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Donald P. McCullum Youth Court
The mission of McCullum Youth Court, in sum, is to change young lives and impact communities by providing empowering opportunities for youth through restorative peer justice in Alameda County. Broadly speaking, MYC aims to...
1) interrupt intergenerational cycles of crime and incarceration by offering asset based early intervention to divert young people from the traditional juvenile judicial system;
2) invest resources in positive community and youth development rather than in the costs associated with youth offenders who enter the juvenile judicial system;
3) engage vulnerable youth in activities that build developmental assets towards resiliency and success; and
4) increase all young people's positive involvement with the law and justice -- through empowering, experiential learning in the context of collaborative justice.
Founded more than a decade ago by a group of attorneys, judges, and educators to provide diversion and early intervention for youthful offenders, MYC today reaches approximately 3,000 youth and their families, including 350 voluntary youth offenders ages 10 - 17+, primarily from the cities of Alameda, Berkeley, and Oakland. Using principles of restorative justice, early intervention, and peer accountability, MYC focuses on under resourced communities and underserved populations, especially communities with disproportionate police contact and incarceration rates, and communities with persistent under representation in higher education, law schools, and the legal profession. In addition to diversion, MYC's asset-based programs also address the need for experiential learning and leadership/civic opportunities for all youth to foster confidence and a sense of self efficacy; cultivate relationships across such boundaries as race, ethnicity, gender, and class; and nurture young peoples' college and career aspirations in households where they will be the first generation to attend college.
Partnerships and Collaboration
McCullum Youth Court represents an interagency collaboration between the Alameda County District Attorney's Office; Alameda County Department of Probation; Police Departments in the cities of Alameda, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland, and Piedmont; other law enforcement agencies such as BART Police, the Sheriff's Department, etc.; and the Alameda County Superior Court. A range of formal and informal partnerships exist with the City of Oakland's Safe Passages, Berkeley Youth Alternatives, Catholic Charities of the East Bay, Center for Family Counseling, East Oakland Youth Development Center, the Native American Health Center, OASIS High School (for "dropouts"), Seneca Center, Alameda Family Services, YEP (Youth Employment Partnership), the YMCA of the East Bay, Boys & Girls Club, among others. Continuing to explore and build new relationships with Oakland public and charter schools, faith-based organizations, and other youth serving organizations continues to be a priority. In addition, MYC is currently exploring collaboration with several other peer leader and peer educator programs so that youth can get joint trainings, build their youth leader network, and cross fertilize their programs.
MYC's Core services include the Youth Offender Program, where youthful offenders are represented, counseled, and held accountable by peers. With the support of peers and an adult Case Manager, youthful offenders complete a sentence that includes 1) gender specific programming to build positive self concept and greater self understanding; a sense of self efficacy and social responsibility; and life skills and 2) connection to positive individuals and a community through civic involvement in the form of community service and juror service. As needed, other special services and programming (e.g., Healthy Risks or Healthy Boundaries and Positive Self Expression) are provided at MYC or accessed through referral to other agencies and organizations. MYC operates under California Penal Code with the full authority of the law, and the peer-determined sentences are binding. Youth offenders who successfully complete their sentence avoid the traditional juvenile judicial system.
Through a Youth Law Program, high school students develop legal knowledge and skills to counsel youth offenders, as well as to prosecute and defend them in court. Lead Attorneys, Bailiffs, and Clerks participate in intensive training, including an overnight Law & Justice Summer Institute, followed by ongoing after-school support in school-affiliated Law Clubs. Participants in the Youth Law Program are intended to serve as peer support and role models for the youth offenders. Youthful offenders who successfully complete the program are encouraged to join the Youth Law Program. In addition, middle and high school students from anywhere in the County may participate as peer jurors, earning community service hours, after attending a Juror Service training held each Court Night before jury duty. With the exception of the adult Judge, Court is staffed and operated entirely by youth. The guidance, mentoring, supervision of adult staff are key to youth building and applying the necessary skills, values, and attitudes.
The Law & Justice Youth In Leadership Program furnishes an opportunity for youth to partner closely with staff. MYC's newly expanded Law & Justice Leadership Program and two new initiatives (a Novice Law Program for middle school youth and an Apprentice Program for high school age youth offenders) received significant funding for the current fiscal year related to DMC (disproportionate minority contact) in collaboration with Oakland Police Department. These projects all aim to extend the reach of MYC and the opportunity for youth to experience peer justice, as well as to increase the number of youth offenders who crossover into the Youth Law Program. Youth in Leadership at MYC assist with certain aspects of case management, program development and delivery, and organizational governance.
Summer programming includes a Law & Justice Leadership Institute for new Youth in Leadership to prepare them for their roles. The Institute culminates on a university campus for a three-day Retreat. During the summer, a Bona Fide Law Program is offered for youth who have passed MYC's "bar exam" to hone their skills. A Youth Law Basic Training is provided for youth who wish to join MYC and become a youth attorney, bailiff, or clerk. A Novice Program is offered for middle school youth, especially rising 8 th graders to introduce them to Street Law and some basic law-related concepts and skills, and help them prepare for the challenges of high school.
Issues of justice are explored throughout MYC's programs.
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