Youth Justice

There is a growing movement to expand and improve the use of diversion as an alternative to arrest or formal prosecution in juvenile court. Click below to explore the latest research documenting the many benefits of diverting young people away from the justice system, along with policy briefs that provide practical tools for criminal legal practitioners, youth justice lawmakers, and advocates to implement successful diversion programs.

Youth Justice

Key Publications


New Year, Same Fight for Youth Justice!

Advocates in states across the country worked hard to defend youth from harmful media rhetoric and “tough on crime” policies proposed against them. In 2023, The Sentencing Project worked with partners in various states to advance youth justice reforms. Learn how The Sentencing Project will continue to work alongside state partners in the new year to fight for what’s right for young people.

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“We are not ex-cons, we are not felons, we’re not inmates, we’re people that have a way to give back.”

Photo of Michael Mendoza
Michael Mendoza
National Policy Director at the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC)
Damon Walker smiling portrait

Advocating for Youth: Damon Walker

Drawing from his experience with the criminal legal system as a teenager, Damon Walker works to give other youth the chance he received – advocating for alternatives to incarceration that offer youth education, structure, and purpose.

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Youth Justice

Testimony on Maryland Bill Concerning Youth Justice Reform

The Sentencing Project submitted expert testimony to the Maryland House Committee on the Judiciary in opposition SB 744, a bill that would roll back evidence-based recommendations for reform, limit the use of diversion, and negatively impact youth well-being.


Reducing Youth Incarceration: What Works?

Over the past 15 months, The Sentencing Project has published a series of reports showing why it’s important for America’s youth justice systems to reduce incarceration and how to safely reduce the number of young people confined. This webinar reviews our research and discusses alternatives-to-incarceration program models that work as well as systems reforms that can prevent the unnecessary incarceration of youth who pose minimal danger to public safety.

Click here to watch.


Youth Justice

Important reforms that protect young people from the dangers of incarceration have been achieved over the last 25 years but the benefits are not shared equally among all children. The likelihood of court involvement, detention, and placement in a facility is overwhelmingly heightened for Black, Latinx and Tribal youth compared to white youth involved in similar behavior. Practices holding youth to account must be age appropriate, ensure their health and well-being, and minimize incarceration. Join us by sharing The Sentencing Project’s findings on social media.

  • #1

    The US is the only country in the world that sentences youth to life without parole.

  • 64%

    Reforms have helped achieve a 64% reduction in commitments to juvenile justice facilities between 1997 and 2017.

  • 4X

    Black youth are over four times as likely to be detained or committed in juvenile facilities as their white peers.

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Stand up for youth justice

Your help powers The Sentencing Project’s critical research and advocacy work. Together, we can fight against systemic racial and ethnic injustices in our country.

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