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Overview - Institute for Justice and Opportunity


Eligibility: Young adults ages 18-24 who live in the target communities [link to Contact homepage] and have a history of involvement in the criminal justice system are eligible for the NYC Justice Corps. Corps Members may be on parole or probation, have been released from jail or prison or were arrested in the last year, or have been referred to the program by an ATI program or specialized court.

Intensive phase (six months):
Orientation. A comprehensive assessment of Corps Members’ needs and strengths is the foundation for a collaborative case planning process. Corps Members and their primary person on staff work together to set goals for the young person’s time in the program.

Community Benefit Project. Corps Members spend three months on a Community Benefit Project, which is:
• a service project that fulfills an important, unmet need in the neighborhood
• planned and completed by a team of young adults involved in the criminal justice system
• located in the community where the young adults live
• approved by a Community Advisory Board of local residents, business owners and leaders
• highly visible, environmentally sound, and long-lasting
• a way to repair relationships between young adults and community members

For tools and resources to bring Community Benefit Projects to your neighborhood, check out the Toolbox [link]
Community mapping is the first step. On walks through the neighborhood, the young adult Corps Members identify the community centers, parks, gardens, churches and other neighborhood institutions in need of physical repair. Other sources of data about community needs are also investigated. The community mapping process develops Corps Members’ ties to neighborhood adults and a sense of purpose for their service work.
Community Advisory Board review and approval of the service project is the next step. Corps Members present proposals to a Community Advisory Board (CAB) comprised of residents, business owners, nonprofit professionals and faith leaders. For many of the young people, this is a crucial first experience of creating budgets and schedules, preparing a power point presentation, and speaking to a public audience—and interacting in a positive way with community leaders.
Service and learning are the key components of Community Benefit Projects, drawing on the best practices that have evolved in the fields of service learning and transitional work programs. The expectations for Corps Member conduct mirror those of the workplace: young adults must arrive on time, dress appropriately, work collaboratively with team members, fulfill their assigned responsibilities, and take direction from the site supervisor. Corps Members gain hands-on experience in all facets of renovation and repair, from demolition to sheet-rocking and painting. Many Corps Members complete federal Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) certification training prior to beginning their service projects. Some teams take on non-construction projects too, such as working with arts organizations to create educational public performances. Corps Members receive a stipend to address some of their financial needs during this full-time, three-month commitment.
Reflection and celebration take place at the end of the project. community members are invited to celebrate with the Corps Members. Working as part of a team, our young adults earn the respect of their team members and the satisfaction of a job well done—and the gratitude of the many community members who have been helped by their service.

Other program components. Work readiness training and educational programming reinforce the hands-on learning of the Community Benefit Projects. The Justice Corps offers education services for participants who do not have a high school diploma. For those who seek post-secondary education, we provide college tours, assistance with applications and financial aid, and links to college mentors. After the Community Benefit Projects are completed, Corps Members are placed in internships and pursue their education plans.

Alumni phase (six months): A graduation ceremony marks the end of the intensive phase of the program. Corps Members, their families, and community members come together to reflect and celebrate. The goal is to place employment-ready graduates in appropriate jobs and to make placements in ongoing education and training and other constructive activities for those who are not ready for the workforce. NYC Justice Corps staff continue to provide job readiness, placement, and retention services during the six-month alumni phase. Corps Members return to the program for case management, recreational and skills-building activities.

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