Adam Pennavaria

The Youth Challenge program provides an alternative form of correction for criminal offenders. Students of the program attend daily classes on self-improvement and Christian ideology and give their testimonies and sing at various churches in Virginia. Offenders in the program have been charged with a variety of crimes, including larceny, possession of crystal methamphetamine, shoplifting, destruction of property, and arson.


Because the organization is founded on Christian principles, it relies almost entirely on donations from local churches, food banks, and philanthropists. Despite the program’s ~60% success rate, it is substantially underfunded and understaffed. Most of the program’s employees are former students.
The ones who stay bond very closely with their fellow students and often graduate from Youth Challenge successfully. After they graduate the program, the rest of their future is up to them.


Due to the sensitive legal nature of correction facilities, I have used false names for the students of the program.

Angela restocks clothing at the Youth Challenge Thrift Store in Newport News, VA. on Saturday, July 18, 2015.
Bethany and Angela pray at Suffolk Methodist Church. During the service, Bethany shared her testimony about how the Youth Challenge program has helped her avoid several years in prison and has given her an improved perspective on life through religion.
Youth Challenge women's home director Denise Lee looks at a stack of request for acceptance letters. Offenders who request to join Youth Challenge must submit a written statement to Lee and then pass two screening interviews.
Arnold sets up a game of billiards in the basement of the Youth Challenge men's home. Youth Challenge participants are given only a few hours of free time per day which they are allowed to spend exercising, reading, watching TV, or playing pool.
Greg (left) and Alex share a laugh during dinner at the Youth Challenge men's home.
Jeremy practices playing his guitar at the Youth Challenge men's home in Newport News, VA. Before being arrested, Jeremy was a vocalist and guitarist for a band in Virginia Beach. He hopes to continue his musical career after he graduates.
Patricia (left) and Nicki share a smile while singing a hymn at White Stone Church of the Nazarene.
Angela, Patricia, Nicki, and Rachel (clockwise from top left) tell stories while they wait for the other members of the Youth Challenge women's home to join them for dinner.
Arnold shows some of his tattoos during an interview at the Youth Challenge men's home.
The men and women of Youth Challenge perform as a choir at the White Stone Church of the Nazarene in White Stone, VA on Sunday, August 9, 2015.
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