Joshua Dankoff

“You’ve got to think about restorative justice first rather than punitive justice.”


Interviewee: Joshua Dankoff

Interviewers: Sabrina O. and Kerry T., Grade 12

Interview Date: January 28, 2016

Interview Location: Citizens for Juvenile Justice, Boston, MA

Student Reflections:

Interviewing Josh Dankoff reminded me, a young adult, student, daughter, sister, and activist, that young people play a major role in society and how they are treated within the juvenile justice system can have a tremendous affect on the future. As Dankoff says, “If young people don’t have the capacity to change then no one does,” and this has stayed with me every day since the interview. Dankoff understands that we need to put a larger effort into young people because young people are the future. It is easy to forget in today’s world the impact communities have on one another and looking at the bigger picture how those communities can either produce a safe environment or a dangerous one. One thing Dankoff said that struck me was, “You’ve got to think about restorative justice first rather than punitive justice.” The media, whether it’s the news or movies, tends to portray teenagers as committing a crime and being incarcerated as a punishment for that crime. Dankoff believes, which I agree with, that depending on the severity of the crime, it may be best to look towards restorative justice that targets areas youth need help with in order to restore them back to a society in which they feel they belong . For someone as fortunate as myself, I feel the call to take part in a welcoming society and to contribute to the force of good that Dankoff speaks of. I completely agree with his statement of, “It is a wild time to be alive, just trying to be really aware of the choices you make as students, especially as consumers,” because it is harder to reflect on your own choices than it is to make judgement concerning the choices of others. As the world advances I hope that our societal structures will improve and the work that Citizens for Juvenile Justice does truly makes a difference. (Sabrina O.)

Joshua Dankoff began working at Citizens for Juvenile Justice in 2015 after spending time in Sierra Leone alongside UNICEF. I received the opportunity to interview Dankoff at the CfJJ office in Boston and asked him questions regarding the criminal justice system, activism, and what he does to make a difference in the world. Dankoff works alongside various leaders and agencies in hopes of improving the juvenile justice system and making laws more efficient for juveniles. As a firm believer in the capacity to change, Dankoff encourages leaders and the general public to be “self-reflective” and wonder whether or not what they are doing will implement and trigger change that will benefit not only the common good, but juveniles in particular. Dankoff knows that “children are different and need special attention” and, alongside his coworkers at CfJJ, he is one step closer everyday to making a real difference in the world. (Kerry T.)


“People don’t see eye to eye, they’re not always agreeing on everything but it’s fun for me to try to find the common ground and move forward on that common ground.”

“Working together and specifically trying to address the racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system gives me hope that we can make change and do things better.”

“It’s a pleasure to come to work and have friends and colleagues who are committed to the work they’re doing.”

“It gives me hope that there are people fighting the good fight here.”

“Police need to be trained and understand what’s going on in the adolescent brain, what’s driving risk-taking behavior.”

“It’s just a challenge to think about policing practice that doesn’t get certain groups of people more in trouble and are harder on certain communities than others.”

“At every step in our criminal justice system I think it is important for each agency and each actor to be self reflective on their role, whether they’re ultimately doing good and sort of helping move towards positive outcomes for the people they’re coming in contact with, and consistently, and whether also self reflective in terms of the impact that they’re having on communities and communities in poverty and communities of color.”

“It’s not easy to be self reflective; as an individual it’s really hard, as an institution, there’s a lot of work to do, sometimes inspiring, sometimes very frustrating, but I try to remain hopeful.”

“Children are different and need special attention and also in terms of kids doing stupid stuff, it happens all the time.”

“You’ve got to think about restorative justice first rather than punitive justice.”

“If young people don’t have the capacity to change then no one does.”

“Activism, to me, is fighting the good fight, not hiding behind easy answers, using information and data for the forces of good, bringing people together of different persuasions to try to improve systems and fundamentally to think about not just improving systems but sometimes think radically about what systems need to be made smaller or taken down altogether.”

“CFJJ is part of civil society, we’re part of this non-profit ecosystem of organizations pushing legislators to change.”

“It can’t just be the professionals, right? They need, require, working with partners, with young people.”

“Don’t just click ‘like’ on Facebook, it’s important but it’s easy to be like, ‘I liked this group and I signed up to ten petitions online so I’m done here right?’ Again, I think it’s a question of self reflection, our role here as human beings or as young people in 2016.”

“It is a wild time to be alive, just trying to be really aware of the choices you make as students, especially as consumers.”

“…keeping on reading, going to protests, to the extent that that’s possible, engaging with civil society and finding non-profits that are doing the work in a focused way and aligning yourself with them.”

“…getting out of your comfort zone, volunteering at a homeless shelter, food bank, doing things that make you feel uncomfortable. If you’re in a position of relative ease and comfort and privilege, being aware of that and using that for hopefully the forces of good.”