The Youth Art & Self-Empowerment Project (YASP) is building a youth-led movement to end the practice of trying and incarcerating young people as adults. Through its work in the Philadelphia jails, YASP provides space for incarcerated young people to express themselves creatively and to develop as leaders both within and beyond the prison walls. Young people who have been through the adult court system are at the forefront of YASP, leading the movement to keep young people out of adult prisons and to create new possibilities for youth around the city.
YASP conducts art, poetry, music, and empowerment workshops at Riverside Correctional Facility (R.C.F.) every Saturday with young people under 18 who are being tried as adults. YASP’s work with young people continues even after their time in the adult prison system. They meet with young people regularly to provide help with finding employment, writing resumés and cover letters, continuing education, homework, college applications, etc.
YASP participates in rallies and demonstrations, and conducts door knocking campaigns for our petition to repeal or amend Act 33, the law that allows youth to be automatically charged as adults in PA. They are also deeply involved in work to remove all youth pretrial from adult jails, end cash bail in Philadelphia, and permanently close the House of Correction.
Every Tuesday, YASP holds youth participatory defense hubs, a resource for anyone who is going through the court process, anyone who has a family member or friend going through the court process, or anyone who wants to support members of the YASP community. The hub serves three main purposes: providing information on the system and all of the steps of the court process, making social bio videos and packets to change the narrative of who someone is and show the judge the perspective of the person from their loved ones rather than just judging them by their charges, and providing court support by filling the courtroom for anyone who has upcoming court dates. YASP can also provide support by helping young people find jobs, school programs, and housing.