Far too often young people are placed into a box before their stories truly begin. One mistake can earn a young person the label of “troubled.” This reality is especially true for young people from black and brown communities who lack financial resources to connect them with the help or support they need. While some youth are afforded the grace to navigate adolescence, making mistakes big or small, young people from marginalized communities know that one error can lead to extreme consequences.
And for teens and young adults who encounter the criminal justice system or law enforcement, the labels they earn can have lifelong consequences. The task of navigating the court system without resources or support can lead to prolonged hearings, unjust sentences, and a lack of connection to the support and resources needed to keep young people stay on the path to success after they end up engaged in the justice system. As a result, 59% of young people who are incarcerated are likely to be re-arrested in New York State within three years of their initial encounter with the justice system.
Avenues for Justice has a different vision for our participants. Instead of seeing young people as the sum of their mistakes, the team at AFJ works to see beyond their current circumstances. We see individuals who, with the right support, can achieve their dreams. We see future community leaders. Teachers. Artists. Doctors. Filmmakers. Parents. We see their value and limitless potential. That’s why 5% of AFJ’s participants are re-arrested after three years. As Anastasia said, at AFJ we work to really see our participants, and to partner with them to pursue their goals.