TRENTON — Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) today announced the opening of the first of four planned Restorative and Transformative Justice Hubs (RTJ Hubs) in New Jersey. On Monday, February 5, Attorney General Platkin and JJC Executive Director Dr. Jennifer LeBaron joined Essex County leaders at a ceremony celebrating the opening of the Essex County hub. The center will be located in the City of Newark.
“As we continue to build a stronger and fairer youth justice system in New Jersey, a large priority is making sure young people have the resources they need in the community. The Restorative and Transformative Justice Hubs will provide a support system to help guide young people in becoming confident, healthy, and successful adults,” said Governor Murphy. “My dear friend, the late, great Lieutenant Governor Sheila Y. Oliver was passionate about our state’s youth, especially those in her community, and I couldn’t be happier to see her legacy continue to take shape as Essex County celebrates the opening of the first of many hubs.”
“New Jersey has been and continues to be a national leader in transforming the youth justice system. Today, we take another step in that transformation with the opening of our first restorative and transformative justice hub in Newark,” said Attorney General Platkin. “We know that justice-involved youth are more likely to grow into healthy and successful adults when they have the tools they need to make good choices and the resources they deserve to achieve their full potential. Our new restorative justice hubs will do just that, supporting youth, their families, and their communities as they build and grow together.”
“Because every one of New Jersey’s justice-involved young people is a unique individual with great potential and wide-ranging needs, the JJC has become more creative and flexible in our efforts to guide each young person toward making better choices and to offer opportunities for growth and development,” said JJC Executive Director Dr. Jennifer LeBaron. “Community healing and well-being are just as important. The Restorative and Transformative Justice Hubs will serve both the community and our justice-involved young people, providing the tools, resources, and supports needed to achieve the best possible outcomes.”
The JJC is committed to implementing and promoting policies and practices that improve outcomes for young people involved with the youth justice system. The JJC, alongside community stakeholders, works to create community-based public safety systems that support young people in the JJC’s care, those returning home from JJC residential facilities, and aims to divert other young people away from the youth justice system altogether.
The Restorative and Transformative Justice for Youth and Communities Pilot Program was passed by the New Jersey Legislature and signed into law by the late Acting Governor Sheila Y. Oliver in 2021, with the goal of providing community organizations with funding to develop programs in four municipalities (Camden, Newark, Paterson and Trenton) dedicated to providing a continuum of care to youth, including community-based enhanced diversion and reentry wraparound services.
The JJC created regulations governing the initiative (N.J.A.C. 13:90) and developed an application and planning process for counties seeking funding for the program to follow. Once a county’s application was accepted, the County Youth Services Commission (CYSC) held a public meeting to announce the RTJ initiative to residents and the community, and selected a community provider to manage the RTJ Hub. Thereafter, the JJC worked with the county and the community provider to ensure they received training in restorative justice practices.
The Essex County Hub opened today will be overseen by the Essex County Youth Services Commission and operated by United Community Corporation.
Each hub is expected to assist justice-involved young people by:
- using trauma-informed methods and violence reduction supports to decrease incidents of harmful and unlawful behavior;
- increasing participation in educational programs, vocational programs, and employment readiness training;
- encouraging participation in mental health and well-being programs;
- establishing relationships with local law enforcement agencies, courts, prosecutors, and defense attorneys to support the diversion of youth away from arrest and prosecution and towards participation in restorative justice services; and
- improving the socio-emotional and behavioral response of youth within the community.
The JJC is partnering with Rutgers University to evaluate the RTJ Hub programs.
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 youth justice system. The JJC is committed to implementing and promoting policies and practices that improve outcomes for young people involved with the youth 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.