Prof. Rodriguez Honored for Juvenile Justice Work

April 21, 2017

Prof. Rodriguez and David BrownWheelock Assistant Professor and Chair of Juvenile Justice and Youth Advocacy William Rodriguez, M.S., J.D., received the Annie E. Casey Foundation's prestigious Natalie S. Bimel Award for his efforts to build a just and equitable youth justice system. He received the honor in Orlando, Fla., during the foundation's annual Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) Inter-Site Conference.

The Natalie S. Bimel Award is one of four that the Casey Foundation bestowed in 2017 to results-driven and strategic reformers whose steadfast dedication to detention reform has improved the lives of youth. The awardees' work exemplifies some of JDAI's best attributes: continuous improvement, cross-fertilization of ideas, and a personal commitment to improving the lives of court-involved young people.

"We should all be in the business of dismantling our criminal justice system," Rodriguez said upon receiving the award. "A day in jail for a child is a day too many."

In presenting the award, David E. Brown, a senior associate in the Foundation's Juvenile Justice Strategy Group, said, "Willie is developing the next generation of juvenile justice leaders and reform advocates who are grounded in a clear understanding of positive youth development and racial and ethnic justice."

In addition to teaching, Rodriguez is leading a professional credentialing initiative for juvenile justice professionals focused on expanding positive youth development and cross-systems collaborative strategies. He has dedicated more than 30 years to criminal and juvenile justice reform. He has held leadership or board positions with La Alianza Hispana, the Vera Institute of Justice, Justice for Families and Friends of Incarcerated Louisiana Children, among others.

Rodriguez said he was "truly honored and humbled, given that the Annie E. Casey Foundation is a major player in the national scene on issues related to juvenile justice." He said he wanted to share the award with his friend and colleague Wheelock Associate Professor Ann Tobey. "She has been my mentor and guiding support since I joined Wheelock College," Rodriguez said. "She is the genius who created the Juvenile Justice and Youth Advocacy program and integrated the concept of positive youth development into all our academic components."

Learn more about Wheelock College's Juvenile Justice and Youth Advocacy program.

Pictured (left to right): Wheelock's William Rodriguez and David E. Brown from the Annie E. Casey Foundation

About the Natalie S. Bimel Award

The award is named for Natalie S. Bimel and honors the contributions of community leaders to detention reform. Bimel directed the JDAI documentary "These Are Our Kids," completed shortly before her death from cancer in 2002. The criminal justice reformer also established a number of highly regarded community programs to reduce the reliance on incarceration and help former prisoners transition successfully back to their communities.

About the JDAI Conference

The annual JDAI conference, held this year in Orlando, Florida, gathers policymakers and practitioners from across the country. Prof. Rodriguez was honored on the 25th Anniversary of the Casey Foundation's Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiatives, an impactful program that has reduced juvenile detention populations in 39 states. The conference is meant to inspire attendees to more fully and faithfully implement juvenile justice reform strategies, expand the reform toolbox and be intentional about sustaining the reforms and the collaborative, data-driven approach that has been at the heart of JDAI's success.

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