Youth Justice Fund

Supporting formerly incarcerated young adults to successfully return to communities

Grantee Cohort Fall 2017, Spring 2019

Location Michigan

In 2017, Deborah LaBelle founded the Youth Justice Fund (YJF) to create opportunities for the growing number of young adults returning to the community after long periods of incarceration. YJF is building a human rights-based reintegration and responsibility model for these young people. The organization aims to provide alternative means of support that do not marginalize formerly incarcerated people, educate the community about the need to reform criminal justice policies that are punitive and excessive, and change the narrative about people who are returning home after incarceration.

With support from the Art For Justice Fund, YJF was supported through its early stages of development, but it was principally intended to support the leadership of Deborah LaBelle—a seasoned litigator and nationally recognized champion for children serving excessive prison sentences.

In partnership with Illinois Humanities’ “Envisioning Justice” exhibit on incarceration in Illinois, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting hosted a half-day program to educate Pulitzer Center journalists and other leaders from Chicago institutions. To design the project, the Pulitzer Center called on the expertise of fellow Art for Justice partners Voice of the Experienced, Fair Sentencing of Youth and Youth Justice Fund. The convening also featured engagements with high school and post-secondary students, as well as another workshop at Illinois Youth Center.