Giving Guide: How You Can Make our Juvenile Justice System More Just - The New York Community Trust
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September 6, 2022   |   By The New York Community Trust
Giving Guide: How You Can Make our Juvenile Justice System More Just

Discussing feelings at PS214 in the Bronx during a “restorative circle,” which allows students to negotiate conflicts and build community. Photo by Carolina Kroon for Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility

While it may seem obvious that a child is not an adult, the New York criminal justice system ignored that distinction for more than 50 years, tragically altering the lives of tens of thousands of teenagers. Black and Latinx youth have faced an alarmingly disproportionate number and severity of punishments.

The Trust has a long history of supporting reforms to the school discipline and justice systems, including the historic “Raise the Age” advocacy campaign, which ended New York’s treatment of minors as adults in criminal court. Young people who get caught up in the system deserve a second chance, and you can help.

Consider donating directly to the organizations below or giving through your donor-advised fund. Join us in building better systems, creating opportunities, and making brighter futures possible.

Justice Reform and Advocacy

Until a few years ago, 16- and 17-year-olds who were arrested in New York were treated as adults, with traumatizing results. The Raise the Age campaign fought to raise the presumptive age of criminal responsibility to 18 so that 16- and 17-year-olds would no longer be incarcerated with adults, but would be eligible for support services to help them get back to school and on track. These groups continue to advocate for reform to the criminal justice system and investments in community and youth safety.

Justice Innovation (dba Center for Court Innovation) works to reform the justice system by creating new court prototypes—including a court diversion model that redirects young people ages 18 to 24 out of the court system and toward services such as academic support, job training, and mental health counseling—conducting research, and implementing strategies to build a more effective and humane system.

Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York, founded in 1944, promotes policies that make the City a place where every child is healthy, housed, educated, and safe. It manages Raise the Age NY, a statewide alliance of more than 100 nonprofits that was pivotal to the success of the pioneering 2017 Raise the Age campaign. Citizens’ Committee continues to defend Raise the Age and to ensure that the program helps keep children in their communities without compromising public safety.

Vera Institute of Justice seeks to transform the criminal legal and immigration system, make it fair and accountable, and build safe, healthy, empowered communities. Among its programs, it helped launch the city’s first-ever diversion program for girls and young women, and it continues to advocate for policies and programs that account for gender-based differences in how girls enter and navigate the justice system.

Rethinking School Discipline

Students who are suspended or expelled are nearly three times more likely to be involved with the justice system the following year than peers who remain in school despite similar behavior. Moreover, schools disproportionately suspend Black and Latinx students, as well as students with disabilities. In NYC and many surrounding districts, school safety officers are part of the police (not the education) department, outnumber guidance counselors and social workers, and can turn schools into entry points for the juvenile justice system. The nonprofits below advocate for decriminalizing student misbehavior, decreasing the number of police officers in schools, and creating more supportive educational environments.

Advocates for Children of New York helps thousands of families navigate the school system each year; its advocacy has spurred significant improvements to the city’s disciplinary policies and graduation requirements that better reflect the diverse needs of the city’s learners. It provides legal representation to more students threatened with suspension than any other group in the City.

Make the Road New York is one of the region’s leading voices for Latinx and immigrant New Yorkers. It has advocated for years to remove police and metal detectors from schools and provide more mental health support and staff in schools. It also helps organize campaigns for change led by the young people who have been most impacted by school disciplinary policies.

Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility has been working in public schools for more than two decades to develop students’ social skills and improve the way schools handle conflict. It works with some of the city’s most troubled schools to reduce punitive practices and racial disparities in discipline, and to train educators in socioemotional approaches that aim to improve students’ self-esteem, reduce suspensions, and improve academic outcomes.

Providing Support to Court Involved Young People

For young people who are already involved in the justice system, additional support—including job training and placement, and community-based services such as academic support, mentoring, peer mediation, and mental-health counseling—can help pave a positive path forward.

exalt helps young people with complex arrest histories advance in the labor market through skills training, coaching, and internship and job placement. It receives referrals from multiple sources, including criminal court judges and the NYPD’s school safety division, and has forged partnerships with 100 nonprofits and companies that provide paid internships with the support of philanthropic partners.

Struggling to Reunite Our New Generation (STRONG) Youth was founded by a former gang member, and is one of the leading gang prevention and intervention agencies on Long Island. It provides violence prevention programs to middle school and high school students; intensive individual, family, and group therapy from trained counselors; case management; and other support services to young people who are disconnected from school, have a history of violence, and/or have been involved with the criminal justice system.

Westhab is one of Westchester’s largest providers of housing and supportive services, including job training and academic help, for homeless and low-income families and youth. It partners with Youth Represent to provide young people who are justice-involved with free legal services, Know Your Rights workshops, assistance with corrections to their RAP sheets and court records, and job-readiness and vocational support.

Looking for more guidance about giving? Our philanthropic advisors are here to help. Contact them at info@nyct-cfi.org.

Further reading:

Our September Spotlight highlighted several of these grantees and their work. Read the article in our Newsroom.

 

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Media Contact Information

Need help or advice?

Marty Lipp
Communications Director
(212) 889-3963 
mbl@nyct-cfi.org

Amy Wolf
Director of Marketing
(646) 214-1004
aw@nyct-cfi.org

Get our media kit

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