Blog: Community Engagement

EMT Training Program Builds a Pipeline from Jail to Job

About two years ago, the director of an Alameda County’s juvenile justice residential program known as Camp Sweeney asked the County’s Emergency Medical Services Agency to come to career day at the camp. The agency pulled out some stops to impress the kids: they flew in a helicopter. Firefighters and paramedics volunteered to talk to the 70 or so youth serving time.
Afterwards, the kids were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up.
“Historically, they said police or probation officers, because those were the adults they had positive experience with,” said Alex Briscoe, director of the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency.
But this time, 15 young men said they wanted to be Emergency Medical Technicians.
The result has been an unusual collaboration that is changing the lives of many troubled youth.
Responding to that initial interest, a few EMS staff volunteered to provide a free first responder training at the camp. When that program was successful, they offered free EMT training classes Monday and Wednesday evenings at the Health Care Services Agency building. The classes were open to anyone in the community, and many graduates of the program at Camp Sweeney got involved.

'Peer Contagion' Influences Criminal Recidivism Among Youth

Location, Location, Location...That’s been a mantra within the business community for years.
Now, new research from Temple University finds that location also plays a role in youth behavior.
Jeremy Mennis, associate professor of geography and urban studies, and Philip Harris, associate professor of criminal justice, examined how “peer contagion” — the influence on juveniles by other juveniles — within a neighborhood setting affects the probability that a youth who has committed a crime will commit another one.
Their findings, reported recently in the Journal of Adolescence, suggest that "spatial contagion" may be at work as well. In fact, the rate of recidivism among youth living nearby a juvenile's residence not only increases the likelihood that youth will re-offend, it can also cause teenage boys to "specialize" in certain types of crime.
"It turns out that contextual forces from a kid's social network create spatial patterns of crime in terms of re-offending rates as well as specializations," said Mennis.
In the past, ideas about dealing with delinquency focused on the individual kids and their particular family situations, said Mennis. "Our work is part of a growing trend across the social sciences to look at how place and context impact individual behavior," he said.

2012 Multi- System Integration Certificate Programs for Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Leaders

Those working with "crossover youth" in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems should consider applying for the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform's Certificate Programs in Multi-System Integration. These week-long programs are designed to cover a variety of issues impacting crossover youth and multi-system reform to prepare leaders to undertake a wide-range of reforms in their community.
The programs are targeted at public and private sector leaders working in the juvenile justice, child welfare, judiciary, behavioral health, education and other systems that serve crossover youth. The programs utilize a multi-systems and multi-disciplinary approach in focusing on policies, programs and practices that improve outcomes for this population. Upon completion of the week-long program, participants apply the knowledge they gain via a Capstone Project—a reform agenda they implement in their organization/ community to make a positive impact on the lives of crossover youth. In order to enhance the possibility of implementing cross systems change after returning from the program, applicants from the same jurisdiction are encouraged to apply as “mini-teams.”
Certificate Program for Public Sector Leaders
July 6-13, 2012 (applications due by March 22, 2012)
October 10-17, 2012 (priority application deadline is March 22, 2012)
Certificate Program for Private Sector Leaders
November 7-14, 2012 (applications due by July 17, 2012)
This is a great opportunity to hone your skills, network with current and future leaders in the field and improve the operation of your organization.

Giving books to teens behind bars

Youth behind bars often find the holidays to be an especially lonely time, as they are away from friends and family members. A non-profit in Washington, DC is collecting books to give to incarcerated teens in adult prisons.
Free Minds Book Club uses creative writing and books to help teens in the juvenile justice system turn their lives around.
Check out this clip on the book drive and one teen's success with the program:


Reclaiming Futures to host community training on November 17 in Everett, WA

The workshop, titled A Toolkit for Strength-Based Recovery Networks: Engaging and Activating the Positive with Diverse Young People, Families and Communities, takes place Nov. 17, 2011 from 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. EST at Everett Station (Weyerhaeuser Room) -- 3201 Smith Ave. Everett, WA 98201.
Reclaiming Futures founder and former national director Dr. Laura Nissen will host the no-cost training.
This event is only two weeks away and registration spots are filling up fast. Attendees must register no later than Nov. 10. 
Email Sarah Jackson ( or call (425) 388-7813 to request a registration form.
Check out the the event flier after the break:

House of Representatives Proposes Deep Cuts for Juvenile Justice, and More: Roundup


National Conference on Restorative Justice 2011

juvenile-justice-reform_peace-signThe Third National Conference on Restorative Justice will be held in Raleigh, North Carolina, June 8-10, 2011. (Apologies for the short lead-time; I just heard about this from Paul Savery.) 
The agenda's full of all kinds of fascinating presentations and workshops -- so many, it has my head spinning. Even better, a surprisingly large number have to do with working with teens, juvenile justice, and the schools.
Here's just two that jumped out at me (I quote from the agenda):

Gordon Bazemore on Youth Development, Restorative Justice, and Social Capital and Restorative Decision-making

Background: On May 18 and 19, 2011, Reclaiming Futures hosted its biannual Leadership Institute for its participating sites. Held in Miami this year, the Institute featured presentations from leaders in the fields of youth work and juvenile justice. 

About This Archived Webcast: On Thursday, May 19, Dr. Gordon Bazemore, a leading expert in restorative justice and juvenile justice, gave a three-part presentation on youth development, restorative justice, and social capital and "restorative decision-making." >>Download the presentation slides.


Juvenile Justice Reform: Community Organizing to Stop the Rail to Jail - Apply Now!

juvenile-justice-reform_stopping-the-rail-to-jail-coverFor parents, family members, and community advocates who care about young people in the juvenile justice system:
The Community Justice Network for Youth (CJNY) and the Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) are pleased to announce the application process for "Organizing 101: Community Organizing to Stop the Rail to Jail!" (See CJNY's publication, "Stopping the Rail to Jail" by clicking the image at right.)
This will be an intergenerational organizing intensive taking place August 11-15, 2011 just outside of Washington D.C. We are excited to offer change makers from across the U.S. an opportunity to gain skills and the means to be able to attend this intensive.
The goals of this organizing 101 intensive are:

  • Build community with like-minded individuals
  • Deepen participants' community organizing skills
  • Introduce participants to effective strategies to hold their local juvenile justice systems accountable

FY 2011 Funding Opportunities from OJJDP

juvenile-justice-system-money-close-upThe Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has announced the following funding opportunities:
1. Community-Based Violence Prevention Demonstration Program - deadline May 23, 2011
2. Mentoring for Youth with Disabilities Initiative -- deadline May 16, 2011
3. State Juvenile Justice Formula and Block Grants Training and Technical Assistance Program -- deadline May 16, 2011
To obtain further information about the above and other current OJJDP solicitations, including eligibility criteria and application deadlines, visit

National Mentoring Month and More - a Roundup

positive-youth-development_old-TV-that-says-newsJanuary is National Mentoring Month

Youth Mentoring: Kicking it Up a Notch

positive-youth-development_Seattle-CARES-event-flyerRecruiting mentors for youth in the justice system is all about making personal appeals to small groups of people. But finding those people who will step up with funds and their time is a continuing challenge.
That's why I'm spotlighting an upcoming event to be held in Seattle on October 15, 2010. The 4C Coalition -- one of the key partners in Reclaiming Futures Seattle-King County -- has banded together with other organizations to host an evening with Susan L. Taylor, Founder and CEO of the National CARES Mentoring Movement (click on the image at left to see the invitation). The CARES movement is focused on "[guiding] struggling Black children to academic and social success." And it appears to be growing -- its "mentoring circles" are, by my count, in 60 communities across the country. 

2010 Recovery Month Toolkit is Now Available!

adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment-recovery_SAMHSA-Recovery-Month-2010-coverWant to plan an event for teens celebrating and promoting recovery from substance abuse? Want ideas from others?
SAMHSA recently released a toolkit to help individuals and organizations plan recovery events in conjunction with Recovery Month 2010, and to provide you with tools and educational materials to distribute in your community.
As we discussed in a previous post, 2010 marks Recovery Month’s 21st year, and we are celebrating with the theme “Join the Voices of Recovery: Now More Than Ever!” The theme emphasizes how high levels of stress may contribute to or exacerbate alcohol or drug use, which can lead to a substance use disorder or relapse. The toolkit also raises awareness about the increasing level of stress in society and the impact it has on addiction.
The toolkit, available online and in hard copy, is divided into three sections: media outreach, targeted outreach, and resources. The media outreach section includes tips and template documents to help plan and promote your events. The targeted outreach section provides details about substance use disorders that are tailored for specific audiences. The resource section shares information to help you prepare for events and suggests organizations in which you could consider partnering.

Mentors for Teens in the Justice System - Reclaiming Futures in Dayton Issues Call to Community

juvenile-court-mentors_top-story-WDTN In June, Reclaiming Futures Montgomery County in Dayton, OH, held a successful event asking members of the community to mentor teens in the justice system struggling with alcohol and drug issues. (Dayton already has a great track record in this area, having already recruited and trained over 190 "natural helpers" for these youth.) 
The event garnered a news story in the Dayton Daily News, “Kids in Juvenile Court in Need of Mentors,” and it was the "top story" (see right) on the evening news, in a story called, "Helping Teens with Mentors
Great work, team!

Related Post: Reclaiming Futures sites in Bristol County, MA, and Forsyth County, NC, also recently reached out to the community for assistance in working with teens involved in drugs, alcohol, and crime.
Bonus Related Post: Having trouble organizing successful outreach? You may be missing a key element from the community: families with children involved in the juvenile justice system. Check out this post for tips on how to engage these families and others.

Juvenile Justice System - Reclaiming Futures Sites Appeal to Community

juvenile-justice-system_Judge-Reingold-Forsyth-County-TVReclaiming Futures sites have been appealing to their communities for caring adults to help teens with drug and alcohol problems who are in trouble with the law. A community event in Forsyth County, NC recently made the TV news (the Honorable William B. Reingold is pictured at left), the paper, and also netted a positive editorial from the Winston-Salem Journal.  [LATER: Reclaiming Futures Forsyth County also appeared in a second paper, the Winston-Salem Chronicle. To see it, follow the link, then click on "Archive" and choose the paper for June 17, 2010. Then navigate to page 3. The article is titled, "A Different Approach."]
And our Bristol County, MA site also made the paper a few weeks ago with a community meeting of its own on helping drug-involved youth
Great work, everyone!
P.S. Want to bring attention to juvenile justice reform in your community? Check out this communications toolkit for justice initiatives from the Center for Court Innovation and the Bureau of Justice Affairs.

A Leadership Institute for Juvenile Justice Advocates

juvenile-justice-reform-leadership-institute_NJJN-logo[UPDATE: According to the NJJN, the Institute must be postponed until 2011. If you want to participate -- or be involved in the planning -- email Annie Balck. - Ed.] 
Anyone who has worked in the juvenile justice knows how hard it is to recruit, organize, and train advocates from the community to implement juvenile justice reform. But we also know they're out there. 
Fortunately, the National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) is here to help.
This summer, the NJJN is offering its first ever Juvenile Justice Leadership Development Institute. They want to

create the foundation for a more effective juvenile justice reform movement by developing a strong base of well prepared and well trained advocates and organizers who reflect the communities most affected by juvenile justice system practices and policies, with a particular focus on cultivating and supporting leaders of color, youth and family members.

The Institute will be held in New Orleans July 11-16, and will include a year of distance learning and being mentored.  Applications are due March 12, 2010. NJJN will pay transportation to and from New Orleans for those who get accepted to the program.

Moving from Them to Us - Challenges in Reframing Violence Among Youth

juvenile-justice-reform-youth-violence-prevention_cover-of-reportIt's safe to assume that we'd all like to see youth violence reduced if not eliminated. And there's plenty of work going on in this area.
But there are some major obstacles to successfully addressing youth violence in a systemic, effective way, argue Lori Dorfman, DrPH, and Lawrence Wallack, DrPH, authors of a fascinating paper called, "Moving from Them to Us - Challenges in Reframing Violence Among Youth." [Dr. Wallack is a colleague of Dr. Laura Nissen, the national director of Reclaiming Futures.]
One of the most important obstacles: violence is almost always framed -- especially in the media -- as the responsibility of an individual. And while it's true that individual choice is part of the explanation, it's not the whole explanation. By talking about violence only in terms of individuals, we subtly suggest that there's nothing that can be done to prevent it. That makes it difficult for anti-violence advocates, who know that violence can be reduced and prevented by a broad-based focus on the environmental factors that contribute to it.

Teens in Your Juvenile Justice System Have Nothing to Do? They Can Help

juvenile-justice-system-adolescent-substance-abuse-resources-community-youth-mapping-logoOne of the key parts of the Reclaiming Futures model is "beyond treatment":  connecting kids in the juvenile justice system with a network of positive adults, services, and activities that will sustain them when they leave probation, incarceration, or treatment.
No problem, right? Well, as anyone who's ever wrestled with this problem knows, it's a huge problem. It can be hard for probation officers and treatment counselors to keep up with what's available. Then, too, there's the always-tricky issue of what services or activies are appropriate for which kids. 
So here's an idea from Community YouthMapping (CYM): ask the kids to help you map the services; together, you can canvass neighborhoods in search of places to go and things to do. It's a great opportunity to harness their energy, given them skills, and model pro-social behavior, and you'll often find resources you wouldn't find otherwise. 

Catch Kids Doing Things Right!

[Working with kids from a strengths-based perspective can be a powerful tool for juvenile justice reform. Don't believe me? In British Columbia, where the program described below originated, juvenile crime has reportedly dropped 41% in three years. While the cause of the drop can't be proven, the correlation is certainly compelling. The program is a great way for Reclaiming Futures sites to consider involving police officers, and should also inspire applications to teens on probation. -Ed.]

“Positive Tickets are issued to youth by Police Officers for staying out of trouble or performing good deeds. The Positive Ticket is simply a coupon, voucher, token, or note, that has value for goods, services or some type of credit, acknowledgement or appreciation. The Positive Ticket is just the beginning of a multitude of proactive, intentional, positive activities that can transform communities and shift mindsets and attitudes.”

Insulating the Education Pipeline for Teens in the Justice System

Increasingly, I find myself representing “youth development” and “youth services” in education discussions where the primary focus is on improving high school and college graduation rates. The singular focus on preparing kids academically tends to ignore supports that are critical for many children in the education “pipeline” -- those in the juvenile justice system, for example. So I’ve honed a simple but effective way to get my minority views inserted into deep “education system” focused conversations about improving the education pipeline. Building on plumbing analogies, I’ve begun to talk about the importance of good insulation.