Case study in healing justice for youth: New Directions Youth Project

AFSC's Bonnie Kerness

Bonnie Kerness, AFSC

Bonnie Kerness, AFSC's Prison Watch Coordinator

 

The New Directions Youth Project was an after-school program that AFSC ran from 1994-2003. Twice a week for the entire school year, it brought together 12 high school students who’d had a first-time brush with the law. They were matched with 10 mentors from the same community who were considered “successful.” The court-referred youngsters experienced a curriculum-based program including dialogue on making healthy choices, substance abuse and its consequences, alternatives to violence, a chance to talk about their experiences while in detention, and numerous trips to New York and New Jersey cultural and historical sites.

The project resulted in participation in a beautiful training documentary on juvenile justice called “Book Not Bars,” produced by Columbia’s Witness Program and the Ella Baker Center; “Our Children’s House” testimonies of these youngsters that helped result in the removal of the director of the Essex County Detention Facility; and a play also called “Our Children’s House,” which is used in a Maplewood, N.J., high school annually as a teaching tool.

As AFSC emphasizes work with young people, there may be many lessons drawn from the successes and failures of this program.

Who we are

AFSC is a Quaker organization devoted to service, development, and peace programs throughout the world. Our work is based on the belief in the worth of every person, and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice. Learn more

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AFSC has offices around the world. To see a complete list see the Where We Work page.

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