The YMCA Marin County Youth Court is an alternative to the traditional juvenile justice system. Based on the principals of restorative justice Youth Court empowers teens to take an active role in addressing and supporting their peers when they have made a poor choice. Restorative practices focus on learning from mistakes rather than being punished. The goal is to repair the harm done and the relationships impacted, so the youth may return to the community as more reflective and wiser person.
The YMCA Youth Court Program has been on the forefront of mitigating the school-to-prison pipeline by deploying restorative practices that keep kids in school and out of the juvenile justice system. This innovative program has a 95% completion rate and only 8% recidivate within the following year. Successful completion of the program removes the juvenile record.
The Youth Court’s transformative power is derived from its non-adversarial, peer-to-peer restorative practices. The program has diverted over 900 youth from the juvenile justice system in the past ten years. With a record overwhelming success, restorative justice dispels the myths of "being soft on crime" or the "justice system is beyond reform."
Don Carney has worked in the fields of Juvenile Justice and Social Justice for 40 years. He started his career in Marin directing group homes and educational services for adjudicated youth.
In 2000 he became the Director of Youth and Family Services for the YMCA. He supervised Youth Development Services at County Community School and also directed a residential camp for at-risk youth. In 2004 he became Director of the Marin County Youth Court.
He is a member of the Superior Court’s Commission on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Novato Blue Ribbon Coalition for Youth and the San Rafael Alcohol and Drug Coalition.
Jennifer has worked with youth in both the non-profit sector and the legal sector for many years. She began her career working with a youth community service program called City Year, where 17-21 year olds do nine months of community service and receive a stipend for education or job training. This program then became the model for the Americorps national service program.
She attended law school in Boston, and worked as a prosecutor in both adult and juvenile court where she soon realized that her passion was helping keep people out of the system.She was thrilled to join Marin County Youth Court working as the Restorative Justice Coordinator responsible for handling both Youth Court and Peer Courts in the San Rafael City Schools.