South Bronx Community Connections

South Bronx Community Connections (SBCC) is the first independently evaluated juvenile justice intervention built entirely on the strengths of local grassroots faith and neighborhood organizations. The initiative, launched with a 3-year $1.1 million grant from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), diverts youth who have been arrested from formal court involvement by connecting them to a network of positive adults and activities in their neighborhoods. The initiative has demonstrated statistically significant results in reducing recidivism for youth. In the SBCC model, a network of faith and community organizations in a given police precinct form a network to engage youth who have been arrested in mentoring and positive youth development activities. CCFY facilitates partnerships between juvenile justice system stakeholders and local neighborhood organizations to create new options for alternatives to formal court processing. CCFY’s approach is built on three principles, which make the model distinct from traditional juvenile justice interventions: (1) a community-driven grassroots neighborhood approach instead of a top-down system-led approach; (2) a positive youth development approach to youth that focuses on strengths and assets, instead of risk and needs; and (3) the importance of connecting youth to their communities through youth-led civic engagement projects with mentors who are “credible messengers.” An independent evaluation by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice found that only 15% of youth who enrolled in the program were re-arrested, and only 5% had new charges filed against them. John Jay’s comparison group analysis, performed in partnership with the Vera Institute of Justice and Maxarth, LLC, demonstrated a statistically significant reduction in recidivism. Compared to similarly situated youth in the Bronx, SBCC participants were one third less likely to be re-arrested and only half as likely to have new charges brought against them. Furthermore, more than half of youth served voluntarily stayed engaged well after theircourt mandate expired and the program achieved unprecedented levels of family engagement. The South Bronx Community Connections (SBCC) initiative is demonstrating that a community-driven approach can reduce recidivism while simultaneously building the capacity of local communities.