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ABOUT YTJ

Youth Transforming Justice believes in the power of peer-to-peer influence and the use of restorative, trauma-informed strategies to transform the juvenile justice system

VISION AND VALUES.

We believe the best way to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline is to transform traditional, punitive school discipline and juvenile justice systems into restorative, trauma-informed, and peer-driven solutions where youth can reflect and learn from mistakes, repair damage, relationships harmed, and move forward successfully. Working in collaboration with youth, schools, community organizations, and probation departments, we envision safer communities where youth stay in school, schools cultivate a greater sense of personal connection, safety, and accountability, and youth exercise authentic agency in their lives and neighborhoods. 

GUIDING PRINCIPLES.

Engage Youth

We value and respect youth as experts of their lived experiences.  We engage youth and work in partnership to incorporate their input into our programs and services.  We are building trust and supporting youth agency as they take a proactive role in having a voice and addressing the needs of their communities.

Healthy,

Inter-Generational Relationships

We create opportunities for modeling healthy, inter-generational relationships between youth and adults.  Youth are at a critical developmental stage and need a positive, non-judgmental, support system from adults that creates space for youth to safely explore the outcomes of their own decisions and choices.

Restorative Justice Model

We promote a restorative justice model where youth are given the opportunity to take accountability for their actions, reflect on their behavior, and make a commitment to repairing the harm and restoring vital relationships with their families and the community.

Accountability

Our strategies focus on promoting accountability and repairing the damage done rather than punishment actions.

Trauma-Informed Strategies

Our trauma-informed strategies are focused on creating an environment where youth feel safe, supported, accepted and trusted.  We recognize that a portion of youth who are engaged in high-risk or defiant behaviors have experienced some form of interpersonal trauma and need additional support to encourage better decision making in the future.

Strength-Based & Social Emotional Learning

We integrate a strength-based and social emotional learning approach into our strategies with the core belief that every youth possesses the assets and capacity for positive decision-making, personal growth and development.  Through this process we help youth strengthen personal agency and resiliency.

Inclusivity, Service Equity, & Cultural Curiosity

Our program is rooted in the values of inclusivity, service equity and cultural curiosity and we recognize service disparities associated with race, gender, ethnicity, privilege, and culture.  We continue to evolve and adapt our services to ensure it is accessible, relevant and responsive to the unmet needs in our communities.

Partnerships & Allies

Building partnerships and allies with other community organizations and stakeholders is important for providing a comprehensive continuum of support services for our youth.  We believe that we each share a collective leadership role and bring unique resources, knowledge, and solutions towards disrupting the school to prison pipeline and promoting positive youth development.

Peer-Learning Communities

We support and facilitate peer-learning communities, where youth, parents, volunteers, school and juvenile justice practitioners can connect, exchange information, share best practices, and provide mutual support.  Through these learning communities, we strive to strengthen and continue to evolve our analysis of how to effectively prevent youth participation in the juvenile justice system.

LETTER FROM THE DIRECTOR.

Dear Community Members,

 

Nearly 20 years ago, Marin County’s Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Commission began examining the driving forces propelling the school-to-prison pipeline. Our investigation revealed that Zero Tolerance School policies resulting in mandatory expulsions were a major contributor. Expelled students, particularly those from low-income communities, have few alternatives to continuing their education and often end up in special schools that include a large number of youths who are on probation. Mixing expelled students with juveniles on probation exacerbates the situation and further feeds the prison pipeline.

 

This investigation resulted in the founding of the Marin County Youth Court in 2004, and I’ve had the pleasure of directing it ever since. Using a restorative justice and trauma-informed approach to juvenile offenses the Marin Youth Court has diverted nearly 1,300 county teens from the traditional system, allowing them a chance to reflect, learn and repair the damage resulting from their actions. Over 95% of the teens referred complete the program requirements and we enjoy a very low 7% rate of recidivism.

 

Shortly after starting the Youth Court, we added a Drug and Alcohol Safety Skills Training that is mandatory for every youth and their family who is referred to the program. The California Judicial Council identified the intervention as one to be emulated throughout the state. A few years later we moved “upstream” and began our Alternatives to Suspension program using the same peer-to-peer restorative model used in Youth Court.

 

A major key to all these program successes has been the involvement and leadership of Marin County youth at all levels. With their encouragement and energy, we have made the decision to leave our long-time home with the YMCA and launch a new nonprofit called Youth Transforming Justice which will house the three programs mentioned above as well as a new youth advocacy arm focused on transforming the juvenile justice system and racial equity issues. Our adult-youth decision-making partnership led to a 2020 decision to change the name of the program from Youth Court to YTJ Peer Solutions, as well as moving our youth hearings out of a courtroom setting. The Youth Leadership Team also advocated for a shift away from all court terminology and roles, including the shift from the use of "Juror" to "Peer Team member" and from "Bailiff" to "Peer Facilitator." These changes bring our name, language, and physical setting in line with our core restorative and trauma-informed values and have renewed our commitment to support rather than judge the young people before us.

 

We would not be here without the support from the County of Marin and local government officials, mental health professionals, school administrators, donors, and many adult volunteers but it is our young people who have truly taken the lead.

 

We look forward to working with you all in the coming years to create a more just system for the youth of Marin County and beyond.

 

Don Carney

Executive Director

Youth Transforming Justice