Sports for Juvenile Justice (SJJ). SJJ is a collaborative initiative that seeks to place at-risk youth, who have already been adjudicated in court, into our sports-based youth programs. We are devoted to solving the incarceration crisis by building a community of strong children through athletics and leadership development. We work closely with the Philadelphia Family Court staff and related providers who place youth into our programs. We are currently running basketball, and football drills. In the future, we plan on adding fitness, self-defense, soccer, and volleyball. In addition, we are looking to add volunteer and community service opportunities.
SJJ focuses on placing youth already in the juvenile justice system into sports-based programs and activities.
The average age of SJJ youth is 14 and children surveyed range in age from eight to 18. Data compiled for SJJ research cannot be shared because of confidentiality reasons and to ensure that the children being surveyed know that their answers will remain anonymous.
In its early stages, it was unclear if SJJ would be a success given the hurdles it faced aiding at-youth risk. Some of the challenges included transportation issues as well as the juvenile’s unwillingness to participate in programs that were not ordered by the court.
To combat those challenges SJJ partnered with NorthEast Treatment Centers, which is a court-mandated organization that provides a wide range of services to youths including free transportation. After addressing those issues, SJJ was recognized in 2013 at the Beyond Sports Conference and was the recipient of the “Best New Project” Award.
Our Mission Sports for Juvenile Justice
Our mission is to provide high quality and meaningful programming within and beyond court-ordered participation. We know that there are challenges with buy-in from parents, financial resources, transportation and pressure from peers to continue down the wrong path in life. However, with the right support system, our Leadership First program can be the catalyst for change. As we move into another year supporting SJJ, we will strive to achieve the following goals and objectives:
Successful outcomes for youth can involve increasing school engagement, developing positive coping skills, increasing social activities, and providing opportunities for success in life. We also aim to:
1) Reduce recidivism: studies have shown that rearrest rates for youth within 1 year of release from an institution average 55%, while reincarceration and re-confinement rates during the same timeframe average 24% (Snyder and Sickmund 2006). These statistics underscore the need to reduce reoffending by providing systematic services to address reentry
2) Redirect behavior: Redirecting or Diversion program is an intervention strategy that redirects youths away from formal processing in the juvenile justice system, while still holding them accountable for their actions. Diversion programs are also designed to be less costly than formal court proceedings because they reduce the burden on the court system, reduce the caseload of juvenile probation officers, and free up limited resources and services for high-risk juvenile offenders.
3) Establish a Mentoring Program: Mentoring has been shown to reduce aggression and delinquency among at-risk youth and youth with a history of delinquent behavior (see Tolan et al. 2008). The rationale for mentoring is evident from qualitative interviews with adolescents in the reentry process. These interviews highlight the importance of establishing trusted relationships with at least one adult in the juvenile justice system (Todis et al. 2001). Researchers found that such relationships encouraged juveniles to share their feelings and seek guidance, and many juveniles in the sample had never had a trusted relationship with an adult before.