MONROE TOWNSHIP - The New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) held its annual high school commencement ceremony today at the New Jersey Training School (NJTS) in Monroe Township. Joining the graduates and their families while they received their high school diplomas or High School Equivalency Diplomas (HSED) were Lt. Governor Sheila Y. Oliver, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, JJC Executive Director Kevin M. Brown, and JJC Director of Education Tremaine Harrison. In addition to the 60 students participating in the commencement ceremony, 72 students received their diplomas or HSEDs earlier in the year and have since been released from JJC supervision or did not participate in the ceremony.
The graduates, currently serving terms of commitment at JJC secure facilities or residential community homes, have met the high school graduation requirements set forth by the New Jersey Department of Education.
“These impressive high school graduates overcame incredible adversity to get here. They faced times of challenge not with defeat or despair, but with hope and with hard work. We can all learn from their example,” said Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal.
“I would like to offer congratulations to today’s graduates. Life’s greatest challenges can also lead to its greatest accomplishments,” said Lieutenant Governor Sheila Y. Oliver. “Our children are our most precious resource in New Jersey. Governor Murphy and I are committed to serving our youth better by creating programs and systems that are designed to benefit their future.”
“When these graduates leave the JJC, they will do so knowing that the education they have earned will open doors for them. It will grant them access to opportunities that otherwise may have seemed out of reach, opportunities that can be life-changing,” said JJC Executive Director Brown. “In addition to passing tests, each graduate now knows what they can accomplish by setting goals and working hard.”
Dave Goodman, a successful New Jersey born actor, delivered the keynote address. Goodman, who graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden, has appeared in TV, film and commercials, including appearances in “Law and Order”, “The Wire”, “Do No Harm”, “Homicide” and “The West Wing.” Film credits include “State of Play”, “National Treasure II”, “Annapolis”, “Rocky IV”, and “Law Abiding Citizen” to name a few.
Rosy Arroyo, co-chair of the New Jersey Association of County Youth Services Commission Administrators representing Camden County, along with Shelby Voorhees, Ocean County Youth Services Commission Administrator, presented six graduates with awards recognizing their success in the areas of Mathematics, English, Social Studies, Science, World Language, and educational assessments.
The JJC Office of Education provides a comprehensive educational program specific to each individual, while promoting opportunities for positive growth and development. The goal of the program is to prepare students academically and technically—offering a variety of programs including: applied horticulture sciences, culinary arts, plumbing and pipefitting, and computer applications.
In addition to offering incredible educational opportunities, the JJC has worked in recent years to transform New Jersey’s juvenile justice system.
“I am proud of the work that the JJC has already done, and the work it is committed to doing in the future, to revolutionize the youth justice system in New Jersey. The JJC continues to put the interests of those in its care first, constantly rethinking and improving, and striving to become a national leader in reducing youth incarceration. We’ve got a long way to go – but it’s also important to understand how far we have come,” said Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal.
The Attorney General detailed accomplishments including:
- Since the implementation of the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) in 2004, the number of youth admitted to county detention facilities has decreased by 80%, from 12,000 to 2,500. A major focus of the Initiative has been on reducing the disparate use of detention for minority youth, and youth of color account for 80% of this 10,000 person reduction.
- Since 2003, there has been an 85% reduction in the number of youth commit to the care of the JJC by the courts, from 1,200 annually in 2003 to just 176 statewide in 2017. Again, youth of color account for 85% of this reduction.
- New Jersey is the only state to be designated a national model for juvenile detention reform by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a national organization that focuses on reducing youth incarceration.
- JJC has lead efforts to remove young people who are tried in adult criminal court from adult jails and prisons. As a result of legislation, 41 young people are able to take advantage of the educational and rehabilitative opportunities through the JJC instead of being ordered to adult prison.
- Over the past year, JJC has changed its classification process to increase the number of residents who are eligible for community residential homes instead of secure facilities. Since September 2017, the percentage of JJC’s youth in a community residential home instead of a secure facility has increased from 26% to 37%.
Moving forward, JJC will focus on “deep end reform” to safely and significantly reduce out of home placement and incarceration, particularly for youth of color, in the most difficult cases. It will also replace existing large secure facilities with smaller, state-of-the art regional facilities that are closer to home, allowing for the delivery of therapeutic wrap-around services in a non-institutional environment.
For more information on the JJC, please visit www.njjjc.com.
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