October 18, 2012

Youth, Justice, and Community Benefits: New Approaches in Harlem

Reboot is very proud to be serving on the Community Advisory Board for the Harlem Justice Corps, a career development and service learning program for justice-involved young men and women who are seeking employment, education services, and meaningful opportunities to serve their communities.  In addition to improving education and employment outcomes for Corps members, this new initiative aims to reduce returns to incarceration, and support community development in Harlem.  It is part of the broader New York City Justice Corps, and incubated through a partnership of the Harlem Community Justice Center, the Center for Employment Opportunities, Literacy Partners, the College Initiative, and John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Phew!  That’s a lot of partners!  But it speaks to the rich variety of inputs flowing into this important new program.

Many people do not realize the intensity of the challenge of reentry in Upper Manhattan.  In East Harlem, 1 in 20 males has been incarcerated along a reentry corridor from 126th Street to 119th Street (a mere 7 blocks), representing the highest concentration in New York City (Source: Justice Mapping Center).  It’s a challenge that has intensified service needs for drug treatment, mental health counseling, public safety, and housing and employment services in the area — and is at the nexus of the human and system challenges that we care so much about fixing here at Reboot.

This week, the Corps members presented their proposals for the community benefits projects they plan to implement in teams over the next few months.  After engaging in a community mapping process, the Corps members identified problems in their neighborhoods — and proposed some solutions they felt they could carry out.

The “Dream Chaser” team will be conducting improvements to the A.B.L.E. House residential rehabilitation facility and the “Uptown Reconstructors” will be helping the National Black Theater improve its facilities for artists.

We were particularly impressed by the thoughtfulness of these young people — not only in surveying their communities’ needs, but also in developing meaningful and helpful responses to the challenges.  They worked hard to develop two excellent presentations for the Advisory Board, and we have approved their proposals.  We look forward to seeing the results of their projects!

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