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Arts-Based Restorative Justice for Court-Involved Brooklyn Teens

Monday was a very special night for eight court-involved Brooklyn teens. As participants in the Young New Yorkers program, these young people were given the opportunity to fulfill their court requirements by participating in a restorative justice arts program. Through a partnership with the Justice Center's Adolescent Diversion Program (ADP)--part of a statewide initiative to divert 16 and 17 year olds from criminal court and connect them to social services while allowing them to avoid the collateral consequences of a criminal record--this group of young people participated in a series of workshops centered around a curriculum designed to develop the emotional and behavioral skills of the young participants while facilitating responsible and creative self expression. 
A participant shares his experience
The workshops culminate in the design of a public art installation that gives voice to the otherwise voiceless and voteless adolescents being tried in New York's adult criminal justice system. Monday night, teens were given the opportunity to share their experiences both visually and vocally in front of over 70 people, including their friends and families, the Judge who they had originally seen in the beginning of their ADP journey, staff from the Justice Center, attorneys from both the Kings County District Attorney's office and Brooklyn Defender Services, as well as other artists from the community. All eight youth stood in front of the crowd and individually thanked the Young New Yorkers staff for giving them the opportunity to participate in the program. In addition to the satisfaction of producing an amazing body of art work and the chance to have their voices heard, participants are also a step closer to having their court cases dismissed and sealed, leaving them without the burden of a criminal record on their future. At one particularly poignant moment, a young man told the group, "before Young New Yorkers, my life was on a different track. And now I have a different outlook on life." 

Check out this clip from NY1 for a look at the program and its effect on participants.


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