Our Communities

In East Harlem and the Lower East Side, African-American and Hispanic youth triumph over challenges with help from AFJ.

Avenues for Justice (AFJ) is a pioneer in Alternative to Incarceration (ATI) programs for youth in the United States. Since 1977, AFJ has diverted thousands of young people in New York City from a punitive criminal justice system to a community-based support program designed to help them avoid future crime and lead successful lives. While ATI for young offenders remains our main program, we also operate a prevention program for young people at risk of engaging in crime which intervenes before participants offend. Both programs provide individualized risk and needs-based social services that address the drivers of criminal behavior, complemented by growth-oriented programming to prepare participants for their future. Replacing punishment with support makes particular sense for young people whose decision-making is not fully formed but who have great potential for change and rehabilitation. During the period 2016-2020, AFJ served, on average, over 570 youth and young adults annually.

Evidence shows that AFJ delivers:

Effective ATI: Needed now more than ever.

  • The socio-economic conditions that drive young adults into criminal behavior continue to escalate. Effective, cost-efficient alternatives to incarceration and prevention programs are more needed than ever, even as policy in New York City and New York State moves to reduce detention and incarceration as a response to youth crime except where public safety truly requires it.

Measurable Impact: AFJ changes lives and improves public safety.

  • AFJ has consistently maintained some of the lowest recidivism rates for ATI programs in the nation. On average, 96% of our ATI participants avoid reincarceration within three years of enrollment, and 95% of our ATI participants avoid reconviction within three years of enrollment.
  • Many AFJ participants make measurable academic and vocational gains, completing high school or earning their high school equivalency diploma, enrolling in trade schools and colleges, gaining workforce skills and job training certifications, and earning employment in industries new to them.

Proven Sustainability: in operation for over 40 years.

  • AFJ is an established partner in NYC’s justice and crime prevention networks. Our headquarters are in the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse; judges view AFJ as a reliable ATI program.
  • Embedded in Harlem and the Lower East Side, the open doors of our community centers keep us connected to our neighborhoods.
  • AFJ adapted to the pandemic as we have to many other crises, pivoting to on-line services and dramatically increasing tutoring support.
  • AFJ has showed steady budget growth over 40 years to $1.9M, building our funder base, expanding and diversifying programming to meet needs.

Return on Investment

  • Participation in AFI costs an average of $5,500 per year – as opposed to the $320,000 average annual cost to imprison a juvenile in New York.  
  • We keep our overhead low: 80% of the AFJ budget goes directly to support program.

Stable Leadership of Color

  • For over 40 years, AFJ’s Executive Director and Co-Founder Angel Rodriguez has led the organization, set the policies, and selected the staff. The members of AFJ’s management team are all African Americans.