Youth Restorative Action Project in Alberta |TODAY|
Submitted by dan. on 2007-09-24 23:32.
There is nothing like YRAP, anywhere. It's the world's only youth justice committee that deals with crimes motivated by racial or ethnic hatred. All of its 50 or so members are between 12 and 24. And about a third first encountered YRAP when they themselves were facing charges.
Founded in 2001 by a teenage refugee fleeing violence in her native Serbia, YRAP was officially sanctioned by the Alberta government in May 2003, soon after the new Youth Criminal Justice Act, which encourages the creation of youth justice committees, came into force.
Youth justice committees perform many functions, ranging from supporting victims and dealing with community agencies to convening "conferences" that advise the courts on the disposition of youth justice cases.
But none do it like YRAP. Not only does it handle offences with broader social significance, such as child prostitution, but its sentences -- or "consequences," to use the term YRAP members prefer -- are wildly creative.
For instance, when three girls in their early teens swarmed and assaulted a woman they wrongly believed was a prostitute, YRAP decreed that they should research and produce a two-hour radio documentary on child prostitution, using studio facilities at iHuman, a non-profit, charitable society that is one of YRAP's sponsors.
The result was a harrowing series of interviews with pimps and prostitutes -- most of them young enough that puberty is still a vivid memory -- interspersed with original rap music. The documentary aired in May on CJSR, the University of Alberta radio station, which is also a YRAP sponsor.
Two of the girls originally charged are now YRAP members. "You could see their beliefs and value systems change as this progressed," says Mr. Cherrington.
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