Penn Law’s Youth Advocacy Project supports minors involved in the criminal justice system
Students from Penn Law and the School of Social Policy & Practice work together to support youths who are prosecuted as adults. Working with the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project, students help get cases transferred to the juvenile system, and continue to support the young person once they return to the community.
Joanna Visser L’10: I couldn’t imagine not dedicating my career, the time that I have so far, to this effort that is focused on getting kids, children, out of adult jails and prisons. And working with Penn Law students helped us build and grow this organization, which is a novel approach in Philadelphia and we think, frankly, in the rest of the country.
Eliza Novick-Smith L’18: YAP has evolved over three years and we now focus on the direct service component of our work, which looks like supporting the Youth Sentencing Re-entry Project on the direct file juvenile cases that they take on in support of the attorney who is representing the young person.
Sara Lynch L’18: We work directly with young people who in the adult criminal justice system, providing mitigation support and re-entry support. So, what that means, is we work with the young person and his or her family to understand the context of this child’s life and all of the factors that led up to this young person facing the charges that they are facing.
Bradie Williams L’19: And our teams are made up of two social work students and two law students, so I’m working with them to identify partners in the community that can work with, identify themes for their report, and just generally help them pull together something that is going to help this young person.
Lauren Fine, Esq.: We have students from the law school learning from students at the Social Work School, students from the Social Work School learning from students at the Law School. We as attorneys learning from all of them and really the young people that we work with benefiting as a result as their thoughtfulness and their care and their dedication to the work.
Sara Lynch L’18: That can demonstrate to a judge that this child has strength and hopes and dreams that go beyond the reasons why they’re in court in the first place.
Raquel Chavez, MSW’ 18: YAP does a good job of making sure you get out, but then when you get out, you have the supports around you so that you can shape, create a better life for yourself than maybe what you had.
Sara Lynch L’18: I’ve been able to promote change in our community and I’m excited to use my degree and use my platform as a lawyer to be able to promote wider change in the different cities that I end up practicing in.
For more about YAP and YSRP, read the recent article by Akbar Hossain featured on the Journal of Law and Social Change Blog: https://www.law.upenn.edu/live/news/7781-support-and-advocacy-for-individuals-returning/journals/jlasc/blog/post/index.php