Young New Yorkers

Young New Yorkers (YNY)

Rachel Barnard ’11GSAPP

Youth justice and arts

Venture Type:

What is the social or environmental issue being addressed?

A 2015 report revealed that in New York State, 72% of arrested 16-17 year-olds are Black or Latino. In addition, in New York City, 95% of incarcerated teens are Black or Latino.

New York State is currently adopting legislation to raise the age of adult criminal responsibility. However, it is presently one of only two states in the US that prosecutes 16-17 year-olds as adults, despite the fact that the brain’s capacity to handle reasoning, consequential thinking, and impulses does not fully mature until age 25.

Many young people subjected to the adult criminal justice system incur lifelong criminal records, which significantly constrains opportunities for employment, higher education, student loans, and affordable housing. This deeply impacts not only the teens themselves, but the communities of which they are a part.


Young New Yorkers (YNY) is committed to using art to bring positive systemic change to the ways that teenagers are prosecuted as adults in New York’s criminal legal system.

YNY’s arts-based alternative-to-incarceration programs utilize a two-fold approach. First, court-mandated teens swiftly exit the adult criminal justice system without incurring a lifelong criminal record. Second, court-mandated teens use art to become advocates for themselves and for criminal legal reform. Participants design and host exhibitions exploring justice issues and invite those involved in their sentencing to attend. Bringing teens and court professionals together in this context humanizes the culture of the courtrooms, the members of which possess discretionary power over each teen’s case outcome.

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