About Jessica Younts

 

Jessica Younts

Jessica has served as the Vice President of FRRC since incorporation in 2011 and is the current Research and Policy Director. She was involved with the drafting and ultimate passing of Amendment 4 in Florida, which eliminated the lifetime ban on voting for people with felony conviction and re-enfranchised over 1.45 million people with past felony convictions in the state of Florida. Jessica is respected among her peers and is well known for her dedication and advocacy for disadvantaged youth and addressing the damage to families and society caused by the numerous collateral consequences Returning Citizens face.

In 2019, Jessica was awarded Student of the Year for NSU’s Abraham S. Fischler College of Education.

In 2015, Jessica was selected as a Fire Fellow for the United States Human Rights Network.

In 2014, Jessica was part of the NAACP Delegation for ICCPR Treaty Review in Geneva where she testified at the United Nations about felon disenfranchisement practices in Florida. Jessica also contributed to the shadow report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination as it relates to the criminalization of minority youth.

Jessica served as volunteer Guardian Ad Litem for 10 years (2009-2019).

As a single mother raising two outstanding young boys, Jessica was able to obtain her law degree from Nova Southeastern University, has since passed the New York Bar Exam,  is currently pursuing her Ph.D. and a proud wife and mother to four amazing children.

While attending law school, Jessica was appointed by the American Bar Association as Law Student Division Liaison to the Criminal Justice Section’s Juvenile Justice Committee for two consecutive years. Included in her work with the ABA, Jessica researched various aspects of the collateral consequences of juvenile adjudications and drafted research summaries for a proposed policy that was subsequently adopted as an official ABA policy. Due to her dedication and hard work with the Juvenile Justice Committee, Jessica was awarded ABA LSD Outstanding Liaison Award in 2010.

Jessica was also appointed by the American Bar Association as a Law Student Division 5th Circuit Lt. Governor for a Pre-Release/ Reentry Initiative. Jessica created a Volunteer Re-entry program in conjunction with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office which enabled law students to assist the Broward County Sheriff’s Office in providing Re-Entry Services to individuals set for release from local jails. Due to her hard work and dedication in the area of re-entry, she was the recipient of the ABA LSD Silver Key Award in 2011.

During Jessica’s last year in law school, she created the General Education Advocacy Program at Nova Southeastern University’s Children and Families Clinic. This program was initially created to represent children in the education system that were facing suspension and/or expulsion and expanded to help children with various other educational issues as well as representing children aging out of foster care that are being denied future benefits (RTI Advocacy). The first case argued was a case of first impression against the Broward County School Board which was won and affirmed on appeal. Upon graduation, Jessica was the recipient of the Honorable Charles I. Kaplan Outstanding Service Award for the development of the General Education Advocacy Program.

While in law school, Jessica also had the opportunity to sit on the Direct Filing Sub-committee of the Florida Legal Needs of Children and work on proposed legislation to limit direct filing of youth. She also managed to take on leadership positions in a variety of law school activities and groups including, but not limited to, Criminal Law Society- Vice President; Public Interest Law Society- Vice President; Phi Alpha Delta- Co-Vice Justice; Italian American Law School Association- Vice President; Student Bar Initiative- Secretary; Law Student Advisor, and member of the Pro Bono Honor Program.

For undergrad, Jessica attended St. John’s University, where she obtained her Bachelor of Science with a major in Criminal Justice and a minor in Psychology. While attending St. John’s, Jessica was on the Dean’s List, was the recipient of the National Law Enforcement Scholarship Award, and the Arthur B. Carton Scholarship Award. She was also a member of Alpha Phi Sigma (National Criminal Justice Honor Society) and the National Criminal Justice Association.

Jessica is an advocate and leader who has refused to let a society labeled status as an ex-offender stop her from achieving immeasurable accomplishments and help pave the way for others. Jessica continues to work hard to break down the barriers and extensive limitations her status places upon her, so that each and every Returning Citizen can have a chance to succeed.