February 28, 2020

Press contacts:
Impact Justice: Kyung Jin Lee,, 510-684-3122 cell
CDCR Division of Juvenile Justice: Mike Sicilia, 916-628-3280
California Volunteers: Cristina Valdivia Aguilar, 916-508-9018


AmeriCorps welcomes first cohort of members with prior involvement in California’s justice system

California Justice Leaders members will serve as re-entry navigators to peers recently discharged or currently incarcerated in juvenile facilities


LOS ANGELES – Today, dozens of young people who’ve had contact with California’s justice system took a pledge to serve their communities as AmeriCorps members.

California Justice Leaders—an initiative of Impact Justice and AmeriCorps is a first-of-its-kind program that offers training and professional development to young people who’ve successfully transitioned back into their communities. Members will serve as re-entry navigators to youth and young adults who are currently in or have recently been released from California’s Division of Juvenile Justice/Youth and Community Restoration (DJJ/YCR) facilities. As part of their service, members will connect their peers to a range of resources and services to support their re-entry process, including helping youth obtain Honorable Discharges, which can assist in breaking down obstacles to housing and employment opportunities.

“We all deserve the opportunity for another chance,” said Aishatu Yusuf, Impact Justice, Director and lead for California Justice Leaders. “Young people who’ve experienced incarceration face enormous hurdles to re-enter their communities, such as finding jobs, securing safe and affordable housing, having access to education, and rebuilding healthy relationships with their families. By providing opportunities for personal and professional growth, our members will gain the skills and confidence they need to become the next generation of professionals, community leaders, justice field professionals, and agents of systems change.”

“This new class of AmeriCorps members is another example of Governor Newsom’s approach to unite Californians in service to lift up their communities,” said Chief Service Officer Josh Fryday. “We live in a time of immense challenges and we’re asking all Californians to step up and become a part of the solution.”
The unique model of the California Justice Leaders—AmeriCorps program was built from an unprecedented partnership among federal, state, and county governments, as well as local community partner organizations, to support young people successfully re-enter and serve their communities.

“We know that youth respond to credible messengers—people who’ve been through the same kinds of experiences and can relate to what our youth are going through in the re-entry process,” said DJJ/YCR Acting Director Dr. Heather Bowlds, PsyD. “We estimate there are 1,700 youth in the community who could benefit from an Honorable Discharge. Now, armed with marketing materials including a convenient QR code that links to an easy to use interface on our web site, an honorable discharge application can be opened with the aid of nothing more than a smart phone an email address.”

Those eligible for Honorable Discharge from the Board of Juvenile Hearings must pass four criteria:

1. Been discharged from DJJ for 18 months
2. Completed parole or probation
3. Desisted from criminal behavior
4. Started a successful transition to adulthood

Forty members will serve a 905-hour, 11-month term of service as re-entry navigators in four counties throughout California: Los Angeles, Fresno, San Joaquin, and Sacramento. They will be paid $1,272 stipend per month and will be placed at a local community-based organization during their year of service. Upon completion of their term, members will be eligible to apply for a $3,047 Segal Education Award for educational expenses.

“California Justice Leaders offers an innovative approach to ensuring positive outcomes for young people who’ve had contact with the justice system,” said Shimica Gaskins, Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund—California. “We’re thrilled to join this partnership and support vulnerable young people become leaders in our community through service.”

California Justice Leaders is part of Governor Gavin Newsom’s California for All campaign, which seeks to promote success and a shot at the California Dream for everyone, including people who’ve been system impacted. It’s also an integral aspect of the DJJ/YCR’s shift away from a correctional model to one more focused on healing, rehabilitation and successful re-entry.


ABOUT IMPACT JUSTICE: Impact Justice is a national innovation and research center advancing new ideas and solutions for justice reform. We work to dramatically reduce the massive number of youth and adults in our justice system, improve conditions and outcomes for those who are incarcerated, and provide meaningful opportunities for formerly incarcerated people to rejoin their communities.

ABOUT DIVISION OF JUVENILE JUSTICE: The California Department of Corrections (CDCR) Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) becomes the Department of Youth and Community Restoration (YCR) within the California Health and Human Services Agency (CHHS), effective July 1, 2020. YCR provides trauma-informed rehabilitative services to youth in its care. YCR’s mission is to help youth who have hurt people, and have themselves been hurt, to heal, and return safely to the community as responsible and successful adults.

California Volunteers, Office of the Governor is tasked with empowering Californians to take action to improve their communities. AmeriCorps is administered by California Volunteers and sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service, it provides intensive results-driven volunteering opportunities for Americans to address critical community needs.