YOUTH REENTRY NETWORK
Youth Reentry Network
Historic Initiative in New York City
Serving the Youngest People leaving Adult Custody
In August 2016, New York City invested in an historic initiative to provide neighborhood-based pre- and post-release support for adolescents leaving Rikers custody. Specifically, Friends of Island Academy received a pilot demonstration contract of 11.5 million dollars over 3.5 years from the NYC Department of Correction. These funds are earmarked to support a City-wide Youth Reentry Network for youth leaving Rikers and going home to neighborhoods throughout New York City. Fully operational, the Network will connect with approximately 3000 young people upon admission annually.
The Youth Reentry Network (The Network) is a comprehensive system of intake house activities, case expediting, discharge planning and re-entry support which begins upon an adolescent/young adult’s admission to Rikers Island. The development of a systemic network targeted to this age group (16-21) will use engaging, evidence-based practices to minimize idle time and mitigate tension and trauma, facilitate youth engagement in services, and expedite the connection to pre- and post-release services. Over the period of this demonstration project, the Network is intended to result in reductions in average length of stay and overall readmissions, by promoting positive youth outcomes.
The Network will engage all adolescents and a majority of young adults admitted on a daily basis by covering four primary intake/admission houses Monday through Saturday (akin to covering arraignments in criminal court). Design includes 1) intake house activities/presence and preliminary screening, family outreach and service coordination; 2) case expediting through connection to bail and other existing alternatives; 3) transitional coordination, including early identification for existing alternative-to-detention/incarceration programs, client specific planning, youth serving and relevant existing jail-based and post-release services; 4) post-release referral and mentoring supports for up to 6 months post-release; 5) neighborhood-based advocacy for youngest and most at-risk participants post-release for a minimum of one year.
The provision of discharge planning and aftercare support for juveniles returning from “out-of-home placement” is a central tenet of effective juvenile justice systems. In New York, where youth ages 16 and 17 are in the adult justice system, there exists no such network of support. The Network will address that systemic gap by establishing a centralized discharge planning/reintegration mechanism for incarcerated adolescents and young adults. Reintegration plans will be individually tailored according to youth risk levels, criminal justice circumstances, relevant and available protective factors and youth strengths and needs. During the course of the Demonstration, its learning, data gathering and outcomes will inform public policy at a time when the landscape is a changing canvas of progressive reforms for the youngest inmates currently held in DOC custody.