Rebecca Young was born in 1964 and raised in New York City, the only child of two artists. Although her family was not observant, she developed a strong Jewish identity as a child. Her parents divorced when she was seven, and Rebecca and her mother struggled with poverty, an experience which made Rebecca sensitive to the challenges faced by poor people. When Rebecca was thirteen, her mother died and Rebecca moved to Virginia to live with a cousin.
Soon after her mother's death, Rebecca's interest in prisoners' rights was sparked by a made-for-television movie about death row inmate Caryl Chessman. Rebecca continued to develop her commitment to prisoners' rights while an undergraduate at Harvard, volunteering in Massachusetts prisons. After graduation, Rebecca remained involved in this field, working for a prison reform group, where she learned about lobbying and legal research. She served as the first executive director of Citizens for Juvenile Justice (CJJ), an organization that works to improve the juvenile justice system to benefit children, their families, and the community. Her legislative advocacy work with CJJ spurred Rebecca to return to law school; she graduated from Boston College Law School in 2001. Rebecca currently works as a Soros Justice Postgraduate Fellow at Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services, implementing the Rapid Response to Brutality Project that she designed. This project aims to deter the frequent victimization of prisoners by correctional staff through monitoring brutality, documenting reported assaults quickly, and doing follow-up advocacy to help prisoners get medical treatment. Although the project is in its early stages, Rebecca has already been rewarded with meaningful connections with her clients and colleagues. She feels lucky to have found her calling in this work.
In addition to her deep commitment to prisoners' rights, Rebecca has been active in causes such as women's rights, anti-poverty, and anti-apartheid. She also has a long-standing involvement in anti-death penalty activism, serving as a board member of Massachusetts Citizens Against the Death Penalty for 12 years. Rebecca views her activism as influenced by her mother's willingness to stand up for what she believed in, her experiences of poverty as a child, and Jewish values of tikkun olam (repairing the world).