In May 2021, Aaron Toleafoa, a bright young adult residing at Green Hill School, testified before Congress on the juvenile justice pipeline and the road back to integration.
"Since the age of 15 years old and going through the system, I've learned that the system was created for us, but the thought of us being involved in the correction itself had not occurred," Aaron told members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. "I say 'us' directed at people of color and people from poor communities who are disproportionately impacted by the system."
Aaron was given 21 years for felonies he committed when he was 15 years old. Since then, he has become a long-term advocate for youth justice reform and is currently the chair of the Emerging Leaders Committee for the Coalition of Juvenile Justice. His efforts have led to several legislative reforms in Washington State, including SB 6160 (also known as JR to 25).
During his testimony, Aaron stressed the importance of including the voices of young people with lived experience in making decisions that may impact them.
"We see that our system does a good job of holding those inside accountable for their actions, but what about the rehabilitation and reentry parts, which are just as important for not only our communities but for youth themselves," he said.
Aaron also discussed his commitment to peer mentoring and the importance of job training programs, housing supports, and other services that set young people up for success as they re-enter the community.