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5 Apr 2019

Philadelphia opens nation’s first participatory defense hub focused on youth justice

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April 5, 2019 Category: Local Posted by:

 The Youth Art & Self-empowerment Project (YASP), an advocacy group that supports children charged as adults in the city’s criminal justice system, recently announced the launch of the nation’s first participatory defense hub specifically for children and youth entangled in the criminal justice system with support from the Defender Association of Philadelphia and other organizations committed to youth justice.


Participatory defense hubs help individuals and families navigate the criminal justice system with community support. Community organizers working with Silicon Valley De-Bug created the participatory defense model in San Jose, California and have worked to open hubs in cities and towns across the country. The Youth Participatory Defense Hub is Philadelphia’s fourth active community hub – but will be the first in the city and in the nation dedicated to children and youth navigating the juvenile delinquency system and children charged as adults.

“When I was younger, I had to navigate the court system and deal with lawyers and judges largely on my own. It would have been really helpful to have a space like this that I could go to for support,” reflected YASP Co-Director Josh Glenn. “We hope this hub can help young people feel more empowered as their cases move through the system, and lead to more young people remaining at home with their families and able to access the support and guidance they need in our communities.”

The Youth Participatory Defense Hub will meet every Tuesday from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. at the Institute for Community Justice at 1207 Chestnut Street, Second floor. Hub facilitators and volunteers will support youth and families through the justice process, providing support on court dates, and helping them create social biographies to present themselves as more than a case file. Participatory defense hubs do not offer legal advice pertaining to the facts of a case but will share general information to help prepare for meetings with their attorney.

The Defender Association of Philadelphia provides “Know Your Systems” training and guidance to Philadelphia’s participatory defense hubs and supports the expansion of the program to more neighborhoods throughout the city.

“Participatory defense is transforming the landscape of power in the criminal justice system by engaging our communities,” said Chief Defender Keir Bradford-Grey. “The need for this type of support for children and youth is so critical. Children caught up in the juvenile system and their parents who go to the Youth Participatory Defense Hub will get information and support to help them make better decisions and get better outcomes. Meaningful criminal justice reform starts in our communities, and the Defender Association is proud to support organizations like YASP to support children and youth through the justice process through this new hub.”

Raj Jayadev, an organizer for SV De-Bug and the National Participatory Defense Networks, applauded the effort. “The launch of YASP’s youth centered participatory defense hub really is an inspiration for communities across the country who are looking for ways to flex community power and knowledge to protect our young people in the most proximate and tangible ways.”

The Institute for Community Justice (ICJ), a Program of Philadelphia FIGHT, will host the new hub in its Center City Offices at 1207 Chestnut Street, Second Floor.

“I’m thrilled that the idea of a participatory defense hub to support our children is becoming reality,” added Leola Hardy, Chief of the Defender Association’s Children and Youth Justice Unit. “Time after time we see our clients and their families struggling to navigate the system. Our team of attorneys, social workers, and administrative professionals work hard to support them through the system but this new hub will bring community into the process and support better outcomes for our kids. I’m so proud of all the work YASP has done to open this new hub.” The Youth Art & Self-empowerment Project (YASP) is building a youth-led movement to end the practice of trying and incarcerating young people as adults. Through its work in the Philadelphia jails, YASP provides space for incarcerated young people to express themselves creatively and to develop as leaders both within and beyond the prison walls. Young people who have been through the adult court system are at the forefront of YASP, leading the movement to keep young people out of adult prisons and to create new possibilities for youth around the city.

The Defender Association is an independent, nonprofit organization that provides high-quality, client-centered legal representation, connection to social services, and re-entry support to adults and juveniles in Philadelphia. Our organization represents nearly 70 percent of adults and juveniles arrested in the City of Philadelphia. Learn more about our work at, or on social media @PhillyDefenders.

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