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Young New Yorkers re-imagine Brooklyn federal courtroom

August 10, 2018 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A group of kids and young adults who have had the unfortunate experience of appearing in court for negative reasons not only had their records expunged and cases sealed, but they had an opportunity to come into the court, display their artwork and get to know some of Brooklyn’s judges and court employees. Young New Yorkers photos by Mansura Khanam
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For one afternoon, a courtroom at the federal courthouse in Downtown Brooklyn was re-imagined on July 26 by a group of kids taking part in a program known as the Young New Yorkers.

The Young New Yorkers’ Restorative Arts Diversion Program allows court-involved 16-25 year olds to advocate for themselves through their artwork. These kids and young adults hosted an exhibition in the U.S. District Courthouse for the Eastern District thanks to the help of Chief Judge Dora Irizarry.

The group of kids and young adults who participated that Thursday also had their cases dismissed and records sealed.

The event was also meant as a way for the kids and young adults meet with the judges and court staff to get to know each other on a more personal level in a setting where so much isn’t on the line.

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“Bringing young people and criminal legal professionals together in this context humanizes the culture of the courtrooms, the members of which possess discretionary power over each young person’s case outcome,” said Kelsey Weber, executive assistant and program associate for the Young New Yorkers. “In this way YNY engages those most impacted by the criminal legal system — the very young people sentenced to our programs — in pushing for criminal legal reform.”

The Young New Yorkers is a court mandated program that provides a restorative sentencing option for court-involved youth to avoid jail time and other adult sanctions. After kids complete the program, their adult criminal case is often dismissed and sealed which helps them avoid a lifetime criminal record.

The multiweek program concludes with an interactive exhibition that gives the kids an opportunity to advocate for themselves.

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