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Posted on: January 31, 2024

Justice Ambassadors Youth Council Launched

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The New Rochelle Community Justice Center (NRCJC), in partnership with the Center for Justice Innovation and Columbia University’s Center for Justice, announced the launch of the Justice Ambassadors Youth Council, a new fellowship program that aims to reduce youth involvement in the criminal legal system by bridging pathways to higher education, breaking down racial and ethnic boundaries and contributing to healthy adolescent development. 

The Justice Ambassadors Youth Council will bring together local government executives and young adults 18-25 years old that come from economically disadvantaged or legal system impacted backgrounds, to co-develop policy proposals intended to address community challenges and advance justice system reform. The groups will work collaboratively over a nine-month period to build out a set of restorative justice-based policy recommendations that the City of New Rochelle can work towards implementing. 

One of the initiative’s focuses will be anti-recidivism; historically, nearly 76% of those under 24 years old are rearrested within three years of release from incarceration. Since 2019, the Justice Ambassadors Youth Council Program has served approximately 107 participants across five separate cohorts in New York City, resulting in a 76% reduction in youth-justice involvement and an 88% increase in employment progress. 

“The Justice Youth Ambassadors program marks the next chapter in the growth of the New Rochelle Community Justice Center and its Opportunity Youth Part initiative,” said Kathleen Gill, City Manager of New Rochelle. “The introduction of this new program is a testament to our City’s commitment to fostering positive change and underscores our dedication to building a community that embraces restorative justice principles, empowers our youth, and cultivates a future where every individual can contribute meaningfully to our society. New Rochelle is proud to be a hub of innovation and collaboration in the pursuit of justice and opportunity for all.” 

“Since the inception of Justice Ambassadors in 2019, the Center for Justice at Columbia University has worked closely with system-impacted and street affiliated youth to empower them through our policy development & career readiness platform. We’re excited to partner with the New Rochelle Community Justice Center and City Hall to launch the Justice Ambassadors fellowship,” said Jarrell E. Daniels, Program Director of Justice Ambassadors Youth Council. 

The Justice Ambassadors Youth Council is the fourth program to launch as part of the NRCJC portfolio. The initial program Opportunity Youth Part, launched in 2020 by the Center for Justice Innovation and the New Rochelle City Court, has seen tremendous success in serving emerging adults who are facing misdemeanor or felony charges; nearly 54 participants have successfully completed Opportunity Youth Part programming and had their cases closed. 

The Justice Youth Ambassadors program will build upon this growth and represents the next step in Opportunity Youth Part’s evolution as a community resource for justice-involved emerging adults. Full NRCJC programming includes: 

  • Opportunity Youth Part - a specialized court calendar for adults, ages 16-24, who are facing misdemeanor or felony charges and are not in school, are unemployed or underemployed, and are typically disconnected from positive services. A team of case managers, service providers, lawyers, and mentors work together to provide resources, as well as job and educational opportunities, to justice-involved emerging adults. 
  • Youth Justice and Equity Team - convenes key New Rochelle stakeholders to develop an ambitious initiative to address the needs of youth at risk of criminal legal involvement in grades 6 to 12. Initiatives include early intervention and enrichment, programming for middle school youth, parent support programs, high school mentorship, trauma-informed and healing centered counseling and restorative justice interventions. 
  • Community Led Safety - a gun violence prevention effort focused on emerging adults by providing community violence prevention, mentorship, behavioral health, and non-traditional workforce development interventions. 

“New Rochelle City Court’s Opportunity Youth Part program has been a beacon of hope for justice-impacted young adults facing misdemeanor or felony charges – a testament to the dedication of our community and the transformative power of restorative justice principles. Now, with the launch of the Justice Ambassadors Youth Council, we are entering a new phase of our commitment to justice system reform, and I look forward to continuing this vital work in collaboration with our partners and community,” said Judge Jared R. Rice, New Rochelle City Court. 

"To build community safety and a fair justice system it's essential we listen to and partner with those directly impacted by the legal system. That's exactly what the Justice Ambassadors Youth Council does. The Council reflects the principles of restorative justice by giving young adults who are system-involved or come from neighborhoods harmed by disinvestment a chance to learn new skills and have a meaningful voice in policies that affect their lives. The Center for Justice Innovation is proud to be a partner in the Council and the Opportunity Youth Court, both of which provide young people with multiple pathways to a bright future," said Courtney Bryan, Executive Director of the Center for Justice Innovation. 

Throughout the nine-month paid fellowship, cohorts will meet twice a week for seminars and site visits to government agencies, community organizations and local businesses to learn about opportunities, services or programs. Seminar curriculum will center around socio-emotional well-being, community advocacy, social awareness/civic engagement and life skills building. New Rochelle Community Justice Center partners include the City of New Rochelle, New Rochelle City Court and City School District of New Rochelle. 

To learn more about the Center for Justice Innovation and Opportunity Youth Part, visit www. innovatingjustice.org/

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