Office of Justice Programs Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Amy L. Solomon announced today that President Biden has appointed Liz Ryan of Newark, Delaware, Administrator of OJP’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Ryan, whose appointment takes effect May 16, joins OJJDP from the Youth First Initiative, a national campaign to end youth incarceration which she founded and served as president and CEO.
“Liz Ryan is an impassioned advocate for America’s youth and a visionary whose actions have benefitted our nation’s young people in countless ways,” said OJP Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Amy L. Solomon. “As a champion of reform and as a proven problem-solver, she will put our children first and help guide our nation toward smarter, more just and more humane juvenile justice policies and practices.”
Ryan is a renowned advocate for alternatives to youth confinement. As president of Youth First, she led a multi-state effort to shift resources from incarceration to community-based services. The initiative led to the closure of youth prisons in a half-dozen states and redirection of more than $50 million to non-incarceration alternatives. Prior to founding Youth First, she was founder, president and CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice, which focused on ending the prosecution of youth in adult criminal court and the placement of youth in adult jails and prisons. The Campaign’s efforts led to legal and policy changes in more than 40 states and Washington, D.C., an 80% reduction in the number of youth in adult courts and a 75% decrease in youth placed in adult jails and prisons.
From 2000 to 2005, Ryan served as advocacy director for the Youth Law Center, where she staffed a national initiative to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the justice system. She also co-founded the Act 4 Juvenile Justice campaign to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, and the Justice 4 DC Youth Coalition, which resulted in the closure of the notorious Oak Hill youth prison in Laurel, Maryland. In addition, she was a government relations advocate for the Children’s Defense Fund and National Field Director for the Juvenile Court Centennial Initiative, an OJJDP-funded effort that promoted juvenile justice successes in 20 states.
“I am so pleased and honored to have the opportunity to lead the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention,” said Ryan. “I’m looking forward to working with the staff of OJJDP and with directly-impacted youth and their families, youth justice system stakeholders, practitioners and others from across the country to advance effective youth justice reforms and to expand opportunities for young people to grow and thrive.”
For the past two years, Ryan has worked as a student investigative journalist with the Louisiana State University Cold Case Project on civil rights-era cold cases. She collaborated with several other LSU Cold Case Project students on a four-part series about the 1960 murders of Albert Pitts Jr., David Lee Pitts, Alfred Marshall and Earnest McFarland in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana, which was a semi-finalist for the Harvard Kennedy School’s Goldsmith Prize, the only student entry to receive an award. She also worked with the families of the Martinsville Seven and other advocates to successfully obtain a pardon of the seven young Black men who were executed after being convicted by all-white juries of sexually assaulting a white woman in Martinsville, Virginia, in 1949, the first posthumous pardon granted in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Ryan is a Virginia native who holds a master’s degree in international studies from The George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree from Dickinson College.
As head of OJJDP, she will direct an array of grant programs, training initiatives and policy activities aimed at protecting children and strengthening the juvenile justice system. OJJDP envisions a nation where children are free from crime and violence and where contact with the justice system is rare, fair and beneficial to youth.
Ryan takes over the leadership post from Chyrl Jones, who has served as OJJDP’s acting administrator since January 2021 and will resume her role as deputy administrator within the office.
The Office of Justice Programs provides federal leadership, grants, training, technical assistance and other resources to improve the nation’s capacity to prevent and reduce crime, advance racial equity in the administration of justice, assist victims and enhance the rule of law. More information about OJP and its components can be found at www.ojp.gov.