Elizabeth Calvin is the senior advocate in the Children’s Rights Division and an attorney with experience in youth justice, foster care, and education rights. At Human Rights Watch she focuses on children, youth, and emerging adults in conflict with the law. Her work includes research and writing on human rights violations against children, policy and legal advocacy, and building partnerships with community and national groups. She relies on the leadership of people directly impacted by human rights violations to determine the direction of her work.
Since 2012, her leadership of coalition-based efforts in California has resulted in 11 significant laws being passed, many with first-in-the-nation strategies to reduce incarceration and promote the potential of young people. As a result of these changes in law, California youth are less likely to be prosecuted as adults; 14- and 15-year-olds who commit crimes now can never be tried in adult court and must be provided the rehabilitative services available in the youth system; children under 16 facing police interrogation are protected; young adults have increased access to educational opportunities in prison; the use of life in prison without parole sentences for people under age 18 has effectively ended; and young people under age 26 have special opportunities and protections if sentenced to prison. These laws have changed the lives of thousands of young people, families, and communities in California and beyond.
She is the author of Human Rights Watch reports on youth sentenced to life without parole, foster care and homelessness, and the effects of prosecuting of children under 16 as adults. She works in partnership with youth activists, faith groups, family members of youth who are incarcerated, survivors of crime, people in prison, and advocates.