Friends of Island Academy, a 30-Year Pioneering Nonprofit Supporting Young People Affected by the Criminal Justice System, Changes Its Name to Youth Justice Network

Youth Justice Network Embodies Long Fight to Break the Cycles of Incarceration and Disproportionate Confinement of Young People of Color Held in New York City’s Jails

For the first time in its 30-year history, a major New York City youth justice nonprofit is changing its name from Friends of Island Academy to Youth Justice Network, a new name that embodies the organization’s long fight to break the cycles of incarceration and disproportionate confinement of young people of color held in New York City’s jails.

Youth Justice Network created a nationally recognized model of post-release support for the youngest people held on Rikers Island by first connecting with them in custody, and then leveraging those bonds to help youth navigate and move forward when they return home. Youth Justice Network currently works with over 1,000 justice-involved young people annually and is part of the movement to permanently close Rikers Island.

The name Youth Justice Network reflects the belief that with a coordinated, consistent support network, young people can be agents of change in their personal lives. Youth Justice Network’s neighborhood-based teams help youth enroll in school, prepare for employment, strengthen relationships with families and peers, and work with defense attorneys to advocate in court on behalf of their young clients.

“Youth Justice Network captures the dynamic relationships among our participants, staff, neighborhood and City-wide community, and justice partnerships,” explained Christine Pahigian, Executive Director. “Young people need strong networks of support throughout their emerging adult years to help protect them, to promote healthy development, and to clear pathways so they can grow, thrive, and lead.”

Founded in 1990 as a group of educators working at the alternative high school on Rikers Island, Youth Justice Network developed a lasting model for post-release services for the youngest people held on Rikers. Advocates meet young people from their first moments in custody, work with them throughout their period of incarceration, and forge a network of support when they return to their neighborhoods.

Youth Justice Network’s youth participants, 95% of whom are young people of color, are returning home to neighborhoods that have recorded the highest levels of Covid-19 deaths in New York City. These neighborhoods, from the South Bronx to Far Rockaway, report an unemployment rate of 20-30% due to Covid-19.

Armed with a new name and rooted in years of successful work addressing the racism and resulting trauma experienced within New York City’s jails, Youth Justice Network is building momentum hand-in-hand with the people whose lives are directly impacted by the justice system. The Network promotes an equitable justice system grounded in innovative practices and individualized, compassionate mentorship as a key solution to over reliance on policing, supervision, courtrooms, and jail.

For more information about Youth Justice Network, visit youthjustice.org and view their digital toolkit.

CONTACT: Shannon Duer | shannon@gzandassociates.com | 631-487-5883

Source: Youth Justice Network