Positive Youth Development

Prevention, treatment, reducing the overrepresentation of youth of color

Juvenile Justice

While youth should be held accountable for their actions, the goal of the juvenile justice system is to keep youth in their communities whenever possible and equip them with the skills they need to stay out of trouble and mature into productive adults. We need to prevent youth from being tempted to commit crimes by offering better alternatives, diverting those who have committed minor offenses into more constructive enterprises, and rehabilitating youth who have committed serious or violent crimes. For those youth for whom incarceration is justified or needed, we need facilities that provide a developmentally appropriate and therapeutic setting in which their delinquent behavior can be treated effectively. And we need to ensure that once released from the secure setting, they have the supportive supervision to help them become productive adults.

Through the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI), New Jersey has taken significant steps towards juvenile justice reform that gained national recognition. However, more work needs to be done before New Jersey can truly have a therapeutic, supportive and equitable juvenile justice system.

ACNJ advocates for the well-being of all youth by calling for:

  • A greater focus on and support for prevention measures to keep youth from becoming involved in the state’s juvenile justice systems in the first place;
  • The appropriate treatment of youth who are in trouble with the law, to get youth back on the path towards productive adulthood; and
  • Reducing the over-representation of children and youth of color involved with the juvenile justice systems.

To learn more, contact Mary Coogan at mcoogan@acnj.org.