Community Spotlight: ACCESS Youth

ACCESS Youth is a non-profit organization serving youth at risk in the District of Columbia.  The organization is dedicated to giving young adults a second chance by helping them to navigate the judicial system and offering a variety of programs such as such as mentorships, life-skills and family strengthening classes, community service opportunities and crime prevention programs.  Access Youth strives to provide juveniles an alternative to crime and reduce the number of young people involved in crime in DC by providing alternative options and preventative measures

One way in which ACCESS Youth is serving young adults is through their Victim-Offender Mediation program which offers mediation, through a restorative justice approach, as an alternative to incarceration for non violent, first time juvenile offenders arrested in DC.  Every year there are over 4,000 juveniles arrested in the nation’s capital and the system is overwhelmed and lacks the resources to provide alternatives to arrest, trial, & commitment or probation. Mediation is an alternative to court and incarceration, holding offenders accountable for their actions, taking steps to repair the damage, and giving juveniles the opportunity to understand that their actions have consequences for which they are responsible. “ACCESS Youth is the sole source for juvenile victim-offender mediation in D.C. and 98% of juveniles received by ACCESS are not rearrested”.  This program is largely operated by certified volunteer mediators with a commitment to youth at risk and the belief that creativity and flexibility are key for a successful restorative justice process.

Another exciting project that should be kicking off soon is the implementation of a mediation program in DC Public high schools.  Many of the conflicts that end in arrest originate in the schools, even when school incidents do not involve law enforcement they often result in lengthy suspensions and valuable time lost in the classroom.  The program will send trained ACCESS Youth mediators into the schools to provide mediation services to students as an alternative to suspension.  The idea is that these types of mediations, similar to the victim-offender mediations, will give children a second chance by holding them accountable for their actions and giving them a chance to make amends with peers, teachers and faculty.

For more information or to be a volunteer and continue to help ACCESS Youth serve at risk youth in the District please visithttp://www.accessyouthinc.org/.

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