(Washington, DC) – The National Criminal Justice Association (NCJA) today recognized the District for a key component of its juvenile justice reform, DC YouthLink. The DC YouthLink initiative won the award for Outstanding Criminal Justice Program at the NCJA National Forum on Criminal Justice in Chicago. The award is based on DC’s achievements in improving the life chances for its court-involved youth and reducing the likelihood of their re-offending.
In DC YouthLink’s first four years, over 1,000 court-involved youth have received community-based services ranging from tutoring to substance abuse interventions to help them succeed. More young people committed to DYRS received a professional certification, earned their high school diploma, entered college, and got a job in fiscal year 2012 than ever before. In the same period that DYRS was engaging court-involved youth in structured activities in the community, the District was achieving quantifiable public safety gains. One-year re-conviction rates among DYRS youth initially placed in the community fell 15 percentage points from FY 2008 to FY 2011. Re-arrest rates fell 13 percentage points during the same time.
DC YouthLink connects DYRS court-involved youth to locally-based services to help the youth succeed in the community and turn away from re-offending. DC YouthLink is consistent with the latest research, which shows that the most effective way to rehabilitate youth is provide them with the tools they need to become productive adults. Long-term public safety improves when systems minimize incarceration of youth and maximize their connection to services within their home community.
“Young people can change, and we need to help them develop to their fullest potential,” said DC Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) director Neil A. Stanley. He added, “Youth do best when they’re close to home receiving rigorous services. By avoiding expensive out-of-state residential placements for our youth, we are keeping money in DC and investing in local programs proven to reduce recidivism. DC YouthLink’s locally-based service providers have added new jobs and skill sets in DC’s neighborhoods.”
DYRS uses a variety of strategies to reach its public safety and positive youth development outcomes. What underlies them all is the research-based belief that young people do better with positive supports and services. To put this tenet into practice, DYRS, the DC Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp., East of the River Clergy, Policy, Community Partnership, and Progressive Life Center joined together to create DC YouthLink in 2009.
DC YouthLink recognizes that local organizations often are more effective than government agencies at helping court-involved youth succeed in their community. Therefore, DC YouthLink invests in and builds upon the strengths of community-based providers with expertise in serving court-involved youth near their home. DC YouthLink now serves half of the overall DYRS population.
NCJA chose DC YouthLink because it is innovative and able to document concrete results in addressing crime-related issues in the District.
Eighteen-year-old S.C. tells us in his own words how the mentoring he received through DC YouthLink affected his life.
“…I really didn’t have any male figure growing up, just me and my mom. I had to learn from the streets. But everything changed when my mentor showed me the correct direction to be the smarter, stronger and successful man that I am today.”
Quotes from the DC YouthLink Partners
Ed Davies, executive director of the DC Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation, said, “Our partnership with DYRS to administer DC Youth Link exemplifies what can be achieved through effective public-private collaboration. We are proud that our shared commitment to positive youth development is helping DC youth in the juvenile justice system transition into successful adulthood.”
Rev. Donald L. Isaac, executive director of East of the River Clergy Police Community Partnership, said, “We are excited by this award that is a result of the outstanding work of the government and community partners who make up DC YouthLink. Court-involved youth in the District are receiving services and being positively impacted like never before. I believe this is the first of much recognition that will come as a result of this meaningful collaboration with such effective outcomes.”
Dr. Fred Phillips, executive director of the Progressive Life Center, said his organization “is proud to have contributed to the sparkling success of DC YouthLink and to have been in partnership with such an awesome team of caring and dedicated professionals.” He added, “Most of all, PLC is proud of the growth and hard work of the youth and families whom we serve.”
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