Youth Justice Programs in New York City

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 9:20 AM
Room: F204
Oral Presentation
Dana FUSCO , City University of New York, New York, NY
Youth justice programs have been part of the fabric of urban landscapes since Civil Rights. During the 1960s and 70s such programs were explicit in helping young people, particularly young people of color, fight oppression and participate in democratic processes. Today, some argue that the sociopolitical aims of such programs are falling by the wayside due to the focus on "youth development" which emphasizes the growth of individual young people, rather than the growth and health of urban communities (Ginwright & Cammarota, 2002). Not only can we not expect young people to lead healthy, productive lives when growing up under abhorrent conditions, we believe young people can be a part of the solution for transforming their environments. Youth justice programs engage young people as active agents of change in their own lives. While the outcomes of youth justice programs have been examined (e.g., Austria, 2006; Ginwright and Cammarota, 2002; Hill, 2004), there has been a lack of analyses of the processes critical to determining how they work, how they are implemented, or why such processes are effective. The purpose of this research was to examine such processes by examining how youth workers conceptualize the inequities facing urban youth today and how those conceptions translate into practice (e.g., into methods for engaging young people in social justice). We wanted to understand the key inequities staff identify as critical in the lives of urban youth and how young people are engaged in understanding and responding to such inequities (what processes are used). We interviewed key staff from youth justice programs in the Northeast of the United States in order to obtain rich qualitative data for addressing the research questions.