCA for the last two and a half years. YMCA Youth and Family Services has called Edgington a "change agent" and has said they are proud of "her willingness to speak up about her experience but also her own innovative ideas to better support young people."

"I think this group will spark change. I believe with so many different people working together and recognizing the problem and wanting change we have the potential to restore this system," said Edgington. 

Luther College is home to more than 1,800 undergraduates like Sarah who explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities and society. Our 60+ academic programs, experiential approach to learning and welcoming community inspire students to learn actively, live purposefully and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact. Learn more at luther.edu. 

Sarah Edgington