Implementing OJJDP’s Tribal Green Reentry Programs

A new report details the early experiences of Tribal Juvenile Detention and Reentry Green Demonstration (Green Reentry) grantees in their innovative approach to community reintegration. Backed by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), the programs emphasize environmental and cultural activities for justice-involved youth.
In 2009, three American Indian tribes received OJJDP Green Reentry grants: the Hualapai Indian Tribe (AZ), the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (MS), and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe (SD). The grants provide up to $700,000 for 4 years with the following purposes: to provide services to help detained youth reintegrate into the community, to help tribes implement green technologies and environmentally sustainable activities, and to support maintenance of tribal juvenile detention standards.
Grantees are also required to participate in an evaluation. The report constitutes the first round, documenting the implementation and impact of the programs 2.5 years in.
Across the three sites, green programming includes environmental education, horticultural instruction and hands-on practice at garden plots. All three grantees incorporate cultural components through activities such as traditional crafts and culturally relevant off-site excursions. These are rounded out by traditional youth reentry services like educational and vocational programming, mental health services, and substance abuse programs.

This unique program also has unique challenges, which the report sets forth.
A major constraint was that of security, which limited feasible outdoor activities. For example, reconciling the physical location, time windows, and equipment procedures needed to tend gardens with the security requirements imposed by detention centers proved problematic. Implementation of green activities specifically was comparatively smooth, with only a few logistical issues such as weather or school scheduling arising.
The evaluation found that youth engagement was also successful, especially in hands-on and cultural activities. The youth interviewed expressed that they most enjoyed green activities, counseling, learning, service activities and structured outdoor activities.
Grantees desired parent, elder and community member involvement, but for a variety of reasons did not achieve it, though parents expressed support for the program.
All sites developed formal agreements with universities for agricultural assistance, as per the program’s requirements. However, according to the report, partnership building was challenging, as “it was difficult to get...a diverse set of partners to understand what the Green Reentry program was all about.”
From these experiences, the report advises the following when incorporating green activities into reentry programming:

  1. Careful selection of partnering agencies, ensuring they fully understand and support the programs.
  2. Appropriate planning to accommodate green activities, given the security-focused nature of juvenile justice facilities.
  3. Inclusion of activities that allow youth to give back to their communities and learn transferable skills for enhanced engagement.

Green Reentry grantees will continue to pursue parent and community involvement as well as green programming that accommodates security regulations in their final year of federal funding.
Though not without its own set of obstacles, this innovative approach to reentry has thus far produced promising results and positive feedback from participating youth. Perhaps others in juvenile justice will consider going green to reap these benefits.
Read the full report here.

Gabrielle Nygaard is a Digital and Social Media Intern at Prichard Communications, where she assists on several accounts, including Reclaiming Futures. She is a student at Linfield College studying Mass Communication and Japanese. She is an Oregon native and health enthusiast.
*Photo above via Flickr user Goleta Teen

Updated: February 08 2018