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In 2013, the Youth Justice Institute (YJI) closed its doors, and CJCJ assumed operation of its mentoring services. YJI’s mission was to better the lives of the youth we serve and facilitate positive changes within the systems that affect them.”

Founded in 2002 and originally called the Girls Justice Initiative (GJI), YJI began in response to a growing percentage of female youth involved in the juvenile justice system in San Francisco. Eleven city agencies and 13 community programs partnered to better engage, understand, and address the needs of the most at-risk female youth. GJI developed a comprehensive strengths-based assessment tool; identified key pathways and risk factors for justice involvement; developed a gender-responsive treatment model; and collaborated with system and community stakeholders to address the unique needs of this population.

During this same period, a group of volunteer students from San Francisco State University started the mentoring program to provide support to youth in detention. Under the mentoring program, volunteers visited youth in detention and soon the program grew into a cadre of volunteers entering detention weekly to provide mentoring services.

In 2003, GJI combined these programs, and expanded to provide a unique combination of direct services and policy advocacy, reflecting the strengths of both the GJI project and the mentoring program. GJI s court advocacy provided strengths-based assessments to educate the court on services and resources aimed at reducing recidivism and detention. Mental health services addressed the high correlation of trauma, abuse, and delinquency among female youth and included a continuum of services from detention facilities into the community. Mentoring continued to serve youth in detention, and developed into an ongoing program, providing not just mentoring services, but intensive selection and training of mentors as well. GJI also developed technical assistance and policy programs to expand the model into other jurisdictions that did not use gender-responsive, culturally competent, and trauma-informed strategies.

In 2007, the organization changed its name to the Youth Justice Institute (YJI), as it expanded its valuable services to include young men and developed programs in Alameda County.

Dr. Elizabeth Brown, Associate Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice Studies at San Francisco State University, served on YJI’s Board of Directors from 2008 to 2013:

The Youth Justice Institute is an example of a grassroots organization that arose in response to very real needs and deficiencies in the juvenile justice system. During my years on the board, I was consistently impressed by the staff’s dedication to ensuring that youth were provided with culturally competent support that recognized how the incredible racial, economic, and geographic disparities of our city contributed to the realities of youth incarceration. This recognition consistently enabled the organization to gain the trust of the youth it served; ensuring that many youth remained committed and attached to the organization long after they left detention. This type of commitment and long-term attachment to the youth is often missing in juvenile justice programs, yet is what many cite as the key to success in ending incarceration, youth victimization, and crime.”

CJCJ’s Youth Justice Mentoring Team!

Lft to Rt: Karen Moore, Therese Rodriguez, Willie

On June 30, 2013, YJI closed its doors due to transitional and fiscal challenges. CJCJ assumed operation of the mentoring program to ensure that San Francisco maintains these essential services. The mentoring program expands the continuum of youth services CJCJ provides to include in-detention services, allowing for a smooth transition for youth exiting the justice system into the community.

Visit CJCJ’s Youth Justice Mentoring Program to learn more and get involved »

Although YJI has closed as an agency, it’s legacy of working toward dignity, humanity and justice lives on through the work of the hundred of you staff, volunteers and youth who were part of the movement to raise youth voices and change the system.”

Gena Castro RodriguezYJI co-founder and Executive Director, 2002 – 2013

CJCJ is honored to continue providing YJI’s professional gender-responsive services to justice-involved youth and their families.