YouthBuild USA president and CEO selected member
of national criminal justice organization
John Valverde, president and CEO of the global nonprofit YouthBuild USA, has been elected as a member of the Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ), a national invitational membership organization and think tank.
Independent and nonpartisan, CCJ advances understanding of the criminal justice policy choices facing the nation and builds consensus for solutions that enhance safety and justice for all. Through research, policy development and other projects that harness the experience and vision of its leaders and members, CCJ serves as a catalyst for system improvements based on facts, evidence and fundamental principles of justice.
“There is much to do to ensure safety, justice and belonging in every single one of our communities,” Valverde said. “I am honored to join my colleagues on the Council on Criminal Justice as we work towards policy solutions that create greater well-being across our nation. I hope my own journey of redemption and freedom will provide important perspective as we begin this important work.”
As president and CEO of YouthBuild USA, Valverde leads the effort to champion opportunity youth — young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither in school nor employed — as they earn the knowledge, training and opportunities that lead to long-term professional and personal success. He is the first previously incarcerated person to lead a nonprofit with a global mission. As a young man who was incarcerated at 21, Valverde’s work to accept responsibility for his actions and commit to making amends started him on a journey of redemption that allowed him to imagine and build a new future. While incarcerated, he earned his college degrees, taught others to read and write and realized his life’s mission: to create access to opportunity for young adults who lack pathways to work, training or school and remove barriers for the formerly incarcerated.
Valverde began working with imprisoned individuals in 1992 to ensure access to HIV/AIDS counseling, high school equivalency instruction, alternatives to violence programs and college education. In 1995, responding to the gap created by the elimination of TAP and Pell funding for the incarcerated, he developed Rising Hope, an initiative that provides college-level certificates in Ministry and Human Services to those in New York State prisons. In 1998, he co-founded Hudson Link for Higher Education, the first privately funded accredited college program in New York’s prisons. In 2009, John worked with the Osborne Association to create New York City’s first green jobs training program exclusively for people with criminal records. As Osborne’s Executive Vice President, John launched, managed and led programs including children, youth and family services; substance abuse treatment; workforce development; community benefit projects; financial literacy; health and wellness; housing; alternatives to incarceration; mentoring and leadership development; and social enterprises. He also served on the Board of Pathways to Apprenticeship. Though he was incarcerated for almost 16 years, John is now recognized as a proven leader and example for people affected by the criminal justice system.
The CCJ’s advisory Board of Trustees is co-chaired by former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and Mark Holden, retired senior vice president of Koch Industries, and includes U.S. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, former California Gov. Jerry Brown, former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, and Van Jones of CNN. The governing Board of Directors is chaired by Laurie O. Robinson, who twice served as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs. The Council was founded by its president and chief executive officer, Adam Gelb, a former journalist, U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee staffer, and director of public safety initiatives at The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Council membership recognizes the accomplishments of established criminal justice and public policy leaders and develops a strong, diverse cohort of emerging leaders equipped to steer the criminal justice field through future challenges. Members include professionals in law enforcement, courts and corrections; state, local and federal policy makers; advocates and researchers; leaders in business, faith and philanthropy; directly impacted people and victims of crime, and others. Members are selected based on criteria that include practical impact, intellectual achievement, dedication to research-based policymaking, standing among peers, promise of future service to the field, and potential for contributing to CCJ’s work.