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FAMU Opens a Juvenile Justice Research Institute

From left to right: Secretary Frank Peterman Jr., Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, Phyllis Gray-Ray, executive director for the Juvenile Justice Research Institute and FAMU President James H. Ammons

October 27, 2010

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.
– Florida A&M University (FAMU) has joined the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) to open the Juvenile Justice Research Institute (JJRI) to identify research and implement cutting edge juvenile justice services that will address the needs of youths at greatest risk of delinquency involvement.

DJJ has facilitated the funding of the JJRI with $400,000 from Florida’s Juvenile Justice State Advisory Group and a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention.

The project, which is titled the Situational Environmental Circumstances Pilot (SECP), will provide non-traditional strategies that will enhance youth and family engagement and development, public safety and the effectiveness of existing juvenile services and programs.

“The over-representation of minorities, particularly black young men, is a special concern in juvenile justice systems across the country,” said Secretary Frank Peterman Jr., Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.  “I believe support from the academic community in addressing delinquency will greatly encourage our troubled youth, and show them a positive path filled with young people who are not so very different from themselves.”

Minority over-representation in the juvenile justice system exists when the proportion of DJJ youths who are members of minority groups exceeds the proportion such groups represent in the general population. For example, DJJ data from 2009-2010 shows that black youth make up 39 percent of DJJ youth, although they account for only 21.5 percent of Florida’s youth population.

“Our center will focus on improving the recidivism rate of youth in the juvenile justice system,” said FAMU President James H. Ammons.  “Florida A&M University and the Department of Juvenile Justice partner to develop strategies to address this crucial crisis.  Today is the day the FAMU community kicks off this renewed commitment to work to ensure that the youth of Florida are offered and provided the services that will help them to become successful and productive citizens.”   

The SECP Project will emphasize individual development, academic/vocational achievement, job readiness, family and community support to 150 moderate to high-risk youth, 75 per site, receiving DJJ residential and/or community supervision services.

Mentoring services will be provided by graduate and advanced undergraduate youth mentor advocates and volunteer mentors under the direction of a site coordinator at FAMU and Edward Waters College. Key components of the SEC Model include the following: motivation, habits and attitudes, goal setting, problem solving, decision making, family relationships, effective communication, lifestyle/environmental changes, and employability skills.

FAMU is establishing the JJRI in collaboration with Bethune-Cookman University, Edward Waters College, Florida Atlantic University and Florida Memorial University. These institutions are committed to addressing the inexorably linked problems of juvenile crime, academic failure, family dysfunction and other youth related problems associated with disadvantaged communities throughout Florida.

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