Youth Justice Board


Founded in 2004, the Youth Justice Board is an after-school program that brings together young people to study and propose solutions to the public safety challenges that most affect them. Board members serve as a credible voice for youth in the public debate about juvenile justice policy in New York City, providing decision-makers with substantive input from this historically underrepresented group. Each program cycle, a team of 15 to 20 New York City teenagers studies an important issue affecting young people in the city. Participants present their recommendations to key policymakers and then partner with local stakeholders to implement their ideas and make a lasting impact on local policies. Along the way, they participate in intensive training in research and critical thinking, developing skills and gaining leadership experience along the way.

During the 2014-2016 program cycle, the Youth Justice Board is focusing on early diversion programs and police-youth relations. Their latest report, "Stepping Up: Strengthening Police, Youth, and Community Relationships," focuses on how teenagers with prior arrests can benefit from meaningful interventions and avoid further justice system involvement. It also makes recommendations to strengthen police-youth relationships and was presented to representatives from the New York Police Department.

The Youth Justice Board’s previous reports include:

Want to learn more? Watch a video about the Youth Justice Board made by Columbia Teachers College’s Education Lab.

How It Works

Recruitment: Members are selected through a competitive process from a large applicant pool. Criteria for selection include interest in the topic, commitment to working on a long-term project, and willingness to work as part of a team. The Board represents the diversity of New York City, and includes a wide range of skills and perspectives.

Training: Members receive intensive training, beginning with a weekend retreat in upstate New York where members participate in team-building activities and start exploring the selected topic. Later training covers research methods, consensus building, listening and interviewing skills, public speaking, and an introduction to policymaking in New York City.

Fieldwork: The Youth Justice Board conducts interviews and focus groups with a variety of stakeholders including public officials, professionals in the field, community members, advocates, and youth affected by the issue.  Past interview subjects have included New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Chief Administrative Judge of New York City Family Court, the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, the Mayor’s Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator, the New York City Law Department, and the Legal Aid Society

Policy Development: The Board’s research culminates in the development of proposals and recommendations for policymakers and officials. The Board issues a final report and holds a series of meetings to present its policy recommendations directly to relevant officials and policymakers. Past presentations have been made to the Chancellor of the Department of Education, the New York City Criminal Justice Coordinator’s Office, the New York City Council, the New York State Assembly, the New York State Judicial Training Institute and the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development.

Taking Action: After publishing its report, the Board develops and executes strategies to facilitate the implementation of their recommendations. Strategies have included advocating for their ideas directly with key agencies, designing and implementing pilot initiatives, developing materials to assist other youth, and building partnerships with other organizations addressing the same topic.

Alumni Activities: The program works with and supports members after they graduate from the Youth Justice Board. Many alumni continue to advocate for the implementation of the Board’s recommendations. In addition, alumni take on leadership positions in their schools, intern with related organizations, and pursue civic-minded activities in their communities.

Next Move NYC: The Youth Justice Board collaborated to create, a website designed to help disconnected young people achieve their goals. It offers users links to education, social services, and job training. Next Move NYC is also optimized for mobile phone use. 

Featured Research


Police-Youth Dialogues Toolkit

Police-Youth Dialogues Toolkit

The Center for Court Innovation and the United States Department of Justice COPS Office developed the Police-Youth Dialogues Toolkit as a resource for communities hoping to foster conversations between young people and the police, enabling them to discuss their interactions and find common ground. Drawing from projects across the country, the toolkit consolidates expertise, providing strategies and promising practices for police-youth dialogues.



Youth Justice Board Issues Report On Strengthening Police-Community Relations

NYC Teens Recommend Diverting More Young People From Justice System

NEW YORK, June 16, 2015 -- A group of teens unveiled recommendations for diverting young people from the justice system to an audience of policymakers and nonprofit leaders from across New York City.

Read More


Stepping Up: Strengthening Police, Youth, and Community Relationships

Stepping Up: Strengthening Police, Youth, and Community Relationships

By Members of the Youth Justice Board

This report, researched and presented by the 2014-15 Youth Justice Board, focuses on how teenagers with prior arrests can benefit from meaningful interventions and avoid further justice system involvement. It also provides recommendations to strengthen police-youth relationships in New York City. 

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