One of the most critical stages in the lives of system-involved youth is reentry—the transition from residential placement back to the community or from community supervision to independent living. OJJDP’s Second Chance Act programs aim to assist youth during reentry, offering a range of services that include educational and vocational opportunities, employment and housing assistance, mental and physical healthcare, and treatment for substance use.
The Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice is using an OJJDP grant to enhance reentry programming in its six long-term detention facilities, emphasizing family engagement, mentoring, and workforce development.
Development of a reentry plan begins within 60 days of the youth’s detention. A multidisciplinary team—a reentry specialist, juvenile detention counselor, community case manager, and mental health counselor—meets with the youth and family. As the release date nears, the team meets monthly, joined by a reentry resource coordinator who connects the family with local service providers and an education specialist who helps facilitate a return to high school or enrollment in postsecondary school or technical college.
Cathy Smith-Curry, Director of the department’s Office of Reentry Services, identified several factors that contribute to the reentry project’s success, including its multidisciplinary approach and emphasis on family engagement. The department involves family members from the earliest stages of reentry planning. Monthly “family chats” address topics such as financial literacy, nutrition, and substance use. A separate 10-week course emphasizes ways to strengthen family communications.
In Georgia, reentering youth also benefit from:
- The department’s F.R.E.S.H. Start Youth Initiative, which partners with area businesses to match young people with jobs. Youth can apply for positions and participate in virtual interviews while still in detention.
- One-on-one and group mentoring. Through a partnership with the Project Safe Neighborhoods program, led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia, “credible messengers” work with youth who were adjudicated for violent crimes—including gang- and gun-related offenses—to teach career readiness and life skills. Arrest statistics support Project Safe Neighborhood’s effectiveness—in a recent 2-year period, only 4 of 56 participants were rearrested.
OJJDP Second Chance Act Funding
OJJDP’s Second Chance funding helps communities reduce recidivism and increase public safety. Between fiscal years 2020 and 2022, the Office awarded nearly $44 million under two initiatives focused on strengthening effective youth reentry programs:
OJJDP is recognizing Second Chance Month with webinars focusing on youth reentry issues.
A July/August 2022 News @ a Glance article presented youth views on reentry and on ways youth justice agencies and community-based providers can improve their support during reentry.