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Young Adult Court

San Francisco Young Adult Court

In 2015, SFDA partnered with justice agencies and community organizations to develop a “Young Adult Court” (YAC) designed to address the unique needs of young adults—ages 18-25. YAC offers a “collaborative, problem-solving” model to young adults charged with both violent and non-violent felonies and misdemeanors. While excluding criteria do exist—including the use of a firearm and individuals with a prior strike—the San Francisco model seeks to address the root causes of more serious crime. Together with San Francisco’s existing services for these transitional age young adults, YAC was created to ensure justice-involved young adults start their path into adulthood with the support they need to be healthy, engaged members of their families and communities.

YAC is a partnership of the District Attorney, San Francisco Superior Court, Public Defender, Adult Probation Department, Felton Institute, Goodwill Industries of San Francisco, San Mateo & Marin Counties, Sunset Youth Services and UCSF Citywide Forensic Case Management. The program is funded through the San Francisco Department of Children, Youth and Their Families, California Board of State and Community Corrections. and the District Attorneys Office.

YAC: Much More than a Courtroom

The YAC model goes beyond mere court appearances by building on the city’s work of establishing “collaborative” courts that coordinate responses to promote law-abiding behavior. Through collaboration with justice system colleagues and community organizations, justice-involved young adults are supported through a four-phase process:

  1. Engagement and Assessment: Participants go through intensive intake, assessment, and orientation, and appear in court weekly to report on their progress. They work with their clinical case manager to address urgent needs – such as housing – and create their own Wellness Care Plan, which includes steps to meet their goals. The plan can include therapy, education, employment, parenting skills, drug treatment, and housing support, among other components.
  2. Stability and Accountability: Participants begin to implement their Wellness Care Plan and continue to appear in court.
  3. Wellness and Community Connection: Participants make tangible progress in their plan, demonstrating sustained connections to community-based resources and achieving goals that they have set around workforce, relationships, housing and other identified needs.
  4. Program Transition (and graduation day): Participants prepare to transition out of the program and develop an Aftercare Plan that includes both short-term resources and long-term goals.

Each stage of the process includes additional activities and milestones that must be met before advancing to the next, as well as coordinated support services from city agencies and community organizations.

Graduating from YAC

YAC justice partners conference weekly before court to discuss individual cases and coordinate responses. Participants then regularly appear before the YAC Judge to evaluate their progress, and are either rewarded or face admonishments for specific behaviors to maintain a close feedback loop between action and reward/response. Frequency of court appearances is reduced as participants demonstrate stability and engagement.

Depending on the individual’s progress, a participant may spend between 2-5 months on each phase, with the entire program lasting 12-18 months. Graduation from YAC provides participants with the ability to have clean or reduced criminal records, depending on their case.