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Community Planning Students Apply ‘Design Thinking’ to Juvenile Justice Reform

Final Assignment by Mayling Chung, Emily Kukulies, David Simpson


Redesigning the Juvenile Justice System

Students in the Community Planning class applied a ‘Design Thinking’ process to develop ideas to reform the juvenile justice system in Hawaii.  They conducted research and interviews with professionals who work in the system and youth involved in it.  Students developed prototypes for change. This group envisioned a program that would involved youth in a Community Celebration as a vehicle for healing, restitution, mentoring, and skills development. As a prototype, they produced a video that enacted what the program could be and the outcomes it could achieve.

  • Attitude and cooperation: There is a lot of stigma and misunderstanding about youth in the juvenile justice system. There is also a disconnection between youth and the many supportive resources and networks around them. There is competition between people and agencies who serve them when there can be cooperation and creativity.
  • Trauma-informed care: There is a need for restorative versus punitive options for youth acting out. The youth are being treated like problems when it’s their problems (that are being expressed in deviant behaviors) that need to be addressed. There can be harmful effects of stress on family members and entire communities. The justice system is top-down versus asking the youth to communicate and participate in identifying their needs, aspirations, and agenda for change and growth.
  • Power of role models and social support: There is a need for greater community involvement to encourage and support youth and those around them–a shared responsibility founded in righteous action and love. Mentorship is important and often overlooked as a possible solution. Incorporating a diversity of cultural practices and belief systems can aid in reform.


Probation officers/judges/agencies will introduce youth to Community Celebration as a community service option in their sentencing. Probation officers will supervise according to current policies and standards, maintaining efficacy and consistency of supervision. Community members will have a new and effective way to engage youth in community building efforts and positive outcomes.

The current juvenile justice system would benefit greatly from a widespread paradigm shift, in which attitudes towards youth involved in the juvenile justice system, their families, peers and communities change–creating opportunities for positive growth, personal empowerment and making healthy connections.

Prototype (enactment)