The Tow Youth Justice Institute

A university, state and private partnership established to lead the way in juvenile justice reform through collaborative planning and policy development, training, research and advocacy efforts. It is designed to promote the effective practices, programs and policies related to youth justice, focusing on the needs of youth up to the age of 21.


Dear Friends,

Our hearts are heavy as we witness centuries of racial injustice continue. The Tow Youth Justice Institute stands in solidarity with protesters and hope this will be the last time there is a need for what unfortunately is ineffectual action. Even when we feel we have made progress in reducing racial and ethnic disparities, we are wrong. There is a tremendous amount of work to be done to ensure that Black Lives Matter. We are not a true community until we value every member of it. We recognize there are innumerable ways in which structural racism shapes everyday interactions. This points to a systemic failure to address policy issues. What’s been done is clearly not enough. If the right action is not taken, we as a society, are complicit to the atrocities taking place. We must acknowledge that white privilege exists. How can it be that in 2020, protests are still an essential, but impotent, form of effecting change?

We stand up and say the name George Perry Floyd because, just like us, he has family and friends who relied on him being a part of their lives. He was a 46-year-old black man born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and raised in the Third Ward of Houston, Texas. After high school, where he played basketball and football, he attended South Florida Community College for two years, playing on its basketball team. When he returned home he became an automotive customizer and joined the hip hop group Screwed Up Click. In 2014, he moved to Minnesota. After providing security at a restaurant for five years, he lost his job because of Minnesota's stay-at-home order during the COVID-19 pandemic. He was the father of two daughters, ages 6 and 22, who remained in Houston, and an adult son in Bryan, Texas. George Floyd’s family is looking for a task force to be developed that will draft legislation to end racial violence and increase police accountability. We applaud their action to ensure this does not happen again.

George Floyd’s murder takes place on the heels of the killing of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician (EMT) Taylor who worked also at two hospitals. She was passionate about her work. “Working in health care is so rewarding! It makes me so happy when I know when I’ve made a difference in someone else’s life!” We stand up and say her name because she left behind her mother, an aunt and uncle and siblings. She graduated from high school in Grand Rapids Michigan and went on to study at the University of Kentucky. Her mother, Tamika Palmer, describes her daughter as “a young woman who adored her family above all else and who had made plans to succeed”. "She had a whole plan on becoming a nurse and buying a house and then starting a family. Breonna had her head on straight, and she was a very decent person," Palmer said. "She didn't deserve this. She wasn't that type of person."

The senseless killing of Black Americans must STOP.

“African Americans have been living in a burning building for many years, choking on the smoke as the flames burn closer and closer. Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible -- even if you're choking on it -- until you let the sun in. Then you see it's everywhere.”
-- Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who defended the nationwide protests in highly-shared op-ed for the Los Angeles Times

You can be part of a movement for change. Our staff at the Tow Youth Justice Institute have several resources we recommend to gain a deeper understanding of the pivotal moment we are in.


  • 13th (Netflix)
  • Kalief Browder (Netflix)
  • The Color of Justice
  • The Color of Justice Revisited
  • American Son (Netflix)
  • Dear White People (Netflix)
  • When They See Us (Netflix)
  • The Hate You Give (Cinemax)



Standing in solidarity with you,

William H. Carbone
Susan Cusano
Danielle T. Cooper
Devon McCormick
Erika Nowakowski
Kelly Orts
Donna L. Pfrommer

A Leader in Reform.

Tow logo

The Tow Youth Justice Institute is part of the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences at University of New Haven. As experts in the field of youth justice in the state and nationally, we are a resource to prepare the next generation of change agents through experiential education and leadership development, and to advise policy-makers and service providers through its role as the research partner to the State of Connecticut’s Juvenile Justice Policy and Oversight Committee.

The Institute was created in the fall of 2014 thanks to the generous support of The Tow Foundation, whose many years of investment in juvenile justice reform have had a significant impact in Connecticut and beyond. Relying on the expertise and knowledge on this topic that existed in the Henry C. Lee College at the University of New Haven, the Foundation became instrumental in shaping the direction of the Institute as a force for sustaining and building on the many reforms achieved in our state in the past decade.


From left, Dr. Henry C. Lee; Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman; Leonard Tow, Founder & Chair, Board of Trustees, Tow Foundation; Emily Tow Jackson, President, Tow Foundation; President Steven H. Kaplan, Ph.D., University of New Haven; Dean Mario T. Gaboury, J.D., Ph.D, Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences. 

The support from the Tow Foundation aligned with the establishment of the Juvenile Justice and Policy Oversight Committee (JJPOC) in state government. The latter group was created to ensure continued improvements in the state's juvenile justice system. The JJPOC looked to the University of New Haven to support the Committee engaging the talents of our faculty, staff and students as resources. 

With the Tow Foundation and the State of Connecticut as the anchors, the Tow Youth Justice Institute has approached its mission of reform from a data-driven and results-oriented approach to advance effective practices in juvenile justice that will benefit children and families and also enable our faculty and students to engage in meaningful work that will build knowledge and impactful work experiences.