SAN FRANCISCO—On Monday, August 3, San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Public Defender Mano Raju announced the creation of the San Francisco Young Defenders Program, a paid educational internship program that will give 25 San Francisco public high school students an opportunity to gain employment and mentorship in the criminal justice field.

In 2018, the mayor created the Opportunities for All initiative to help San Francisco youth find paid employment as well as mentorship opportunities. The Young Defenders program is a part of this initiative as it works to ensure that youth, including those of color, have the chance to achieve a better future for themselves and their families.

During the 40 week internship, Young Defenders will listen to guest speakers, work with San Francisco defense attorneys and social workers to do weekly assignments, participate in mock trials, and help spread community outreach on topics like knowing your rights. Participants will earn academic credit and minimum wage for up to 15 hours a week. Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, students will begin the program remotely and be provided needed technology. Opportunities for All and the Mayor’s Office will fund the youth stipends, and the Public Defender’s Office will fund the other aspects of the program.

In the Office of the Public Defender’s official press release, Mano Raju said, “I am proud that we are launching the Young Defenders Program at this moment in time… Through this program we have an opportunity to train and educate young San Franciscans on how the criminal legal system works and how public defenders advocate for people through every step of the process. My hope is we can start to build a new pipeline of diverse Public Defenders and criminal justice advocates through this program.”

The first cohort of Young Defenders was chosen via an interest survey they completed. The internship began last week with orientation, and the interns started their work with the Public Defender’s Office this week.