National Center for Youth Law


Santa Clara Youth Justice Initiative

The National Center for Youth Law’s California Youth Justice Initiative is aimed at supporting healthy communities by advancing policies and practices rooted in positive youth development. Primary strategies include: 1) Empowering formerly incarcerated youth and their families to advocate for change; 2) Providing legal and strategic support to community organizations working to improve local policies and practice; 3) Advocating for community-based services that address youth’s social-emotional health needs as an alternative to incarceration.

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Santa Clara County is at the forefront of juvenile justice reform. The County has made great progress towards addressing racial disparities, adolescent development, and trauma throughout the juvenile justice system. Santa Clara’s collaborative culture, data-driven approaches, and evidence-based programming make it an ideal jurisdiction to work in.

Since 2013, the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) has partnered with public and private agencies in Santa Clara County to improve outcomes for system-involved youth. This project will support existing efforts for three years. The goal is to transform Santa Clara County’s juvenile justice system into a national model in which youth are only incarcerated as a last resort and all system-involved youth receive effective rehabilitative supports, resulting in improved life outcomes and increased public safety.

NCYL serves as the backbone organization for a collective impact effort that will transform Santa Clara County’s Juvenile Justice System such that:

  • Youth are only involved in the system when necessary;
  • Youth are placed in developmentally appropriate settings and provided services and supports consistent with the principles of positive youth development;
  • Youth on probation are provided the supports needed to achieve their potential;
  • Agencies and grassroots organizations collaborate more effectively as measured by increased inter-agency data-sharing, data-transparency, and memorandums of understanding that operationalize data-driven decision-making; and
  • Black and brown youth are not overrepresented in any part of the system.

This will be accomplished by focusing on Santa Clara County youth at-risk of entering, or youth placed in, secure facilities.


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