Rhode Island Training School
Rhode Island invited two previously incarcerated and system-involved youth to become members of the state’s JDAI steering committee. Both young men underwent JDAI juvenile detention facility assessment training in 2010 and are expected to participate in the site’s upcoming facility assessments.
“One of the high points of the Rhode Island facility assessment training was its inclusion of two youth who were confined in the facilities when they were younger,” said Sue Burrell, one of the trainers and staff attorney at the Youth Law Center.
“This is exactly what we want to see on the assessment teams. Youth who have been confined in the facilities bring a unique and valuable perspective to the process. They are able to convey better than anyone how youth perceive particular policies and procedures, and often they have good ideas about how to improve things. Their presence on the team serves as a reminder that the issues addressed by assessment have an impact on real youth.”
The youth join a stakeholder group that includes representation from the Department of Children, Youth, and Families; the attorney general and public defender’s offices; child advocates; and service providers.
The steering committee, realizing the added value young people bring, set out to incorporate youth as equal partners in the reform process and not limit their input to focus groups or surveys.
Rhode Island’s JDAI reached out to service organizations that work with youth leaving training schools. The steering committee also asked community service programs to recommend youth.
The youth members were selected after being interviewed by JDAI staff. They receive stipends to help with expenses such as transportation, and their names are kept confidential in external communications.
“The young men involved in the Rhode Island training also benefited. They gained experience in articulating their views and sharing ideas with a fairly high level of justice system and community leaders,” said Burrell.
“They also had the experience of giving back something to the community through their involvement, and being a part of efforts to make the system work better for young people and their families.”
For more information contact John Neubauer at JNeubauer@rikidscount.org.