Queens Youth Justice Center
The Queens Youth Justice Center is a comprehensive community-based youth center. It provides evidence-based case management and care coordination, family engagement and support, leadership training, skillbuilding in core competencies, educational advocacy, community service learning opportunities, and a range of youth development programming for justice-involved young people in Queens. Grounded in positive youth development and positive youth justice principles, and animated by procedural fairness, the Justice Center’s goal is to provide young people with “off-ramps” from the justice system that help them build more productive, successful, law-abiding lives.
How It Works
The Justice Center provides young people who have been charged with low-level offenses in the community or in school a range of short-term services that hold youth accountable for their actions while offering them a new path away from justice-system involvement. Young people who participate in diversion services take part in after-school programming, skill-building workshops, art-making projects, and case management services.
Alternatives to Detention
Through Queens Engagement Strategies for Teens (QUEST), the Justice Center offers young people charged with delinquency a community-based alterative to detention. QUEST provides young people with delinquency matters pending in Queens Family Court case management, family support, youth development programming, educational advocacy, trauma-informed services, art-making projects, recreational activities, and ongoing monitoring. The program furnishes family court judges with timely, accurate, and comprehensive information regarding participants’ compliance with court mandates. Youth who successfully complete QUEST are much more likely to avoid placement and receive community-based dispositions than young people who are detained.
Youth Leadership Development and Community Service Learning
- The Queens Youth Court trains local teenagers to serve as jurors, judges, and advocates, handling real-life cases involving their peers. Grounded in restorative justice principles, youth court uses positive peer pressure to ensure that young people who have committed minor offenses learn accountability and repair the harm caused by their actions. The Queens Youth Court receives referrals from schools, the School Safety Division of the New York Police Department, the New York City Department of Probation, and the New York City Law Department.
- The Neighborhood Youth Justice Council provides a platform for youth to participate meaningfully in justice-related policymaking and problem solving to address neighborhood challenges. Working collaboratively with justice and law enforcement partners in the community, council members identify and research issues, examine related policies and dynamics, generate potential solutions, and work to implement positive change.
- All young people at the Justice Center can participate in ongoing Community Service Learning projects that aim to benefit community members, deepen civic attachments, and create leadership opportunities for youth. For example, the Justice Center works in partnership with HEALTH 4 YOUTH and the New York Restoration Project to maintain and manage local community gardens for area residents.
Trauma-Informed Clinical Services
All participants at the Justice Center receive ongoing case management services informed by evidence-based tools shown to promote positive growth and change, including validated screening and assessment, Social-Emotional Learning approaches, Motivational Interviewing techniques, and Interactive Journaling. Working in collaboration with Adelphi University, the Justice Center offers Structured Psychotherapy for Adolescents Responding to Chronic Stress (SPARCS), an evidence-based, 16-session facilitated group process designed to improve the emotional, social, and behavioral self-regulation and functioning of young people impacted by chronic trauma. Research shows that youth who complete SPARCS experience reductions in trauma-related symptoms such as anxiety and depression while making significant improvements in coping strategies, anger management, and impulse control.
Youth Futures offers a coordinated and comprehensive response for justice-system involved adolescents with mental illnesses and their families. Case managers provide validated screening and assessment, treatment planning and referrals, ongoing coordination and follow up, linkages to evidence- based family therapy, and psycho-educational groups for both young people and family members.
Family Engagement and Support
In collaboration with the New York City Department of Probation, parent coaches—many of whom have personal experience with the justice system—staff the Justice Center’s Parent Support Program to assist the families of justice-involved youth. By translating key concepts and information, facilitating service referrals, and providing emotional support, peer mentors assist parents and families in understanding and navigating the juvenile justice system. The Parent Support Program and New York City Department of Probation hold joint parent-support groups monthly.
In collaboration with the New York City Administration for Children’s Services and its contracted aftercare providers, the Justice Center provides a structured, strengths-based continuum of supervision and services for youth returning from residential placement for delinquency to Queens. In addition to collaborative case management, young people and their families are offered skill-building and leadership development, educational support and coordination, case management, cognitive behavioral services, arts and cultural programming, and pro-social activities. Youth are proactively engaged with additional community services to help them overcome challenges, manage family transitions, and sustain positive growth well after discharge.
The project is funded by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, the City of New York, the Butler Foundation and the New York Community Trust. The Vera Institute will be performing data collection and analysis for this project and other related projects around the city.