Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal recently created a Community-Based Services Consortium bringing a wide array of prosocial programs to youth in secure care settings and residential community homes operated by the Juvenile Justice Commission (“JJC”). The skills, habits, and knowledge that young people develop through these activities will foster self-esteem and resilience while also strengthening ties to their communities.
The JJC manages a continuum of care that includes three secure facilities and 10 residential community homes that provide programming, support, and opportunities designed to help youth grow and thrive, and return home as independent and productive members of their communities.
Last year, the JJC announced its intent to develop a consortium of community-based service providers to engage youth in a variety of activities that support personal growth and development. A competitive funding opportunity resulted in the selection of 17 providers with a focus on those in locations where JJC youth will reside when they return home. The providers all have strong ties to their communities and have made significant investments to support and transform individuals and families.
This focus has ensured that the service providers themselves are representative of the youth of color who comprise the majority of the JJC’s youth. Providers with specific understanding of female youth are also an important part of the consortium, with many services being provided by women of color.
As a result of the public health crisis, the JJC emphasized the importance of providers offering services virtually and transitioning to in-person service delivery when appropriate. The providers include individuals, businesses, and non-profit organizations that offer educational, engaging, and unique programmatic opportunities for youth.
“Bringing more community-based services to the young people in our state’s residential care facilities will not only help prepare them for success when they return home, but will also reduce recidivism,” said Attorney General Grewal. “With today’s announcement detailing the new and innovative community-based programs available to them, our Juvenile Justice Commission continues to build on the transformational work it is doing to improve the lives of justice-involved youth in our state and reduce the number of young people in its care.”
“The JJC’s Community-Based Services Consortium will enhance the programming and supports currently provided by the JJC through its existing educational and rehabilitative service continuum,” said Jennifer LeBaron, Ph.D., Acting Executive Director of the Juvenile Justice Commission. “Through the wide array of prosocial programs that consortium members will deliver, young people will be afforded the opportunity to expand their horizons and to develop critical connections to community members that strengthen the supports available to them upon returning home. Opportunity and support are key to achieving positive outcomes among youth involved in the juvenile justice system.”
A “point person” has been identified at each JJC residential and secure program to coordinate service delivery, and to foster supportive relationships between youth and the providers from their home communities. These established relationships with community members will allow for additional support for youth as they return to their communities from the JJC’s care.
The transformation of New Jersey’s juvenile justice system has earned the JJC national acclaim and made New Jersey a model state for youth justice reform, which began with the launch of the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (“JDAI”) in 2004.
Recognizing that detention reform is an entryway to overall system reform, JDAI is designed to make the entire juvenile justice system smarter, fairer, more efficient, and more effective. The reduction in population affords the opportunity to improve the youth justice system as a whole and improve the conditions of confinement for youth who require out of home placement.
JDAI is premised on the philosophy that all youth involved in the juvenile justice system should have opportunities to develop into healthy, productive adults as a result of policies, practices, and programs that maximize their chances for personal growth, protect their legal rights, reduce their likelihood of unnecessary or inappropriate incarceration, and minimize the risks they pose to their communities. The JJC’s Community-based Services Consortium facilitates and promotes this philosophy.