About Us

Empowering young New Yorkers to transform the criminal justice system through their own creative voices.

“This multi-agency effort to turn Criminal Court into a positive experience in a young person's life is very promising.” Honorable Judge George A. Grasso commenting on YNY's 1-Day Arts Diversion Program.

“We are proud to be part of this innovative program, which is in keeping with our agency-wide effort to improve public safety by providing services and sanctions that are targeted to each probation client’s unique risks and needs.” Vincent Schiraldi, Former NYC Department of Probation Commissioner.

“Brooklyn Defender Services is proud to sponsor the Young New Yorkers program and we are pleased that our young clients charged with minor offenses receive an opportunity to improve their lives.” Lisa Schreibersdorf, Esq., Executive Director of Brooklyn Defender Services.

Young New Yorkers (YNY) provides arts-based diversion programs to court-involved young people. The ultimate goal is to empower participants to transform the criminal justice system through their own creative voices. Whether for one day or eight weeks, each program culminates in an exhibition of the participants’ artworks, giving members of the criminal justice system an opportunity to re-meet these extraordinary young people beyond their rap sheets.


The criminal court gives eligible 16–25-year-old defendants who, in New York State, are charged and prosecuted as adults the option to participate in a YNY program rather than spend time in jail, incur other adult criminal justice sanctions, and be saddled with a lifelong criminal record. In most cases, upon successful completion of the program, a participant’s case is sealed. To date, 100% of over 250 participants have successfully graduated from Young New Yorkers programs. Early research shows YNY participants’ re-arrest rates to be notably lower than similarly situated teens in Brooklyn, and the national average.


YNY offers court-mandated Programs, as well as Community Programs and Graduate Programs. Click here for a full list of YNY programs. 

Our flagship 8-Week Arts Diversion Program is an alternative sentencing program for young people. Upon completion of the program, participants typically have their criminal cases sealed, leaving their young lives unburdened by an adult criminal record. The program consists of weekly, three-hour, classes, each framed by a relevant theme: community; choice; accountability; responsibility; contribution; and leadership. Each participant explores these themes in conversations with the group, and through art exercises presented by Teaching Artists, utilizing photography, video, illustration, and design.


The program culminates in a large-scale public art exhibition that is designed by YNY participants, and that addresses a social justice issue that is important to them. These exhibitions are well-attended, and celebrated by YNY’s many criminal justice partners.


Young New Yorkers has established partnerships with several agencies within the criminal justice system, including: Kings County Criminal Court, Red Hook Community Court, Kings County District Attorney’s Office, Brooklyn Defender Services, the Legal Aid Society, the American Bar Association's Racial Justice Task Force, the Center for Court Innovation, and the New York City Department of Probation (Brooklyn).


Uniquely, Young New Yorkers has partnerships with multiple agencies within the Criminal Justice System. 

Brooklyn Task Force & the American Bar Association’s Racial Justice Improvement Project