our mission

What we stand for

We fight for every young person to realize their power, voice, and full potential.

We promote change not only in individual youth members, but in the racist systems that led to their incarceration.

We commit to the day that not a single young person will spend another night in jail.

We join the movement to dismantle racism and inequity in the justice system.

Our fight for youth justice
is our fight for racial justice

The justice system confines Black youth at over 4 times the rate of white youth

of people on Rikers Island are people of color. Black and Latinx people are overrepresented in New York prisons and jails.

The unemployment rate for formerly incarcerated people is nearly 5 times higher than the unemployment rate for the general US population.

People who have been incarcerated are 10 times more likely to be homeless than the general public.

our impact

Hope cannot be quantified.
We believe unconditionally in young
people's ability to succeed.

Comprehensive Support


young people whose lives have intersected with the city’s jail system are served each year; that's 17,000 total engagements with young people, for periods averaging over 20 months.

Justice Advocacy


of youth sentenced have had their sentences reduced or have been released from jail as a direct result of our intensive mitigation and court advocacy.

Building Independence


new job placements every year, and our career skills workshop has a 95% graduation rate.

Space to Thrive


instructional hours per year are provided by our Center for Education, with a 9-1 student to teacher ratio and individualized support from tutors and advocacy staff.

Community Leadership


of our Youth Mentor staff are YJN program alumni, uniquely positioned to lead and support their younger peers.

Network of Care


connections to holistic support each year: that means calling grandparents, sitting in court with siblings, waiting with aunts for the bus at Rikers — anything we can do to strengthen a young person’s support system.

our model

Everyone we serve has someone they can count on.

From the moment we meet young people, from jail to courtroom to classroom, we are their committed advocates through their time in the justice system, and long after.

our services

Join Our Fight

Stand in solidarity with our mission to break cycles of inequality and fight systemic racism by giving young people the opportunities they have been denied. Join our community, and together we can make a difference.


Supporting youth since 1990

Founded as Friends of Island Academy in 1990, Youth Justice Network was created by a group of educators, social service staff, and community-based advocates at the alternative high school on Rikers Island — known then as Island Academy.

Today, the world looks different. We are part of an advocacy movement seeking to permanently close Rikers. Thanks to the collective work of committed advocates, there are no more 16-17-year-olds incarcerated on Rikers Island.

And so we changed our name, to reflect this new era for the city and our growth as a community.

For more than 30 years,
our youth members' strength and resilience
have inspired us to keep fighting for radical change.

And Youth Justice Network has advocated for a justice system that is equitable, compassionate, and just.
One youth at a time.

our team

A network that young people can count on