Youth Law Center

Legal Empowerment

Movement Lawyering


2022, 2023

Youth Law Center uses legal tools to hold county-level delinquency systems accountable and restore childhood for vulnerable young people in California. Across the state, the delinquency system is criminalizing childhood by putting more than 20,000 youth on probation every year, and then subjecting them to arrest and incarceration for normal childhood behavior like skipping school or missing curfew. Research has shown that incarceration is extremely harmful for youth, yet for young people of color, the systemic response is a continual escalation of punishment, pulling young people deeper into the system and weakening the family and community ties that are crucial to healthy youth development. Their advocacy focuses on the county-level practices that trigger punitive and custodial responses to youth behavior. They utilize affirmative civil litigation, and also partner with defense attorneys to identify creative interventions within delinquency cases that could have a broad impact. They build collective leadership, and directly engage their partners in their legal work. Youth Law Center received $50,000 in funding in 2022 and $40,000 in 2023.