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. While each student’s experience is highly case specific, students can expect to: familiarize themselves with case files, develop relationships with juvenile clients, serve as a liaison between your client and the public defender’s office, and learn more about youth advocacy work. Serving as a mentor, students will work with their clients to navigate their time in the rehabilitation center and help them prepare for reentry into their community.

Students will develop client interviewing skills and gain valuable experience by spending time at the juvenile facility in Byron. Depending on the Covid-19 situation, students may meet with clients over zoom, or alternate between in-person and remote visits. Additionally, students may have the opportunity to accompany their client(s) to their hearings at the Juvenile Court. Observing 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, while awaiting security clearance before visiting 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. Attendance at special events—attorney panel, film screening, juvenile hall tours
  4. Participation in mandatory Fall Pro-Bono Opportunities (below)

*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.

Fall Pro-Bono Opportunities: YAP participants will have the opportunity to engage in pro-bono work with a secondary partner organization serving East Bay youth. These opportunities for pro-bono work early in the fall semester are required and are designed to give interested YAP participants the chance to engage with the community while we await security clearances to visit our clients who are currently incarcerated.

For more information, please contact the student leaders at