Vice President Kamala Harris is to be commended for initiating a criminal justice diversion program responsible for reversing the negative trajectory of many young offenders. The forward-thinking Vice President made her mark in the Bay Area as San Francisco’s District Attorney. Elected in 2003, she was instrumental in advancing criminal justice reform. As D.A., she launched the Back on Track initiative that sought to reduce recidivism among low-level drug-trafficking defendants. “When you give people a chance to feel hope, they give you hope.” Ms. Harris said of the program. The Bay Area program grew into what would become Felton Institute’s Young Adult Court (YAC).

Young Adult Court Graduation, May 2021

YAC is an innovative court diversion program led by Felton Institute and the San Francisco Superior Court. The first of its kind nationwide, YAC is a compassionate alternative to traditional criminal proceedings for eligible young adults ages 18-25. Young Adult Court, a collaborative court diversion partnership for transitional age youth facing felony charges, provides an opportunity for their records to be expunged in exchange for successful participation and graduation from the program.

YAC strives to align opportunities for accountability and transformation with the unique needs of young adults. Research shows that young adults’ brains are in a fundamentally different stage compared to their child or adult counterparts. While cerebral development is not yet complete, young adults navigate adult-like challenges such as housing, employment, and harsh criminal sentencing. The Honorable Judge Chan, who oversees the program, explains, “Young Adult Court represents probably the last best chance to intervene with people who have been involved in the justice system, and in most cases since they were children.” He adds, “What Felton has done here is truly innovative and it’s groundbreaking. Young Adult Court has been replicated throughout the country, a testament to its continued success.

Kamala Harris’ vision and commitment to criminal justice reform has created opportunities and pathways for youth to lead healthy, productive lives. Reflecting on past graduations of the program, she remembers fondly, “These young adults would walk across graduation…with the biggest smiles you’ve ever seen.” For Women’s History Month we recognize Vice President Harris’ commitment to providing a safety net for justice-impacted youth.

“This program has been adopted and implemented in cities across America. Back on Track is just the start of what real criminal justice reform looks like in this country.” – Kamala Harris, on Twitter, April 2019

You can learn more about Felton Institute’s Young Adult Court Program by visiting the YAC program page at, emailing, or calling YAC Program Manager Celina M. Hennessey at 415-216-6140.


Felton Institute responds to the needs of our community by providing innovative, evidence-informed social services to transform lives. Our organization offers 50+ programs that address mental health, the unhoused, early care and education, those impacted by the justice system, transitional age youth, as well as aging adults. Our award-winning programs, which have been recognized as national models, combine the latest scientific research with cultural sensitivity and a deep commitment to supporting and reflecting the communities we serve.

Founded in 1889, Felton is the oldest secular non-profit social services provider in the City and County of San Francisco. We have expanded our services across most Bay Area counties and continue to be at the forefront of pioneering new approaches to meet the emerging needs of underserved populations.

We know what it looks like to successfully build community.

We foster impactful change by strengthening the community as a premiere service provider. We also strengthen other service providers by supporting them in their fiscal, human resources, communications, IT and overall agency operations. With Felton’s support, they are able to focus on providing the best services to their clients, doing the work they were meant to do.

Felton empowers the community and ensures successful outcomes to all we engage with.

Felton Institute is a tax-exempt organization registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit under EIN 94-1156530.