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|from the INCARCERATION TRENDS project|
Police frequently encounter youth running away from home, violating curfew, skipping school, and chronically disobeying adults—misbehavior that can often stem from family conflict and that does not require justice involvement. When alternatives are not available, however, these behaviors can lead to arrests or detention. Families dealing with difficult youth behavior often unwittingly send their youth into the justice system by calling the police because they feel they have nowhere to turn for help. For police, encountering these kinds of situations can be frustrating because they feel limited to suboptimal choices: either ignoring the problem behavior or criminalizing it.
This brief explores the creative, collaborative, and community-focused work being done in Nevada, Connecticut, Nebraska, Michigan, Illinois, and Oregon to find productive responses to youth “acting out.” The juvenile assessment resource centers, crisis response centers, and crisis intervention teams in these jurisdictions address the needs of youth and connect families to resources and services without the need for juvenile justice involvement.
Research shows that prison visitation is integral to the success of incarcerated people, reducing recidivism, facilitating their reentry into the community, and promoting positive parent-child relationships. However, people are often incarcerated long distances from their home communities in areas that are difficult to reach by public transport, creating significant barriers to in-person visitation. Departments of corrections are therefore exploring the use of technology as a means to address some of the visitation needs of those in custody in a cost-effective way. Video visits may not only help bridge the distance between incarcerated people and their loved ones, but may also expand visiting to include a broader array of people who are unable to make in-person visits. While there has been some controversy around the introduction of video visitation in local jails (with some jail jurisdictions eliminating in-person visits entirely), less is known about the use of the technology in state prison systems. This report examines the current landscape of video visitation in prisons nationwide and offers a detailed case study of the Washington State Department of Corrections, an early adopter.
Family involvement is essential for positive youth outcomes, especially for those youth involved in the juvenile justice system. Family visits, for example, can improve youth behavior during incarceration and are associated with better school performance. In recognition of these facts, Vera partnered with the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy to publish Identifying, Engaging, and Empowering Families: A Charge for Juvenile Justice Agencies. This paper reviews the literature exploring the relationship between family contact and short- and long-term outcomes for youth in the juvenile justice system. It also identifies ways that agencies, from police through reentry staff, can better engage families and promote both personal contact and active involvement in case assessment, planning, and management.
A significant number of children who enter Office of Refugee Resettlement custody do not speak English. Communicating with these children can be challenging for attorneys and other service providers. To respond to this need, Vera’s Unaccompanied Children Legal Services Program has produced three resources:
- Glossary of Legal Spanish - A bilingual (English-Spanish) glossary of terms covering a wide range of topics often featured in Know Your Rights presentations or used in the representation of unaccompanied children.
- Spotlight on Central American Spanish - A resource focusing on the regional varieties of Spanish spoken by unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, which may feature unique accents and phrases.
- Best Practices for Working with Interpreters - A resource outlining how to work with interpreters, either telephonic or in-person.
Stable housing is essential to supporting a formerly incarcerated person’s successful return to his or her community. Until recently, however, most public housing authorities throughout the country have prevented formerly incarcerated people from formally returning to their homes or living with family members in public housing. In response to this issue, cities such as New York City, Oakland, and Chicago have implemented reforms in tenant-selection criteria that ensure a person’s application for housing is not negatively impacted by his or her criminal record. This fact sheet serves as a resource for public housing authorities seeking to implement policies that ensure public safety while providing people with criminal histories the housing stability necessary to break cycles of incarceration and homelessness.
Vera partnered with Fordham Law School’s Feerick Center for Social Justice to conduct a research study that explores the needs and experiences of New York City’s unaccompanied immigrant youth. The study, Struggle for Identity and Inclusion: Unaccompanied Immigrant Youth in New York City, draws upon the personal expertise of these youth and system stakeholders, in collaboration with researchers and community service providers.
In this video, peer researchers who immigrated to the United States alone as minors discuss their experiences recruiting and interviewing other unaccompanied immigrant youth as participants for the study. Abja Midha, project director of Advocates for Children, and Elvis Garcia Callejas, advisory committee member of Catholic Charities New York and himself a former unaccompanied youth, further discuss the importance of including youth as partners in the research.
To learn more, please visit www.vera.org/unaccompanied-youth-nyc.
Youth have been arriving at U.S. borders on their own since the early days of Ellis Island, but it was not until the summer of 2014—when the number of unaccompanied immigrant youth arriving to the United States from Central America increased nearly tenfold from recent years—that “child migrants” became the topic of an urgent political debate. While local governments and legislatures across the country have shown interest in supporting unaccompanied immigrant youth through measures that increase their access to lawyers, schools, and healthcare, a lack of knowledge about their circumstances and needs presents an obstacle to policymaking and improving practical responses. Designed as a collaboration among researchers, youth, and community service providers, this study from Vera and Fordham Law School’s Feerick Center for Social Justice presents a firsthand account of unaccompanied immigrant youth’s needs and insights into practical challenges related to their interactions with key systems in New York.
Watch a video featuring the study’s peer researchers, who immigrated to the United States alone as minors, as they discuss their experiences recruiting and interviewing other unaccompanied immigrant youth as participants for the study.
The Vera Institute of Justice served as the independent evaluator of the nation’s first social impact bond – an innovative form of pay-for-success contracting that leverages private funding to finance public services – to fund the Adolescent Behavioral Learning Experience (ABLE) for youth at Rikers Island. Vera employed a quasi-experimental design to determine whether participation in the ABLE program led to reductions in recidivism for youth passing through the jail. Vera determined that the program did not lead to a reduction in recidivism for program participants.
Written testimony of Nicholas Turner, president and director of the Vera Institute of Justice, on the topic of building trust and legitimacy between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve, submitted on January 9, 2015 to the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Turner discusses how trust between police and communities has been damaged by the ascendancy of policing strategies organized around arresting large numbers of people for low-level crimes and the wide-scale use of punitive interventions—such as stop, question, and frisk—and encourages police leadership to experiment with a philosophy of fewer arrests, summonses, and intrusions in the name of crime prevention.
Parental and family engagement by the juvenile justice system is proven to be effective for better youth outcomes. Last year, a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report cited evidence that a relationship with a parent or other adult figure can have a positive impact on an adolescent, serving as a protective buffer against external negative influences. This fact sheet was written for Vera's Working Together: Family Engagement with Juvenile Justice briefing—part of a larger Vera series, titled The State of Juvenile Justice: A National Conversation About Research, Results and Reform.