BRIDGES Incarcerated Youth Speaking Out For Change

We believe in the leadership capacity of all youth, and that includes those who’ve had contact with the justice system. 

In 2015, our CHANGE Fellows’ research into juvenile justice and school discipline policies led BRIDGES leadership to establish a new joint venture with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. What initially began as a standalone workshop quickly expanded into formalized Bridge Builders programming for youth inside the Shelby County Jail system, now known as Incarcerated Youth Speaking Out for Change.

IYSOC’s members, all of whom are being tried as adults, competed by way of essay writing, debates, and commitment to deep reflection to be selected for the inaugural cohort of five youth, and the program has continued to grow each year. 

IYSOC youth are challenged to draw upon their own experiences with crime and violence to create practical recommendations for dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline and reducing youth recidivism. They receive leadership training in conflict resolution, restorative justice principles and public speaking, learn how to construct effective change models, and earn Alternatives to Violence Project certification that will qualify them for jobs as facilitators upon their release. IYSOC members also work to mentor other youth inside the jail system and travel for speaking engagements to law enforcement, justice system officials, educators and community leaders.

You can meet our IYSOC members, read their testimonies and creative writing, explore their reform recommendations, and submit questions for them at

Our IYSOC community partners include:

  • Alternatives to Violence Project
  • Facing History and Ourselves
  • GiVE 365
  • Memphis Bar Foundation
  • The National Civil Rights Museum
  • The Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition
  • TheatreWorks
  • The Hattiloo Theatre

Watch an IYSOC member’s presentation at the 2016 Youth Ignite Memphis event: