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Engaging the Arts Across the Juvenile Justice System: New report outlines opportunities for engagement

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Engaging the Arts Across the Juvenile Justice System: New report outlines opportunities for engagement

Arts education programs can play a significant role in preventing youth from getting involved with the juvenile justice system and supporting the mental wellbeing and successful transition out of the system for those already involved, according to a new report released by the Education Commission of the States and the Arts Education Partnership. In instituting this programming across different parts of the juvenile justice system, states, schools, communities, organizations, and other agencies can work to combat existing inequities within the system and foster the development of critical interpersonal and social-emotional skills that lead to better pathways of success for all youth. With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating these inequities and creating increased concerns around mental wellness, it is more important than ever to consider the different ways that we can meet those challenges with innovative programming, especially for vulnerable populations, such as youth involved with the juvenile justice system.

The report dives into four specific points of contact with youth where arts programming can be instituted:

  1. Prevention: Reflecting on research that points to the ways that arts can limit risk factors and support protective factors that can help keep youth from coming in contact with the juvenile justice system in the first place, the report highlights the benefits of arts programming, including promoting prosocial behaviors, decreasing absenteeism from school, and supporting a positive school environment.

 

  1. Intervention: Intervention strategies are defined as those that support youth that have already come in contact with the juvenile justice system, including diversion programs, alternative school programs, and out-of-home placements. Arts programming can support the youth in these programs to develop a better sense of self, a more positive outlook on their education, and increased levels of self-esteem, which keeps youth engaged in learning and makes interventions with youth more likely to be successful.

 

  1. Transition: The transition phase focuses on how to support youth who are leaving the juvenile justice system, to ensure that they have access to the resources and connections they need to successfully reintegrate into society. These approaches are often a product of intentional partnerships and arts programs can be one of those essential partners in promoting a positive transition, reducing chances for recidivism, and building on critical skills such as conflict resolution and positive decision making.

 

  1. Healing: Unfortunately, many youth who come in contact with the juvenile justice system have experienced trauma in their lives, either prior to or directly from their involvement, and trauma-informed arts programming can be an essential part of their healing process. Arts programs have been proven to lessen symptoms related to anxiety and depression and help youth comprehend, process, and communicate their emotions.

Each section of the report not only includes research explaining the evidence base for why implementing arts programming works, but also includes multiple program examples and resources for additional consideration, to highlight the many different ways that programs can be involved in this work. The report also touches on several key policy initiatives at both the federal and state levels to support positive youth development for youth at risk or involved with the justice system, including the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program and the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018, which includes specific funding provisions for afterschool programs to support prevention efforts in their local communities.

To learn more about the specific ways that afterschool programs can play a role in preventing or supporting youth involved with the juvenile justice system, register for our upcoming webinar on June 4, From Prevention to Diversion: The Role of Afterschool in the Juvenile Justice System. During this webinar, we will be showcasing the release of our upcoming issue brief on afterschool and the juvenile justice system and will be hearing directly from programs working with at-risk or system-involved youth in their communities.

Check out the full report, “Engaging the Arts Across the Juvenile Justice System.”

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