Youth Justice Board celebrates the release of I Got Arrested! Now What?
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. During the 2012-2014 program cycle, the Youth Justice Board is focusing on school truancy and chronic absenteeism. In June 2013, the Board released ten recommendations on improving school attendance in From Absent to Present, its newest report.
Juvenile justice and public safety issues that members of the Youth Justice Board have addressed previously include:
- Reducing youth crime across New York City, using the neighborhood of Brownsville, Brooklyn as a case study (2010-2012);
- Improving New York City’s juvenile alternative-to-detention programs, and helping young people involved in the juvenile justice system (2008-2010);
- Issues faced by youth involved in the permanency planning division of New York City Family Court (2006-2008);
- Safety problems in New York City high schools (2005-2006); and
- The challenges for youth returning home from confinement for juvenile delinquency offenses (2004-2005).
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. Members of the Board participate in intensive training in research and critical thinking, developing skills and gaining leadership experience along the way.
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 begin their exploration of the selected topic. Later training covers research, consensus building, listening and interviewing skills, public speaking, and ‘New York Civics 101’ to learn how policy decisions are made and implemented in New York City.
Fieldwork: The Youth Justice Board designs and implements a work plan that includes interviews, focus groups, and direct observation. The Board interviews a wide range of stakeholders—professionals in the field, community members, advocates, public officials, and young people affected by the issue. Members work in small teams to plan and conduct the interviews then compile the information from the interviews to share with other Board members. Past interview subjects have included the Chief Administrative Judge of New York City Family Court, the New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, 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. The Board also runs focus groups, typically composed of young people affected by the issue being investigated. The focus groups enable the Youth Justice Board to hear directly from a diverse collection of young people, resulting in recommendations that genuinely reflect young people’s points of view.
Policy Development: The Board’s research culminates in the development of policy proposals for policymakers and City officials. As part of the process of developing recommendations, the Board invites input from stakeholders, including other young people and professionals in the field. The Board then 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 presenting its recommendations, 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 continues to work with and support members after they complete the program. Many alumni continue to advocate for implementation of the Board’s recommendations. In addition, alumni remain citizen leaders, taking on leadership positions in their schools, interning with related organizations, and pursuing civic-minded activities in their communities.
Past and current funders and supporters include W. Clement & Jessie V. Stone Foundation, Making Policy Public Program, Surdna Foundation, Helena Rubinstein Foundation, Cricket Island Foundation, Center for Urban Pedagogy, Edward & Ellen Roche Relief Foundation, Taconic Foundation, New York State Unified Court System, U.S. Department of Justice, Twenty First Century Foundation, and New York City Council.