The Role of the Reentry to Resilience Program

Author: Brittany Schott, Community Programs Contract Administrator

Research has identified seven critical domains where children returning to their communities following involvement in the juvenile justice system face challenges and opportunities when it comes to the likelihood of continued or future involvement in the criminal justice system. A North Carolina program funded in part through a federal second chance grant is helping Juvenile Justice address barriers found in with one especially challenging domain – successful school placement of these young people upon return to their communities.

According to an article co-authored by Dr. David Altschuler, principal research scientist at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies, seven domains have been identified that impact the success of juveniles reentering society. These domains include family and living arrangements; peer groups and friends; mental, behavioral and physical health; substance abuse; education and schooling; vocational training and employment; and leisure, recreation and vocational interests. Having difficulties in one or multiple domains could increase a juvenile’s likelihood to recidivate. 

For those juveniles who are court-ordered into secure custody in the state’s youth development centers, the Juvenile Justice section provide each with a reentry team early in their YDC commitment. These reentry teams address the domains identified in Altschuler’s article, with a hope of increasing a juvenile’s ability to discontinue behaviors that caused their commitment. However, a North Carolina reentry study conducted by RTI International in 2017 found that despite the teams’ best efforts, consistent barriers to successful school placement upon reentry were evident.  Juvenile justice staff noted that for youth planning to return to school following YDC release, automatic placement in an alternative school – viewed as a barrier to successful reentry – was an increasingly common occurrence. According to one staff member, “[it’s] frustrating for us because we’ve got [the youth’s] mindset to the point where they can function in a bigger classroom and in a traditional school, and they are encouraged by getting out and starting over fresh, and they have to go right back into a negative environment.”

Following the 2017 study, juvenile justice staff worked with RTI and North Carolina Communities in Schools to create a program – Reentry to Resilience (R2R) – targeting education placement and community reintegration of youth in YDCs. R2R has continued to expand throughout North Carolina, and will soon serve six counties including Wake, Durham, Cumberland, Guilford, Mecklenburg and Nash. An R2R staff member becomes a reentry team member to begin building rapport with both the youth and family members upon a youth’s admission to a YDC, focusing their time on helping to build relationships in the juvenile’s home community, including with the juvenile’s targeted school placement. An initial study on the R2R program found that of the 32 program completers as of December 2019, 67% were enrolled in high school and 42% were receiving educational supports.  

The R2R program is currently under evaluation by RTI; this assessment will include a study on reducing recidivism by comparing outcomes of juveniles who reentered their communities without an R2R staff member on their reentry team and the results will be available nationally.

NOTE: This project was supported by Grant # 2019-CZ-BX-0019 awarded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this exhibition are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice.

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