Youth Advocacy Project

Students will work as youth advocates to support juveniles who are currently, or were previously, incarcerated at Contra Costa County’s juvenile hall. Student work will support the public defenders who represent these juveniles in court.

Throughout the year, students will work one-on-one, or with a fellow Berkeley student, with 1-2 clients to help prepare them for release.  Students will meet with clients while in custody and will further support their clients by helping connect them with community resources that will enable clients to achieve success post-release. While each student’s experience is highly case specific, students can expect to: support the public defender by identifying case needs, help juveniles navigate in-custody education rights, provide re-entry planning, help clients navigate probation violations and provide support for any additional challenges juveniles face while in custody and reentering the community.

Students will develop client interviewing skills and gain valuable experience by spending time at the juvenile facility in Martinez and/or Brentwood. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to accompany their client(s) to their hearings at the Juvenile Court. Observing and testifying in juvenile court provides students with an opportunity to develop a significantly more nuanced understanding of the juvenile justice system in California.  Most importantly, students will have an opportunity to improve the lives of their clients.

Fall Pro-Bono Opportunities: During the Fall Semester, while awaiting security clearance to visit our clients in juvenile detention, YAP participants will also have the opportunity to engage in pro-bono work with the Center for Youth Development through Law (CYDL), a non-profit organization that provides programs and mentorship to East Bay youth from marginalized communities interested in civic engagement and social justice. In small teams, members will make a presentation or teach a class to a group of CYDL students about various legal issues and/or preparing for college or law school. Further, there will be opportunities for mentorship pairings with interested CYDL students.

Supervision: Students will provide services to clients through YAP under the supervision of attorneys at the Contra Costa County Office of the Public Defender. 

Time Commitment: As it takes some time to obtain the requisite security clearance, YAP will be a lighter time commitment during the first few months. However, this time commitment will ramp up considerably during the second semester.  

Approx. 15 hours during Semester 1; 30 hours during Semester 2

  1. Early semester group trainings (3 hours)
  2. Bi-monthly (twice a month) client meetings at juvenile hall/Ranch/out of custody and brief memos regarding the meeting to be written and sent to the supervising attorney. Because of the security clearance process, the earliest these meetings will start is November.
  3. Monthly case conference meetings
  4. Attendance of court hearings highly encouraged (can be done remotely)
  5. Attendance at special events—attorney panel, film screening, juvenile hall tours
  6. Participation in mandatory Fall Pro-Bono Opportunities 

*Note: These figures are an approximation of YAP participants’ time commitment, assuming that we will be able to visit juvenile hall by at least the Spring Semester (when the majority of our client visits happen). Time commitment might be affected by unanticipated Berkeley Law or Contra Costa County public health restrictions.

For more information, please contact the student leaders at