Funding Provides Alternatives to Formal Justice System Involvement for Youth in Communities with High Levels of Arrests, Particularly Among Youth of Color
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TRENTON– New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Juvenile Justice Commission (“JJC”) today announced that the Governor’s Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (“JJDP”) Committee has awarded six grants totaling more than $200,000 to local police departments and community-based organizations to encourage the use of stationhouse adjustments for youth who have contact with the local police. The funding was made available to jurisdictions with high instances of juvenile arrests, particularly among youth of color, as a strategy for reducing racial disparities in the formal juvenile justice system.
Stationhouse adjustments allow police officers to divert youth accused of committing minor offenses, such as ordinance violations, disorderly persons offenses, and fourth degree offenses, from formal court proceedings. Stationhouse adjustments allow these minor delinquency matters to be resolved locally and outside of a court room, providing an opportunity to address root causes of behavior, impose immediate consequences, and offer supports to youth, which can include referrals to social service agencies, community service projects, financial restitution, mediation, letters of apology, or writing assignments. Parents, guardians, or caregivers and any known victims must agree to the stationhouse adjustment process.
“New Jersey has become a national model for reducing reliance on incarceration and other out of home placements among youth with minimal involvement in the juvenile justice system, but there is more to do,” said Gurbir S. Grewal, Attorney General.“Stationhouse adjustments allow local law enforcement and community members to encourage conversations and develop relationships with young people. These are the tools we will use to successfully build stronger communities and reduce the number of young people who are treated too harshly for minor infractions, many of whom are youth of color.”
“Years of research proves that the long-term success of young people increases dramatically if we can prevent them from formally entering the juvenile justice system. Behavioral change is more likely if young people are provided with immediate constructive consequences for their decisions, coupled with community-based supports,” said Jennifer LeBaron, Ph.D., Acting Executive Director of the Juvenile Justice Commission. “Through this funding, communities can prevent youth from progressing further into the juvenile justice system and address the overrepresentation of youth of color in the formal system. Stationhouse adjustments are an important resource that should be available in every New Jersey community.”
Based on the philosophy that communities have a unique understanding of their local youth populations, the JJC administers several funding initiatives and state-level services that encourage the development and enhancement of a continuum of community-based services and sanctions, from prevention programs to sentencing options for at-risk, court-involved, and delinquent youth.
One such funding program is the federal Title II grant, which New Jersey receives for participating in the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) Act. As part of the Act, participating states are required to have a governor-appointed committee comprised of juvenile justice professionals, community leaders, and individuals who have been involved with the juvenile justice system that oversees the state’s compliance with the Act and that makes decisions regarding the allocation of Title II grant funds. In New Jersey, this JJDP Committee funds both state- and local-level initiatives, community-based programs, and system reform efforts, including the Stationhouse Adjustment Support Initiative.
This competitive funding opportunity was made available to local police departments and non-profit and for-profit organizations serving municipalities with high levels of arrests and referrals to court, particularly among youth of color, based on data included in the 2017 New Jersey Uniform Crime Report. Programs funded through the project will run from June 1, 2020 – May 31, 2021.Up to $50,000 was available to each grantee for reimbursement of program costs to provide immediate, short-term sanctions and services for low-level youthful offenders. Many of the projects that received funding involve partnerships between police departments and community-based organizations to strengthen the level of support given to youth participating in the programs.
“The JJDP Committee awards approximately one million dollars annually to support local and state programs that prevent or reduce juvenile delinquency by improving systems, mobilizing resources, and engaging in advocacy to improve the lives of youth and families in the state,” said retired Judge F. Lee Forrester, JJDP Committee Chair.“The Stationhouse Adjustment Support Initiative is a perfect example of how the funds awarded by the JJDP Committee can help local jurisdictions support their youth and strengthen their communities.”
The programs receiving funding include:
- Prevention Education, Inc. – $25,581. Prevention Education, Inc. (PEI Kids) will partner with the Lawrence Township Police Department to offer a diversion program for youth between the ages of 10 and 17 who have committed minor offenses in Lawrence Township and the surrounding Trenton-area community. Participants identified by the police department are referred to PEI Kids and participate in weekly sessions held at the Lawrence Community Center. Participants are required to participate for six consecutive weeks and complete a total 12 hours of curriculum time. Sessions address gang involvement, anger management, and substance abuse using the evidence-based Phoenix/New Freedom curriculum, which has demonstrated significant reductions in recidivism. Participants are also introduced to various community service opportunities, such as working in the community garden, and are required to complete 10 hours of service before completing the program.
- Township of Bloomfield Police Department – $3,964. The Bloomfield Police Department (BPD) has incorporated its Junior Police Academy (JPA) into its existing Stationhouse Adjustment structure, allowing identified youth to participate in a key component of the BPD’s community policing efforts. This expansion of the Academy program allows approximately 40 first-time juvenile offenders to experience what is required to become a police officer. In addition, the curriculum includes sessions on gang awareness, the K9 Unit, crime scene investigation, self- defense, active shooter training, a SWAT demonstration, and Drill & Ceremony instruction.
- Camden County Police Department – $50,000. Through the County’s Multi-Agency Lifeline (MALL), participants attend 48 classes held at the Salvation Army Kroc Center over a three-month period. The program consists of two Project Guardian events, which provide key relationship-building opportunities between participants and police officers. Youth are counseled on restorative diversion through the Center for Family Services (CFS) crisis intervention unit. CFS and the Camden County Police Department have designated a counselor to work with participants of the SHA program. The curriculum also includes various group activities, community service projects, and presentations by motivational speakers.
- Cherry Hill Police Department – $45,612. The Cherry Hill Police Department, in partnership with the Cherry Hill School District, Project Little Warriors, and Crush Your Excuses has enhanced and expanded the diversion and intervention services provided through its SHA program. The program focuses on restorative healing practices that incorporate the youth participants, family members, and positive peer youth and adults who support participants’ success and help further reduce negative behaviors. The program components include understanding consequences, behavior modification, positive activities, lifestyle choices and supports, and family engagement.
- Edison Township Police Department – $30,900. The Edison Mentoring Children (E=MC) program offers a six-week program for approximately 10 to 15 Edison youth in each session, serving a total of approximately 50 participants. Activities take place at the Police Department, Edison High School, and Family Support of Middlesex County and include bonding activities aimed at creating relationships between the participants and mentors, and educational/mentorship lessons by officers and other community leaders.
- Gloucester Township Police Department – $50,000. The Gloucester Township Police Department (GCPD) SHA program enrolls eligible youth into a counseling program developed by Gloucester Township Police called “Handshakes not Handcuffs”. Youth ages 13 to 17 attend the program one night a week for one and a half hours for six weeks called GT FOCUS. The counselor addresses a different topic each night. A separate program is designed for youth 12 and under that includes parents to discuss the actions which resulted in police involvement. As part of the initiative, participants also meet with the School Resource Officers (SROs) and tour the police department as part of the mentoring component. One-on-one counseling is offered free of charge as necessary. In addition, the GCPD has partnered with Center for Family Services to further assist families holistically.