Youth Justice

The Criminal Justice Program’s youth justice projects endeavor to support transformation of the juvenile legal and child welfare/family policing systems through generating critical research and policy proposals. We strive to engage students in the practice of community lawyering, immerse them in youth justice policy and practice, and empower a new generation of youth justice movement lawyers. Our research and advocacy focus on the following issues:

  • Alternatives to the juvenile legal system
    • Best practices for communities implementing pre-arrest diversion programs
    • Common legal issues affecting youth in diversion
    • Restorative and transformative justice opportunities for youth
  • Collateral consequences of the juvenile legal system, including the impacts of fines, fees, and license suspensions on youth
  • Child welfare/family policing
    • The carceral connections between the foster system and the juvenile legal system
    • The intersections of law enforcement and child protective services

Funders of this work have included the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Liberty Hill Foundation and the Institute on Inequality and Democracy.

For more information contact CJP’s Youth Justice Policy Lead, Leah Gasser-Ordaz.


  • Addressing Legal Issues in Youth Diversion: A Toolkit

    This toolkit is designed to provide helpful information for jurisdictions looking to develop youth diversion programs. It summarizes best practices and recommendations for legal issues that may arise during the creation and implementation of diversion programs as well as special legal considerations for restorative justice diversion programs. The toolkit also addresses issues in youth diversion such as consent, confidentiality, net-widening, and building relationships among diversion partners. The author makes the case that jurisdictions seeking to implement youth diversion must take into consideration the potential legal implications of diversion on youth and their families prior to implementation in order to build programs that are the most supportive of youth development and success.

    Access the toolkit.

  • A Closer Look at Los Angeles County Probation’s Citation Diversion Program

    A Los Angeles County Probation-run program for youth called the Citation Diversion Program (CDP) is the subject of the latest report from Youth Justice Policy Lead Leah Gasser-Ordaz of UCLA School of Law’s Criminal Justice Program. The report highlights the unjust process that young people face as they try to navigate the program, Probation’s lack of transparency, and racial disparities in referrals. The report also analyzes the consequences for minors whose cases are referred to CDP and concludes that the program can lead to harmful outcomes, such as large fines, burdensome community service hours, and driver’s license suspensions.

    The author proposes that the Citation Diversion Program be ended and the responsibility for handling all low-level non-traffic infractions be shifted to the county’s Youth Development and Diversion (YDD) office; that certain offenses should be decriminalized; that all pending citations be dismissed before CDP is closed; and that all youths’ licenses that were suspended under CDP’s authority be reinstated.

    Read the report.

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