Juvenile Re-entry Assistance Program
The Juvenile Re-entry Assistance Program is a joint initiative between the Justice Department and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The initiative is meant to assist juveniles who have had previous run-ins with the law to be able to access affordable housing as well as employment opportunities. The project will cost an estimated $1.7 million at the onset but further financial assistance will be needed to get the project off the ground successfully (Real Estate Rama, 2015).
The department has also ceased using the negative connotation ‘juvenile delinquent’ and opted for the use of the term ‘juvenile-involved youth’ in its stead. This is in line with the Obama administration’s bid to give people especially youths with criminal records a second chance at better life and productivity. However, it should be noted that the program exclusively excludes those who are convicted of manufacturing methamphetamines, committing domestic violence or sex offenses (Jones, 2015).
The project is a top priority for the Justice department because it fits directly into our mission as the U.S. Justice Department. Our mission is to not only maintain law and order and keep the country safe by putting law-breakers away for varying periods. The Department is also charged with the mandate of rehabilitating the law-breakers and making it easy for them to adjust to life as law-abiding citizens once they have completed their time in state facilities. This is the reason why our Department is the most equipped to handle this issue.
More than 60,000 individuals under the age of 21 are in different justice facilities across the country on any particular day. It is also a well-known fact that once these justice involved youth get out of these facilities, life is practically unbearable. Their records expose them to many barriers to their rejoining the community. It is difficult to find employment with juvenile record or even proper housing facilities. For some, it is even difficult to go back to school and finish their studies so that they may become productive members of the society (Department of Justice, 2015).
In addition, after being released, the justice-involved youth usually return to unstable homes. To add on to their predicament, most of them are often suffering from a mental condition that could be aggravated by their unstable home situation. Mental support services are usually hard to come by in such scenarios. These scenarios explain why there is a high rate of recidivism in justice-involved youth even after they become adults (Harris, 2006).
Recidivism is when an individual relapses into criminal behavior even after undergoing rehabilitative measures. More than 100,000 individuals under the legal age are released from out-of-home placement every year in the country. More than half of this population engages in some form of recidivism or another. This is because the government does not provide them with the critical assistance that they need to turn their lives around. They are not assisted in any effective manner to re-join their peers, schools, communities, and homes (Nellis & Hooks, 2009).
Through this program, the Department hopes to make it easier for these youth to re-integrate back into their communities without fear of prejudice or discrimination based on their past mis-deeds. The program is a way of providing integral tools to these youth that can help them become productive members of the society. In addition, the program has some set guidelines from the Public Housing Authorities. These guidelines prohibit the use of juvenile arrest records to evict or deny tenants houses to rent or purchase. The guidelines also reiterate that the housing department does not require the public housing authorities or house owners to enforce the ‘One Strike’ rule.
Studies have shown that successful re-entry programs are those that connect the justice-involved youth with mentors, employment opportunities, affordable housing, mental care experts, and professional case managers. All these efforts help in drastically reducing recidivism. Individuals who have a job, someone to talk to, as well as a comfortable housing situation are less likely to risk it all by falling back into crime.
The Juvenile Re-entry assistance program will focus on the needs of the youth for successful re-entry into the society. These needs are based primarily on access to employment opportunities and affordable housing. However, the department will also incorporate providing access to education opportunities and health care opportunities as ways of promoting the social welfare of these justice involved youth.
President Obama has already provided a lot of support for this program including campaigning for the Congress to ‘ban the box’ on job applications. This box is the one that inquires whether one has a previous permanent record. Many states, private companies, and cities have already stopped the inclusion of this box in their job application forms. The president has also directed the Office of Personnel Management to delay inquiries into a candidate’s criminal background until further down the hiring process. This will ensure that everyone regardless of his or her criminal history has a fair chance at competing for a Federal job.
Department of Justice (2015, Nov 2). The Justice Department and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Announce New Juvenile Re-Entry Assistance Program. Retrieved on 3/11/2015 from http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-and-us-department-housing-and-urban-development-announce-new-juvenile-re
Harris, L. (2006). Making the Juvenile justice-workforce system connection for re-entering young offenders. Washington, D.C.: Center for Law and Social Policy.
Jones, S. (2015, Nov 3). Juvenile delinquents are now ‘justice involved youth’. Retrieved on 3/11/2015 from http://cnsnews.com/news/article/susan-jones/juvenile-delinquents-are-now-justice-involved-youth
Nellis, A., & Hooks, W.R. (2009). Back on track: supporting youth re-entry from out of home placement to the community. Washington, DC: The Sentencing Project.
Real Estate Rama (2015, Nov 3). New re-entry program aims to reduce barriers to public housing, employment, and educational opportunities. Retrieved on 3/11/2015 from http://www.realestaterama.com/2015/11/03/the-justice-department-and-u-s-department-of-housing-and-urban-development-announce-new-juvenile-re-entry-assistance-program-ID029414.html