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A Relational Approach to Reducing Youth Incarceration Open Access

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The Choice Program is a local Americorps mentoring/advocacy program in Baltimore, Maryland serving at-risk youth who have been involved in the juvenile justice system. The Choice Program hires recent college graduates from various backgrounds who have an interest in social justice and/or youth development. The range of work that is done by Choice “Fellows”, as they are called within the program, is vast, and includes informal counseling, advocacy in the court and school systems, community monitoring and home visits, resource brokering for youth and families, and 24/7 crisis intervention. The elements of The Choice Program discussed exemplify holistic, interventionist, people-centered approaches to solving social problems.While this paper describes the work being done by The Choice Program, the purpose is to show how this work is philosophically grounded in feminist ethical frameworks that espouse a relational view of the self and emphasize context and relationship-building. Some of the concepts discussed include Virginia Held and Nel Noddings’ “care ethics”, Maria Lugones’ notion of “world-traveling”, and Seyla Benhabib’s “generalized” and “concrete other”. Ultimately, I argue that programs similar to The Choice Program can and do work to reduce youth incarceration by embracing such relational ethical perspectives. Finally, I discuss how the work being done by The Choice Program not only provides a philosophical model for reducing youth incarceration, but a model for other projects related to social justice.

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