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Back on Track: Supporting Youth Reentry from Out-of-Home Placement to the Community

November 17, 2009
Ashley Nellis, Ph.D. and Richard Hooks Wayman
If our nation hopes to reduce levels of youth delinquency, it must establish a national policy agenda which supports reentry services to connect youth with meaningful opportunities for self-sufficiency and community integration.

Each year approximately 100,000 young people exit formal custody of the juvenile justice system.

These youth are often discharged back to families struggling with domestic violence, substance abuse, unresolved mental health disabilities, and poverty. Many are returned to neighborhoods with few supportive programs, high crime rates, and poorly performing schools. Public safety is compromised when youth leaving out-of-home placements are not afforded necessary supportive services upon reentering their communities and are therefore at great risk to recidivate into criminal behavior.

Juveniles and young adults may be incarcerated during a key developmental phase of adolescence. Lacking the necessary skills to cope with adult responsibilities when they are released, many youth face unemployment, school re-enrollment challenges, and homelessness upon release.

Plans are rarely in place to support youth as they exit confinement and reintegrate back into their family, school, and community. Reentry services and aftercare programs which target youth who are exiting custody and connect them with professional cases managers, mentors, or employment opportunities can reduce recidivism. By fostering improved family relationships and functioning, reintegration into school, and mastery of independent life skills, youth build resiliency and positive development to divert them from delinquent and other problematic behaviors.

If our nation hopes to reduce levels of youth delinquency, it must establish a national policy agenda which supports reentry services to connect youth with meaningful opportunities for self-sufficiency and community integration. Development of this public policy to address the reentry of juveniles from out-of-home placements should be grounded in evidence-based practices, and should involve cooperation between existing federal agencies, local stakeholders, and juvenile justice reform advocates.

Members of the Juvenile Justice Reentry Task Force and the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Coalition offer this issue brief to raise awareness and encourage investment of resources to expand reentry services nationally. It outlines the concept of reentry services in theory and practice, offers a review of federal policy previously enacted to support reentry, suggests opportunities for improvements in public policy, and reviews promising initiatives.

To read the report, download the PDF below.

 
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