San Diego ATI Policy & Planning Institute (DRAFT)

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What: The Alternative to Incarceration Policy & Planning Institute is a 10-month process that brings together key juvenile justice system and community leaders to collaboratively develop an action plan to implement Community Mentor Initiatives in their jurisdiction. Community Mentors, also called Credible Messengers, are individuals who have similar lived experiences as youth and families involved in the justice system, such as formerly incarcerated mentors, parent coaches, or peer navigators. Through a transformational process known as Credible Messenger Mentoring, Community Mentors develop structured and intentional relationships with youth and families affected by the juvenile justice system. 

Participants of the Alternative to Incarceration Policy and Planning Institute will participate in a collaborative planning process to: (1) assess existing programming utilizing Community Mentors in their jurisdiction; (2) visit successful Community Mentor initiatives in New York City and Washington D.C. to understand program models and best practices; (3) analyze areas of opportunity and barriers to implementation in their jurisdiction; and (4) create recommendations with attention to necessary policy change, funding allocations, capacity building and implementation plans. The Institute culminates with the development and release of a Report to document the Institute participants’ recommendations toward implementing Community Mentor initiatives in their jurisdiction. Selected participants will receive in-depth strategic planning support from Community Connections for Youth (CCFY) and access to a national Learning Community of jurisdictions implementing Credible Messenger Initiatives.

Why: Jurisdictions around the country are recognizing the power of employing Credible Messengers/Community Mentors as transformative leaders for youth and families affected by the juvenile justice system. Credible Messenger Mentoring was a key feature of the New York City Young Men’s Initiative (YMI) and is credited with reducing the felony arrest rate by 50% among young people on Probation. Credible Messenger approaches have also been attributed with reducing gun violence in cities like Chicago, Boston, and Richmond, CA by employing formerly incarcerated individuals as violence interrupters and outreach workers to youth at high risk for involvement in violence. Furthermore, cities across the country are institutionalizing Credible Messenger institutes and accreditation programs.

Despite the readiness of Community Mentors to serve as transformative mentors, the growing research on the effectiveness of Credible Messenger initiatives, and an advocacy movement that recognizes that the communities most affected by incarceration are assets in the movement to reduce the over-reliance on the juvenile justice system, implementing Community Mentor initiatives still poses significant challenges. Barriers include strict contracting and procurement rules related to hiring individuals with felony convictions or a history of system involvement, a lack of authentic system-community partnerships, and a lack of capacity in community organizations that could implement effective Credible Messenger initiatives.

As a training and technical assistance provider with concrete experiencing implementing Credible Messenger Initiatives and overseeing the training of Credible Messengers themselves, CCFY will guide system stakeholders and community leaders to work together to develop a plan to innovate existing policies and procedures to engage individuals rooted in the communities most affected by incarceration. Structured as an intentional learning community, CCFY helps jurisdictions analyse their existing continuum of alternatives with an eye towards Credible Messenger initiatives. Finally, CCFY will facilitate the production of a report that outlines a concrete action plan and blueprint for implementation in the local jurisdiction.  

Who: The participants in the Alternative to Incarceration Policy and Planning Institute are a 12 to 15 member team of senior-level leaders in a jurisdiction with decision-making authority in their agencies, and a recognized track record of advancing innovative and progress interventions for youth impacted by the juvenile justice system. This team should include: (a) Community Mentors: formerly incarcerated individuals who are leading the way in mentoring youth; (b) Justice System Stakeholders: executive-level representatives of justice systems with decision-making power who have embraced Community Mentor Initiatives or that are interested in doing so; (c) Faith & Neighborhood Organizations: leaders of faith and neighborhood organizations that exemplify Community Mentor Mentoring; (d) Funders: public and private entities that have invested in Community Mentor initiatives or are considering doing so; (e) Social Service Providers: Directors of non-profit agencies that have embraced the hiring of Community Mentors ; (f) Policy Advocates: leaders of juvenile justice reform movements that are embracing community-driven solutions. 

Where:. The Alternative to Incarceration Policy and Planning Institute occurs in various locations in San Diego, staffed by training and technical assistance specialists from CCFY.  A delegation of system and community stakeholders from the Institute will visit WashingtonD.C.’s Credible Messenger Initiative in the fall of 2016 to witness Credible Messenger Mentoring in action, providing local system stakeholders and community mentors with tangible examples of how to implement county-wide initiatives.

When: The Alternative to Incarceration Policy and Planning Institute will meet monthly from September 2016-August 2017.  Meetings will include one day-long retreat, eight 2 1/2 hour planning sessions, and one trip to Washington, D.C. or New York City to visit a large-scale Credible Messenger Initiative.

Session 1: Orientation

September 27th, 2016

The kickoff meeting will orient the members of the Institute to the objectives, process, and timeline of the Credible Messenger Policy & Planning Institute. Final dates for all subsequent sessions will be set during this meeting.
Session 2: Policy Retreat

October 18th, 2016

During this full-day retreat, Institute members will receive training on best practices in Credible Messenger program models, including transformative mentoring, parent peer coaching, and peer navigation. Institute Members will also receive training on barriers to implementation and exposure to strategies that jurisdictions have used to overcome barriers and successfully implement Credible Messenger approaches. The team will begin the process of analyzing their own continuum of juvenile justice diversion/alternative programs to explore where Credible Messenger approaches can be implemented in the continuum. The Policy Retreat will include ample opportunities for team building among Institute Members.
Session 3: Continuum Analysis

November 29th, 2016

Institute members will complete the continuum analysis of juvenile justice initiatives with detailed information on where Credible Messenger approaches are already being utilized, and on areas that could benefit from implementation/expansion of Credible Messenger programming. Institute Members will report back with research on which programs are currently in place, and the level of buy-in, capacity, and funding for each initiative.
Session 4: Credible Messenger Immersion Trip

January 31st, 2017

Selected members of the Institute will travel to a jurisdiction that has successfully implemented Credible Messenger approaches in their juvenile justice system. Selected delegates will visit the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) in Washington DC, or the Department of Probation in New York City to observe Credible Messenger initiatives in action, and meet with system and community partners who will explain the dynamics and challenges of implementation.
Session 5: Visioning Session

February 28th, 2017

The Institute will reconvene with a report-back from delegates on their visit to the Credible Messenger model site. Institute members will work to envision priority areas for implementation/expansion of Credible Messenger programming in their local juvenile justice system.
Session 6: Priority Areas

March 28th, 2017

Institute Members will finalize priority areas to implement/expand Credible Messenger programming in their local juvenile justice system, based on analysis of opportunities in the existing continuum, viability of implementation, funding potential, and community capacity.
Session 7: Barriers to Implementation

April 25th, 2017 

Institute Members will explore barriers to implementation in the priority areas. The barriers that the team will explore are (a) Policy Barriers: do existing policies prohibit or inhibit the use of Credible Messengers? (b) Viability: are system stakeholders ready to engage with Credible Messengers? (c) Capacity: do community partners have the capacity to implement? (d) Funding: are there resources to sustain Credible Messenger approaches?
Session 8: Recommendations

May 30th, 2017

The Institute Team will finalize recommendations for the implementation of Credible Messenger approaches in their local system. The recommendations will serve as the blueprint for establishing and expanding Credible Messenger Initiatives in the priority areas, as well as recommendations to overcome the barriers to implementation.
Session 9: Final Report

June 27th, 2017 

The Institute Team will review and finalize language for the final report, which will subsequently be released after final editing and production. The Institute members will plan a Report Release Event to share their findings with the broader public and to generate broader buy-in for the blueprint and implementation plan.
Session 10: Report Release

September 12th, 2017 

The culminating event of the Institute will be a Report Release Event where the Institute Members will present their findings and recommendations to the general public. This event will generate enthusiasm, buy-in, and broader public support for the implementation of Credible Messenger approaches in the local juvenile justice system.

How to Apply

Deadline for completed application: Friday, September 16th, 2016.

The ATI Policy and Planning Institute Application must be completed in one sitting. You will need to gather information and prepare answers to questions in advance. To help you prepare, we are listing the questions you need to answer here. Only click the “Application” button when you are ready to submit the entire application.


1. Applicant Information (name, contact information)

2. Organization Information (name, address, phone, and supervisor information)

3. Describe briefly your history working to develop alternatives to incarceration, specifically in collaboration with directly affected communities (500 words or less)

4. Describe briefly why you want to participate in the ATI Policy & Planning Institute. How does it align with your agency/organizational goals? (500 words or less)

5. Describe specific areas where you want to see community resources (i.e. “community mentors”) brought to bear on youth in the juvenile justice system in the upcoming year. In the area of the juvenile justice system where you serve, where do you see a clear need for more structured and intentional partnerships between system stakeholders and community mentors? (500 words or less)

6. I can commit to attending all of the ATI Policy & Planning Institute Dates. (If no, explain).

7. I have discussed my participation in the ATI Policy & Planning Institute with my agency’s leadership and have received clearance/approval to participate. (If no, explain).

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If you have any questions, contact Jesse McGleughlin, CCFY’s Training Coordinator by email