More than 36,000 youth were held in juvenile residential facilities in 2019, according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and National Institute of Justice’s Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement. We have an important obligation to support every young person who comes in contact with the justice system—both while they are in placement and after they are released—so they can overcome common barriers to reentry and go on to lead successful lives.
As we celebrate Second Chance Month this April, OJJDP would like to highlight the resources available to enhance youth reentry efforts. We want to specifically encourage all adults who work with reentering youth—whether they be a parent, trusted adult, mentor, teacher, counselor, spiritual advisor, community volunteer, or social worker—to use OJJDP’s toolkit, Reentry Starts Here: A Guide for Youth in Long-Term Juvenile Corrections or Treatment Programs. This Toolkit, which was published in 2018, reflects some of the best thinking from federal and non-federal experts who partnered with OJJDP to work on this over several years.
Planning for release should be a collaborative effort that includes input from youth, families, and advocates. OJJDP developed this toolkit to help young people directly, but it is also an excellent tool for adults who are working with reentering youth. Working together, young people and the adults who support them can develop individualized reentry plans that leverage each youth’s strengths and directly address their needs. That’s why we want to get this toolkit into as many hands as possible.
Reentry Starts Here features practical tips, straightforward explanations, and customizable content in three sections:
- Planning for Reentry – Identify reentry needs to help young people start planning for release on day one of placement. Help them build a reentry team including parents, mentors, legal professionals, and transition coordinators; access services and support; plan for school and work; locate safe and stable housing; and understand the rules of community supervision.
- Returning to Your Community – Give youth resources and tools they can use daily, including community services; important contact information; and methods for staying on track with school, work, and probation requirements.
- "Are You Ready for Reentry? A Pocket Guide for Youth" – Address important questions that youth need to answer both before and after release from secure confinement. Work with young people to help them set achievable goals, remain accountable, and plan for the future. Set them up for long-term success!
The toolkit is part of OJJDP's larger reentry effort, including two distinct programs funded by the Second Chance Act. In 2021, OJJDP awarded nearly $10 million to 13 sites to support youth as they reenter their communities following residential placement. OJJDP also awarded nearly $4.5 million in Second Chance Act funding to address the needs of incarcerated parents and their minor children.
OJJDP firmly believes that young people should leave the juvenile justice system better prepared to manage the challenges they will face and to forge a positive path forward. Focusing on reentry is essential to making this belief a reality. That’s why we support second chances and critical first steps in the right direction. When young people and their adult allies have the right tools, a brighter future is possible.