By Chyrl Jones, Acting OJJDP Administrator
“After incarcerated individuals serve their time, they should have the opportunity to fully reintegrate into society,” said President Joseph R. Biden when he proclaimed April 2021 as Second Chance Month. This is particularly true for youth involved in the juvenile justice system.
On any given day, there are approximately 37,500 youth in residential placement; the majority of whom will eventually return to their communities. Each one of these youth deserves a chance to start afresh. When we help youth transition back into their communities successfully, we reduce recidivism, improve public safety, and—as the President stated—"ensure that America is a land of second chances and opportunity for all people."
To help make these outcomes a reality for youth and communities, OJJDP invests millions in Second Chance Act programs annually. Our Youth Offender Reentry program funds educational, job placement, behavioral health, and other services for youth. It also supports state and local efforts to improve their juvenile justice systems by expanding the use of risk and needs assessments, increasing family engagement in case planning, improving training and resources for practitioners, and more. Another program, Addressing the Needs of Incarcerated Parents and Their Minor Children, supports the positive development of children with incarcerated parents, family engagement between incarcerated parents and their minor children, and reentry services for parents.
Reentry Week 2021 takes place on April 26–30, with a special focus on youth on April 28. All across the country, Second Chance Act grantees are holding events that emphasize the importance of reentry and celebrate the success of the people they serve. During the weeklong commemoration, OJJDP and the Bureau of Justice Assistance will offer training and resources to further practitioners' reentry work. Webinars will highlight best practices related to youth and families, employment, education, housing, behavioral health, and evaluation, and provide opportunities for participants to have their questions answered by experts. Visit the National Reentry Resource Center and follow the #YouthReentry2021 hashtag on social media to learn more about Reentry Week activities.
Transitioning back into society can be a daunting task. Reentry Starts Here: A Guide for Youth in Long-Term Juvenile Corrections and Treatment Programs prepares youth for the reentry process and encourages them to be active participants in shaping their future. The guide provides steps youth can follow—such as building a reentry team, getting help from lawyers and mentors, and connecting with support services—to plan for reentry while in placement. It also outlines steps to help youth achieve their goals when they return to their communities.
Sometimes, even the most extensive reentry preparation cannot protect youth from the collateral consequences of justice-system involvement. Sanctions, disqualifications, and discrimination can hinder youth's access to even the most basic services—such as housing, education, and employment—and increase their likelihood of reoffending.
Caring adults, including justice system stakeholders, heads of educational institutions, employers, landlords, and service providers must ensure that youth who are working to turn their lives around can do so without encumbrances. The OJJDP bulletin, Expunging Juvenile Records: Misconceptions, Collateral Consequences, and Emerging Practices, provides useful information to help mitigate the harmful effects of collateral consequences on youth.
We believe in second chances at OJJDP. A youthful misstep should not permanently derail the course of a young person’s life. We are proud to work alongside our tribal, state, and federal partners to develop promising reentry practices, support effective programs, and address barriers to successful reentry so rehabilitated youth can lead productive lives.
The Juvenile Reentry and Community Supervision webpage provides more information about OJJDP's reentry efforts.
Watch a recording of Compliance Is Not Enough: Empowering Youth To Grow Out of Offending. The webinar describes a new case management and supervision approach that helps youth desist from delinquency. Presenters share preliminary findings, implementation challenges, and successes from an early-adopting site.