Becoming our own best advocates
We support incarcerated and previously incarcerated young women by helping them develop the skills and coping mechanisms they need to successfully re-enter the community.

Using community reintegration strategies, including "sistah love," that aim at ending generational cycles of incarceration, we translate the incarceration of young women into opportunities to build community and to learn about civic engagement and social change.   READ MORE

"I used to have doubts about my future, but being around so many positive young women gives me the strength to push forward."
Liz, Age 18

We offer weekly educational workshops in San Franciscoís Juvenile Hall and weekly post-release support groups to young women and girls leaving the system.

The Girls Detention Advocacy Project contains the following program elements:
Lift Us Up, Don't Lock Us Down Curriculum at Juvenile Hall

We conduct workshops in the young women and girls unit at Juvenile Hall each week using a three-month, recurring curriculum called Lift Us Up, Donít Lock Us Down. Lift Us Up, Don't Lock Us Down explores topics including self-care, self-advocacy, political education and cultural history. Because the curriculum is recurring, we encourage young women and girls who either have long sentences at Juvenile Hall or who cycle back into detention to become mentors and teachers of the curriculum along with our staff. In support of Lift Us Up, Donít Lock Us Down, we provide one-on-one support, court accompaniment and case advocacy for young women facing California Youth Authority commitment or trial as adults.
The Lift Us Up, Donít Lock Us Down curriculum is available for purchase.

GDAP has trained over 500 young women in the skills necessary to successfully exit the system.
More than 1,000 incarcerated young women in San Francisco have paricipated in our support groups and trainings.
Over 450 young women have attended our yearly "Stayin Out of the System" seminar.
Sister Circles

We offer a peer-led reentry program called Sister Circles to young women upon their release from detention. Sister Circles combines weekly healing circles and community building activities with conversations about the issues young women face trying to stay out of the system. The program allows formerly incarcerated young women to build a community of support that sustains them and helps keep them off the streets and out of the system.

386 young women have participated in 54 Sisters Circles.
92% of Sisters Circle participants did not reenter the juvenile justice system.

First Edition (out of print)
Know Justice Handbook and Training

The Know Justice: Your Rights in the Juvenile Justice System handbook is the first of its kind resource for youth involved in the juvenile justice system in California. Available in both Spanish and English, the handbook provides explanations of legal terminology and user-friendly information about juvenile justice processes. Know Justice was born out of questions posed by young women incarcerated in Juvenile Hall and developed in collaboration with the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights. We have printed and distributed 15,000 copies of the handbook and we released the Second Edition in August 2005 (see covers to the right).

The Second Edition includes updates on laws that passed or changed in 2003 and 2004. It will includes information about drug-related offenses, custody visitation and prenatal rights targeted at an older population of young people, 18 to 24 years old, who have aged out of the juvenile system and have entered the adult system. We plan to distribute at least 10,000 copies of the Second Edition to the 32 counties in California with the highest youth incarceration rates.

Because of the enthusiastic response to the Know Justice handbook, we developed a companion Know Justice training using the handbook as a curriculum. We offer this training across the state. It is instructed by our staff and young women who were formerly incarcerated and now provide courtroom outreach to young women in the system. The training expands on the information in the handbook and includes general training as well as a training for trainers. Our goal is to train both youth and adults to be able to conduct Know Justice trainings in their communities.

To receive a printed and bound copy of the Know Justice handbook for a $5.00 shipping and handling fee, contact Nkeiruka Oruche ().

Advocacy Campaigns

We consistently engage our members and young women coming out of Juvenile Hall in advocacy campaigns so that they may learn about empowerment and the importance of having a civic voice. Our current political advocacy campaign responds to the fact that approximately one-third of the young women in San Franciscoís juvenile justice system are pregnant or parenting. Currently there are no policies in place to guide the treatment of these young women and to protect their rights. Young women are often denied visits with their children or are only able to visit their children in shackles. We are organizing formerly incarcerated young women to draft and campaign for a Young Motherís Bill of Rights.

We have provided holistic advocacy training and support to over 500 incarcerated young women.
Through our annual book drive, we have delivered over 5,000 books to incarcerated young women.
In the past three years, our courtroom outreach program has helped members of 258 families navigate the juvenile justice system.
Case Management and Courtroom Advocacy

Our aim is always to develop a comprehensive alternative to incarceration that best serves the needs of the young woman. We develop legal and courtroom advocacy plans that involve the young woman, her parents or guardians, other community-based agencies, the faith-based community, the Public Defenderís office and (in some cases) the District Attorneyís office and the presiding judge. The goal is to empower the young woman to advocate for herself and have a voice in determining what will happen to her. When young women and their parents are involved in the process, it is more likely to be successful. In addition to reaching the young women that otherwise do not get the support they need from overburdened public defenders and social workers, courtroom outreach also serves to train previously incarcerated young women and parents of previously incarcerated youth to be peer educators and advocates. We provide case management and courtroom advocacy with the full support of the San Francisco Public Defenderís office, which distributes our materials and refers clients to our services.


To find out more about GDAP, contact Margaret Ramos at or 415-703-8800 ext. 203.

According to the United Way of the Bay Area and the San Francisco Juvenile Probation Department, nearly one-third of the young women in San Franciscoís juvenile justice system are pregnant or parenting.
Currently there are no policies in place to guide the treatment of these young women or to protect their rights as parents.
We have developed courtroom advocacy plans with 7 young women facing trial as adults - none were adjudicated to adult prisons.
The Center for
Young Women's Development
832 Folsom Street, Suite #700
San Francisco, CA 94107
Phone 415.703.8800
Fax 415.703.8818

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