COVID-19: 4 Steps to Managing a Remote Alternative to Incarceration (ATI)

Photo Credit: Marty Umans

After over 40 years of success with thousands of youthful offenders and at-risk youth across NYC, Avenues for Justice (AFJ) suddenly had to shut the doors to our youth centers in Harlem and the Lower East Side and at the Criminal Courthouse, to protect against COVID-19. 

These are low-income youth from NYC’s under served neighborhoods who need even more support at a time of crisis. As an Alternative to Incarceration (ATI) program, AFJ must also account for all of our justice involved participants’ activities, and ensure that they can access resources.

Here are 4 steps we are taking:

Equip youth digitally:  Our youth had a head start through our computer labs at our youth centers. During this crisis we've also ensured they have emails and are teaching them to use Zoom as well as assisting with program downloads for the Department of Education's homeschooling system.

Contact them every single day:  AFJ uses a mix of group and one-on-one phone calls, emails, and Zoom sessions to see how our youth and their families are doing, their needs, and ensure they comply with the City’s quarantine and the Justice Department’s curfews. 

Train them in new job skills online: With computers now at the center of our program, we are broadening our training with new on-line classes. This Saturday youth are learning CSS app coding. Coming soon are on-line study for website design, food handlers’ and OSHA certification and additional trades. Many workshops held at our centers are also moving to Zoom.

Create community:  Our Friday rap sessions and community meals are moving to group Zoom sessions. 

Coming out of this crisis, AFJ sees advantages to working remotely with high-risk youth:

We can reach more youth living across NYC:  Many of our youth live in the outer boroughs and can participate in our program more easily on-line. 

We can serve higher numbers of youth:  By working remotely, we can serve even more at-risk youth and youthful offenders through dedicated programming for remote learners.

We can expand job skill training:  We’re adding new training, such as OSHA and food handlers certification, app coding, through existing on-line instruction.

We can increase supervision and services: Remote communication helps us increase contact and improve mandated supervision

Our resource sheet for your use: Avenues for Justice is continuing to add resources to our website - feel free to use and share here.


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