Children who have spent time committed in juvenile facilities need assistance with returning to their communities. In collaboration with various educational institutions and other non-profit organizations, the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services, has created a number of community re-entry centers and programs facilitating the re-integration of formerly confined juveniles into their communities. The centers and programs help juveniles by giving them the opportunity to share experiences with others in their situation, providing a space for shared activities and assistance with education, and connecting juveniles with counselors, social workers and other adult role models or advisors they need. However, the programs may not always provide adequate support in terms of engaging other community members in assisting juveniles and do not connect juveniles with young people of the same age who have not gotten involved with the juvenile justice system; also, some of the programs do not create enough opportunity for the involvement of parents in the re-entry process. Allowing juveniles to count on community support by connecting with their peers and family members plays an important role in their transition to a meaningful life after confinement.
[...] In order to ensure that such mechanism exists, the Harlem Community Justice Center in New York City has created a program called “Juvenile Re- entry Court” for juveniles leaving placement and returning to Harlem and Upper Manhattan, The program creators note that upon leaving an incarceration facility, juveniles often end up “trading the structured environment of confinement for an often chaotic home life and the same negative influences that contributed to their behavior in the first place”; this conclusion is supported by statistics revealing that 81% of returning boys and 46% of returning girls commit new offenses within three years of their release. In order to ensure that the re-entry of juveniles into their community and prevent recidivism, this program involves two key aspects: accountability and judicial monitoring. [...]
[...] Recent data showing that taxpayers are willing to pay much more for the rehabilitation of juveniles than they would pay for incarceration also reveals that the support of the community can play a crucial law in supporting a juvenile's transition from a time in confinement back to a real life full of challenges. Besides benefiting from all state or non-profit sponsored programs, juveniles can also learn a great amount from simply talking to other young people who have never become involved with the juvenile justice system and may come from different backgrounds than the juveniles. [...]
[...] Re-entry Programs for Juveniles and Adults Together Some critiques of the system have suggested that certain older juveniles should attend the same programs that adults attend in order to ensure their preparation for re-entering the community as adults. The Boston Re- entry Initiative (BRI) targets 17- to 34-year-old offenders who are considered high risk for continuing their involvement in crime. The program focuses on offenders with “extensive criminal backgrounds, histories of violence, firearm offenses, and gang associations.” As some of these offenders may have come from or return to high crime areas, BRI aims its efforts at preventing them from re-offending these young people from re- offending by offering them comprehensive and effective transitional resources and by carefully monitoring their reentry process. [...]
[...] Another positive aspect of these programs is that the involvement of popular non-profit organizations may broaden the perspectives of juveniles as well as stimulate a greater feeling of trust and approval among the local community than a program entirely organized by state authorities would; such a positive perception will facilitate the re-entry of juveniles in those communities and may even assist job seeking efforts by allowing juveniles to include in their resumes a description of their participation in a program funded by a well-known non-profit, or by linking them with professionals form the non-profit and corporate donors supporting the program. [...]
[...] Massachusetts programs may benefit from the example of a very successful initiative in the state of Indiana, a program which has lowered recidivism rates and taxpayer costs: according to a study by the Indiana Youth Institute, from 2002 to 2004, the number of juveniles placed in state custody declined by 54.5 percent, saving taxpayers over $ 1.4 million. In addition to creating an individualized program for every juvenile upon his or her release and aiming to tackle root causes of the juvenile's delinquency, the program makes parental participation mandatory and includes specific activities for parents such as discussion groups or counseling on issues like abuse and anger management. In this and other programs, parental participation becomes crucial as the staff members of this re-entry program try to reach the underlying cause of each youth's unlawful behavior as many of the roots of delinquent behavior may stem from the family and home environment. [...]
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