Topics: Children, Youth, and Family
This study, funded by the National Institute of Justice, will explore whether providing incarcerated people with access to video visitation improves the nature and frequency of prisoners’ contact with their families and other people who support them. It will also explore if these contacts improve their compliance with custodial rules and outcomes after their release from prison.
The Vera Institute of Justice is partnering with the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), the New York State Office of Court Administration (OCA), the New York City Family Court, and Casey Family Programs to conduct an operational review of the abuse and neglect case process flow in the Queens and Bronx family courts. Vera is combining data analyses and findings from interviews and observations to describe how the abuse and neglect cases are processed, identify causes of delay, and develop specific actions that the court and agencies can take to accelerate permanent living arrangements for children.
Common Justice develops and advances solutions to violence that transform the lives of those harmed and foster racial equity without relying on incarceration. Locally, we operate the first alternative to incarceration and victim service program in the United States to focus on violent felonies in the adult courts. Nationally, we leverage the lessons from our direct service to transform the justice system through partnerships, advocacy, and elevating the experience and power of those most impacted. Rigorous and hopeful, we build practical strategies to hold people accountable for harm, break cycles of violence, and secure safety, healing and justice for survivors and their communities.
In half of U.S. states and the District of Columbia, a parent who does not ensure that his or her child attends school regularly can be charged with educational neglect and referred to child protective services. Most of these cases in New York State involve teenagers, even though experts and current research agree that the child protective system is not well equipped to address teenage absenteeism. Vera is working with the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) to study and improve the government’s response to these cases, with support from Casey Family Programs.
In an effort to better monitor the services and programs provided to youth after a court’s disposition (sentence), the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) contracted with Vera’s Center on Youth Justice to expand the capacity of the city’s Juvenile Justice Database (JJDB), a resource designed and managed by Vera that draws on data from multiple agencies to track cases from arrest through disposition.
The Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) strives to offer meaningful access to public housing and employment opportunities for people with criminal records and to keep communities safe and vibrant. Vera is providing research and policy guidance to HANO to inform screening processes that will allow for individualized assessments of the suitability of people with criminal convictions for HANO-assisted housing and employment in the city of New Orleans. This approach aims to reduce long-term negative consequences of criminal convictions while fostering fair and safe communities.
In 2013, Vera and Fordham Law School’s Feerick Center for Social Justice embarked on a community-based research project to better understand the needs and experiences of unaccompanied immigrant youth living in New York City. With funding from Leon Lowenstein Foundation, the New York Community Trust, and the Viola W. Bernard Foundation, researchers focused on issues youth often encounter, such as child welfare, immigration, education, mental and physical health care, employment, and access to justice. These findings aim to better inform local government policies and community services.
In 2012, the City of New York launched the nation’s first social impact bond—an innovative form of pay-for-success contracting that leverages private funding to finance public services—to fund the Adolescent Behavioral Learning Experience (ABLE) program, a large-scale initiative serving 16- to 18- year old youth detained in New York City’s Rikers Island jail.
Since 2010, with funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Vera’s Center on Youth Justice has provided research support and technical assistance to the New York City Department of Probation (DOP) to plan juvenile sentencing (dispositional) reforms with the goal of minimizing the number of young people removed from their homes following a finding of guilt.
The millions of people who cycle through our nation’s courts, jails, and prisons every year experience far higher rates of chronic health problems, infectious diseases, substance use, and serious mental illness than the general population. Justice Reform for Healthy Communities is a year-long initiative that aims to improve the health and well-being of individuals and communities most affected by mass incarceration. Guided by a national advisory board comprised of public health and criminal justice policymakers, practitioners, researchers, and advocates, the initiative advances its mission through public education, coalition building, briefings, and publications.
The Vera-administered New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP) is the first public defender program in the country for immigrants facing deportation. NYIFUP, which has received $4.9 million in funding from the New York City Council for the current fiscal year, provides detained indigent immigrants facing deportation at New York’s Varick Street Immigration Court with free, high-quality legal representation. The project, which seeks to keep immigrants with their families and in their communities, will also serve detained New York City residents whose deportation cases are being heard in nearby New Jersey locations.
Vera’s Center on Youth Justice (CYJ) will be the facilitator and technical assistance provider for the New York State Juvenile Reentry Consortium, a group of counties that will work collaboratively to improve reentry planning, coordination, and services for youth returning from a period of post-sentencing confinement in private, voluntary residential care facilities. The initiative is funded by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.
Our work in New York City spans across Vera’s centers and programs. What these projects have in common is close collaboration with our partners, data and evidence-driven approaches, and recommendations that seek to improve the systems that New Yorkers rely on for public safety, justice, and human services. Although these projects take place in the unique context of New York City, they all bear important implications and lessons for jurisdictions across the country.
The Vera Institute’s Family Justice Program (Vera) is partnering with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), the Corporation for Supportive Housing, the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS), and multiple nonprofit reentry service providers to develop, implement, and study a two-year pilot program that reunites 150 eligible formerly incarcerated individuals with their families in public housing while also providing them with case management services. This project is supported with funding from the Tiger Foundation, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and DHS.
Vera’s Center on Youth Justice launched the online Status Offense Reform Center to help jurisdictions rethink and reform their approach to working with youth charged with status offenses. Disobedient but not delinquent, these young people have engaged in behaviors that are prohibited under law only because of their age, such as skipping school, running away, or violating curfew, raising the concern of the adults in their lives. A member of the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change Resource Center Partnership, the center serves as a one-stop shop of information and practical guidance for policymakers and practitioners interested in preventing youth who engage in problematic but noncriminal behavior, such as truancy or running away, from entering the juvenile justice system and providing them with services and supports in the community better suited to meet their needs.
Vera’s Center on Youth Justice is partnering with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to provide tailored, data-driven, and best-practice-informed training and technical assistance that will help jurisdictions improve their responses to the needs of youth engaged in status offenses—behaviors, such as running away or skipping school, which are prohibited under law only because of an person’s status as a minor. This project is complemented by additional funding from the MacArthur Foundation to support Vera’s Status Offense Reform Center (SORC).
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Vera’s Substance Use and Mental Health Program uses applied research to help government and community-based organizations create services and policies designed to help people who use substances or have psychiatric disorders avoid criminal justice involvement and receive the services they need to achieve stable community living. Program staff collect quantitative and qualitative data, evaluate existing programs, and review government data to understand the experiences of these populations, the circumstances that lead to their arrest, and the policies that prolong their involvement in the criminal justice system.
Vera’s Family Justice Program is partnering with the Indiana Department of Correction, Division of Youth Services (DYS) to study the importance of family visitation for incarcerated youth and to provide the field with lessons about the challenges and benefits of implementing enhanced visitation policies that expand opportunities for family contact.
The Unaccompanied Children Program coordinates a national effort to increase pro bono legal representation for immigrant children in removal (deportation) proceedings without a parent or legal guardian. These children may be fleeing poverty, war, or other dangerous circumstances on their own, or they may have lost contact with an adult along the way. They are detained in federal custody in shelters or detention centers contracted by the Division of Children’s Services (DCS, formerly DUCS), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
In March of 2012, Vera’s Center on Victimization and Safety partnered with the Ms. Foundation for Women to ensure that existing efforts to address sexual abuse of children are inclusive of children with disabilities. They also sought to increase the number and breadth of efforts that are specifically addressing sexual abuse of children with disabilities.
Vera’s Center on Youth Justice (CYJ) is coordinating Youth Futures, a multi-site program aimed at improving the long-term employment prospects of at-risk and justice-involved youth living in, or returning to high-crime, high-poverty communities in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New Orleans. With funding from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) and through collaborative partnerships with the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, the Coalition for Responsible Community Development, and the Youth Empowerment Project, Youth Futures prepares program participants for success in the labor market by providing comprehensive, individualized case management services linked to workforce development and educational interventions, supports, and training programs.