*NYJJI does not solicit proposals, please visit our Recent Grants section for specific grantmaking guidelines
The New York Juvenile Justice Initiative (NYJJI) is a coalition of philanthropic organizations and donors seeking to improve the youth justice system in New York and outcomes for court-involved youth. Through coordination, collaboration and information-sharing, NYJJI will increase the ability of its member organizations to strategically and effectively support this goal.
NYJJI supports a juvenile justice system that:
- Treats all youth fairly;
- Diverts children and teens away from the system wherever possible;
- Offers developmentally and age-appropriate programs and services in youngsters’ home communities and in the least restrictive settings possible;
- Values and meaningfully engages family members;
- Promotes public safety.
NYJJI was formed in early 2010 when New York’s badly broken juvenile justice system started to undergo a seismic shift. At that time, several events, lawsuits, policy directives and changes in leadership dramatically sped up the movement for reform—both to improve school discipline policies that send far too many children and youth into the juvenile justice system, and to help those who are in the system get the help they need to turn their lives around.
In 2007, reform advocate Gladys Carrión was appointed the Commissioner of New York State Office of Children and Families (OCFS) and immediately acknowledged that she had inherited a juvenile justice system rife with systemic problems. From the start, she pressed public employee unions and elected officials to move the state-run juvenile justice system from a “custody and control” model to a “trauma-informed therapeutic model.” In August 2009, after a lengthy investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a damning report about conditions in the juvenile prisons, and gave New York State 49 days to respond with a plan to comply with its recommendations or face a lawsuit and federal takeover of the State’s system. In December 2009, Governor Paterson’s Task Force on Transforming Juvenile Justice released a report with twenty specific recommendations to fix the broken system. Commissioner Carrión has continued to close underutilized prisons, and make significant investments in alternatives to detention as well as the quality and range of services at facilities that will remain open.
Similarly, in New York City, support for reform is growing among City agencies and civic leaders. Reform minded Commissioners at the helm of key City agencies are also championing change. Former Administration for Children Services’ (ACS) Commissioner John Mattingly, the newly appointed Commissioner Ronald Richter, and Probation Commissioner Vinnie Schiraldi all have been committed to overseeing system changes that advocates have long sought. New York City Mayor Bloomberg has made juvenile justice reform a priority of his third administration. He merged ACS and the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and directed City officials to encourage Family Court judges to allow young offenders to return home.
For the first time in the history of New York’s juvenile justice system, there is now a team of government leaders dedicated to improving the life outcomes for troubled youth. However, these leaders must strive for meaningful change during a time of fiscal crisis. While in time the new approach is clearly one that will save billions in prison and social costs, right now the proposed millions of dollars in State funding cuts may threaten the City’s still-developing infrastructure of school and community-based alternative programs. Advocacy is needed to encourage government to sustain and expand this still-developing infrastructure. Many of the Task Force recommendations will require a multi-layered approach including advocacy, direct services, planning technical assistance, which are all elements that are funded by many NYJJI members.
In early 2010, members of Philanthropy New York began to convene New York City funders with an interest in juvenile justice to discuss the reform effort underway in New York and to find collaborative ways to help City and State leaders build enlightened and effective education and juvenile justice systems. This ad-hoc group formalized into a collaboration called the New York Juvenile Justice Initiative (NYJJI). The Initiative was formally launched with a one-day seminar on June 14, 2010 held at Philanthropy New York.
NYJJI seeks to achieve these goals by:
- Creating opportunities for information exchange among members;
- Inviting experts, including youth and families, and practitioners to educate members on best practices, model projects and current policy initiatives;
- Providing opportunities for coordination of funding efforts;
- Exploring potential public-private partnerships;
- Gathering information from members to map funding and expose gaps and opportunities; and
- Working with the broader funding community, advocates, and public systems to promote, grow and scale programs that document positive outcomes.