The best reentry programs begin while a youth is still confined. Nearly 100,000 youth are released from juvenile justice institutions each year. Most are returned to families struggling with poverty in blighted neighborhoods with high crime rates, few programs, and poorly performing schools. Key to success is connecting youth to people, programs and services that reinforce their rehabilitation and help them become successful and productive adults.
Successful aftercare and reentry programs require coordination between multiple government agencies and nonprofit providers, not only to develop new services, but to help youth better access existing services. Upon release, teenagers must enroll immediately in school or have a job waiting. Otherwise, they are more likely to return to their old friends and delinquent behaviors. Workforce development—helping teens attain job skills and earn money—is a key motivator for adolescents increasing their commitment to and enthusiasm for learning. Youth must have quick access to mental health and substance abuse services as needed. And they must receive strong support from family and other caring adults.
Principles of Reform
- Divert Youth from the Justice System
- Reduce Institutionalization
- Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Disparities
- Ensure Access to Quality Counsel
- Create a Range of Effective Community-Based Programs
- Recognize and Serve Youth with Specialized Needs
- Improve Aftercare and Reentry
- Engage Youth, Family, and Community
- Keep Youth Out of Adult Courts, Jails, and Prisons
Each National Juvenile Justice Network member embraces these principles of reform, and conducts state-based work on at least two principles. These principles and the associated text are from “Juvenile Justice Reform: A Blueprint,” developed by the Youth Transition Funders Group.