Aftercare and System Change

The aftercare concept is more than just a new program. It is a new way of approaching offender reintegration, and it generally requires changes in a state's existing juvenile justice system. The current juvenile justice system compartmentalizes the steps in the juvenile justice process and creates competing agendas that overlook what should be a shared goal—the prevention of juvenile reoffending. For instance, correctional institutions can prepare offenders for release, but their authority is generally limited to what happens within the institution, and they are typically less concerned about what happens in the community. On the other hand, parole supervision agencies influence offender supervision and service provision in the community, but they have little input into what occurs in correctional institutions. For a comprehensive aftercare system to work, the components of the juvenile justice system must transcend traditional organizational boundaries. The court, corrections, parole, law enforcement, education, social services, and prosecution must work together. Two of the most important strategies in transcending these boundaries include building program support and developing interagency collaboration.

Building Program Support

The first step toward developing an aftercare model is to build program support at the leadership and staff levels. This process for building community support is evident in the Intensive Aftercare Program (IAP) in Colorado, Nevada, and Virginia (see below). Each of these states has developed community support by garnering the cooperation of high-level decisionmakers from relevant agencies, managers of various operational units, supervisors, and line staff. The sites used several mechanisms to gain support, but the most important factor was their decision to include many people in the planning and development stages of the program (Weibush, McNulty, and Le, 2000).

Developing Interagency Collaboration

Equally important to effective system change is developing interagency collaboration. Interagency collaboration is a key strategy because it reconnects fragmented human services organizations to create an efficient system that addresses the multiple needs of incarcerated youth. Its partnerships form durable and pervasive relationships that are characterized by mutual benefits, interdependence, and a formal commitment to working together for specific purposes and outcomes (Walter and Petr, 2000). An effective collaborative effort involves multiple agencies (both public and private) that work to provide integrated services and supervision to juvenile offenders from their entrance into the juvenile justice system, through confinement, and into their release. "For example, corrections agencies would create linkages between in-prison job training and community-based employment and job training and between in-prison healthcare and community-based health care" (Travis and Petersilia, 2001:308). In other words, by creating an institutional support system that mirrors the support system that offenders will have in the community, a comprehensive aftercare system prepares offenders for their release and gives them the tools they need to succeed.

The implementation of IAP in Colorado and Virginia provides a useful illustration of how to develop successful collaborative partnerships. By creating a multiagency service provider network of both residential and nonresidential programs, Colorado developed an expansive public-private partnership that provides a full range of services. Similarly, Virginia maximizes the number and types of services made available to IAP youth by creating and sustaining relationships with key community organizations, accessing several different funding sources, and using resources that previously may not have served the juvenile parole population (Weibush, McNulty, and Le, 2000).

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Aftercare Services Juvenile Justice Practice Series