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A Time For Transition

More than eight years ago, Joanna Visser Adjoian and Lauren Fine developed the idea of the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project (YSRP) during a drive across Pennsylvania. On their way to make a presentation to female Juvenile Lifers, Lauren and Joanna reimagined the lawyer-client relationship central to legal representation. At the time, neither of them could have imagined the power of the organization, and the community, that they would bring to life. And although they played a significant role in its creation, neither leader ever considered herself the center of that community. 

During the last eight years, under Lauren and Joanna’s leadership, YSRP has established a values-based approach to client-partnership, which centers the agency of each young person and Juvenile Lifer we work with as experts in their own experiences.  With a partnership approach, YSRP aims to prevent children from spending time in adult jails and prisons, and also supports adults who were harmed, as children, when sentenced in the adult criminal system. Our results, and our reputation, are strong.

Though inspired by significant successes and gathering momentum, it recently became clear that we as an organization are ready for our next chapter. After a period of deep contemplation, Joanna and Lauren will end their time as YSRP’s leaders on January 31, 2022.

Through an intense and intentional yearlong strategic-planning process, it became clear that moving to a single executive director was an important next step for the organization. Additionally, it became clear that to fully live our values, the organization should be led by an individual more proximate to the community with which YSRP partners━ by someone with more direct personal or familial experience of the justice system. This is a values-based decision, that Lauren and Joanna arrived at from a position of strength, and it is intended to create space for new leadership.

YSRP’s current financial position is solid, as is our incredible team, making this an opportune time for us to make this leadership change. That is not to say that it will be easy. Colleagues have a deep respect for Joanna and Lauren’s leadership. Their style is described as “uniquely committed to centering our client-partners.” Their presence, and their sense of purpose, will be missed.

Change is never easy, but we are ready and confident. Our confidence is based on the values that Lauren and Joanna have defined, articulated, and lived. Their leadership and those values will be their legacy.

Soon, our active and engaged Board of Directors will announce the appointment of an Interim Executive Director while a full search process for a new Executive Director begins. Between now and January 31, 2022, we will honor these incredible leaders by doing the things they value most – telling the stories of YSRP’s exceptional client-partners and supporting the staff that gives so much to this work. 

To honor the leadership of the Founding Co-Directors, YSRP is increasing our initial fundraising goal of $200,000 by December 31st to $250,000 by January 31st. This additional $50,000 will be the start of The Founders Fund━a fund used to continue to do what Joanna and Lauren have always done:  Support the YSRP staff – through professional development and other forms of individualized support━so that the staff can focus, fully and clearly, on the needs and experiences of the organization’s client-partners. 

Please join us in thanking Lauren Fine and Joanna Visser Adjoian for their incredible vision and guidance during YSRP’s early years. Their leadership will be their legacy. We hope you will consider contributing to The Founders Fund, to honor that legacy. They will be missed, but the organization they built is ready.

With gratitude for our founders and confidence in our future,

YSRP’s Staff & Board of Directors

Photos By: Naomieh Jovin

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