$8.4 million in Funding to be Distributed to Implement 2-Year Pilot Programs in Camden, Newark, Paterson, and Trenton
December 20, 2021
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck and the Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) today announced rules and opened the grant application process for a pilot program establishing restorative justice hubs and community-based wraparound services for at-risk youth in four target cities, paving the way for a new approach to juvenile justice in New Jersey.
“New Jersey once again stands out as a national leader in juvenile justice reform through the creation of the restorative justice hubs pilot program,” said Acting Attorney General Bruck. “Thanks to the support of the Murphy Administration, we are taking steps to end the cycle of incarceration for youth – especially youth of color – and help equip them with the services and skills they need to succeed.”
Legislation signed into law in August 2021 established the two-year pilot program within the JJC to reduce initial and repeat youth involvement with the youth justice system, and appropriated $8.4 million to assist the implementation of the program in four pilot cities: Camden, Newark, Paterson, and Trenton.
Restorative justice hubs will be physical spaces within the community where youth and families can heal, reconnect, and build healthy relationships, and where local conflicts can be resolved through dialogue instead of punitive measures. An array of social support services – including employment assistance and mentoring – will be available in addition to mental health services, substance abuse treatment and recovery, education and housing support, and financial literacy and life skills. The restorative justice hubs will serve both at-risk and court-involved youth in the community and those discharged from a juvenile justice facility.
The services will be available to youth who reside in the pilot municipalities in five primary circumstances through referrals by:
- School administrators for school-based incidents in lieu of suspension, expulsion, or referring the matter to law enforcement.
- Local law enforcement officials as a stationhouse adjustment or in lieu of formal charging.
- The court as part of a diversion, detention alternative, deferred disposition, or probation disposition.
- The JJC or a county youth detention center to provide transitional support for youth returning home from a juvenile justice facility.
- The Children’s System of Care (CSOC), Department of Children and Families, for youth who are aging out of or not eligible for CSOC services.
And for the first time, through the program rules announced today, the JJC will provide up to 25 percent of the grant funds up-front to cover program start-up costs. This policy reflects the Acting Attorney General’s racial justice initiative announced on December 16 for the Divisions within the Department of Law and Public Safety to promote racial justice and address historic inequities. The JJC’s action here recognizes that in the past, small businesses and local non-profit organizations – many of which are operated by members of communities of color – did not have the resources or access to funds to provide services first and wait for reimbursement later. The regulations also direct the counties to prioritize funding to service-providers located in and employing residents of the four municipalities implementing the pilot program.
“The rules announced today will allow the Juvenile Justice Commission to continue to fulfill its mission to lead the reform of New Jersey’s youth justice system. The JJC looks forward to working with the target communities – those most impacted by the justice system – to implement this significant investment in our youth, an investment that represents a significant expansion of funding for community-based programs,” said Dr. Jennifer LeBaron, Acting Executive Director of the New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission. “We recognize that there are many grassroots and community-based organizations that have thoughtful and meaningful programs to offer as part of New Jersey’s important reform efforts. We’re breaking down barriers that previously prevented some of our valued community partners from participating in our efforts and being active participants in building stronger families and communities.”
The JJC today posted a Notice of Availability of Funds and the Program Administration and Guidelines for this funding opportunity on its website.
The program rules will be published in the January 3, 2022 edition of the New Jersey Register.
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 juvenile justice system. The JJC is committed to implementing and promoting policies and practices that improve outcomes for young people involved with the juvenile 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.