The Intervention: After-school services for youth under probation supervision
Who is Served: Family Court-involved youth age 17 and under on probation supervision in the Bronx and Brooklyn
Early involvement in the criminal justice system is a significant risk factor for future crime and poor education and life outcomes. Those young people who do become justice-involved tend to be overwhelmingly Black or Hispanic and male. Many have grown up in challenging family situations in neighborhoods with disproportionately high levels of crime and poverty. They have often become disconnected from school, falling behind their age-level peers in literacy and math skills. Further, among incarcerated youth, national studies have found that more than 50% met criteria for a mental health disorder and 60% met criteria for a substance use disorder. 1
Adolescents who have become involved in Family Court are at a critical point in their young lives. Many have negative patterns of behavior in their relationships with family and peers and lack the motivation and the opportunity to learn new behaviors that will help them begin to achieve traditional thresholds of positive development (e.g., at home, in school, and in their relationships with other teens). A young person’s experiences during this vulnerable time can determine whether he or she faces a long-term, cyclical pattern of involvement with the criminal justice system or has a real pathway to a productive, positive life in the community.
The PEAK Approach
CASES’ Pathways to Education Achievement and Knowledge (PEAK) Centers, located in the South Bronx and Bedford-Stuyvesant, provide youth who are on probation following involvement in Family Court with a safe, secure after-school environment promoting education, employability, life skills, positive self-expression, and improved family relationships along with the completion of probation requirements and avoidance of recidivism. PEAK seeks to use a young person’s early involvement in the justice system as an opportunity for an intervention that prevents further delinquency while promoting positive, sustainable youth development. Research has demonstrated that the most effective juvenile justice interventions help young people build positive relationships and develop constructive behaviors. Accordingly, PEAK provides young people a daily menu of activities that includes:
- Education support
- Employment-readiness and career exploration
- Life skills including peer support and financial literacy
- Community engagement through service projects
- Artistic expression and creative voice
- Recreation including physical activity
CASES opened our Bronx and Brooklyn PEAK Centers in early 2017. At capacity, each Center will serve an active census of 30 participants. As PEAK completes its initial startup phase, CASES will report on outcomes established by the NYC Department of Probation for PEAK teams across the boroughs. Additionally, PEAK will serve in part as a destination for young people who have completed their Family Court mandate in CASES’ Choices ATD program. We will monitor the effects of PEAK’s transitional services on long-term outcomes for Choices participants, including rates of recidivism and engagement in education.