Recently Launched “Youth Worker Apprentice Program” Hires Former JJC Residents
TRENTON – Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) today announced successful outcomes for a recently launched program to provide meaningful employment experience for youth released from JJC custody.
Established in October 2021, the Youth Worker Apprentice Program hires youth released from JJC custody as part-time, youth worker trainees at JJC residential community homes. This program was made possible through $250,000 in State Fiscal Year 2021 budget from the Murphy Administration as part of ongoing efforts to ensure that youthful offenders have opportunities for success when they are released from juvenile facilities. Since the program’s implementation, four young people have been selected to participate in the apprentice program; one apprentice has already transitioned into full-time employment as a youth worker at a JJC residential community home.
“We are committed to ending cycles of incarceration for New Jersey’s youth, and the Juvenile Justice Commission’s apprentice program helps do exactly that,” said Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin. “Thanks to the support of the Murphy Administration, we are able to provide essential work experience to youth who have been involved in the justice system so that they can pursue full-time, successful employment with the JJC or in the private sector.”
Youth Worker Apprentices can be placed at any of the JJC’s 10 residential community homes located throughout the state. Participants receive an hourly wage of approximately $18.75 for up to 20 hours a week. Apprentices can be employed for a 12 to 18-month period allowing them to obtain critical training, develop job skills, and enhance their eligibility to apply for full-time employment, including with the JJC.
“As we continue to reform the youth justice system in New Jersey, we are implementing innovative programs that create positive rehabilitative experiences for both current JJC residents and former residents looking to enter the workforce,” said Dr. Jennifer LeBaron, Acting Executive Director of the JJC. “Many JJC youth express an interest in applying their life experiences in a way that allow them to empower young people in justice settings, and we know that current JJC residents gain from the peer-to-peer support provided by other young people who have had similar life experiences. In the few short months that the Youth Worker Apprentice initiative has been in place, we have seen multiple success stories.”
One Youth Worker Apprentice, Elizabeth Santiago, has since become a full-time JJC Youth Worker at the agency’s residential community home for females.
“The JJC’s Youth Worker Apprentice Program has allowed me, and will allow many others, to inspire young people involved with the justice system who may think that they don’t have a shot at life anymore,” said Santiago. “By witnessing our success as Youth Worker Apprentices, other JJC residents will know that we are all capable of anything. They will see that as Apprentices, we were once in their shoes, but that we have not allowed our pasts to limit the potential of our futures. I hope to inspire JJC residents with my story and to show them that they are not only capable of being like me, but to be even better than me. Today, I am not just a former JJC resident, I am Youth Worker Ellie Santiago, role model, teacher, inspiration, mentor, and more to come.”
Another Apprentice, Jacques Barr, states, “I was in the same exact position as the residents I now work to support, and I see a little of me in each of them. I know that they feel that I can relate to them, and this gives me an advantage in my work. In addition, my supervisor and staff mentors are always willing to offer their advice and support. After participating in the program, I can see myself continuing to work with youth.”
The Youth Worker Apprentice Program has been well received by participants and staff members who state that the Apprentices not only act as mentors to current JJC residents but also inspire them to reach for opportunities and personal long-term goals. The JJC expects the number of Youth Worker Apprentices to grow as residents interact with current Apprentices.
The JJC was established in 1995 to serve as the single agency of State government with centralized authority for planning, policy development, and provision of services in the juvenile justice system. The JJC is committed to implementing and promoting policies and practices that improve outcomes for young people involved with the juvenile justice system, their families, and their communities.
The JJC’s three primary responsibilities are providing care, custody, and rehabilitative services to youth committed to the agency by the courts, supervising and coordinating services for youth released from custody on parole, and supporting local efforts to provide prevention and early intervention services to at-risk and court-involved youth.
Across a continuum of care, which includes secure care facilities, residential community homes, and community-based parole and transitional services, the JJC provides programming, supports, and opportunities designed to help youth grow and thrive and to become independent, productive, and law-abiding citizens.