A criminal history can hamstring a young person's opportunities at employment, housing, and a host of other issues for decades to come. Anyone who works with court-involved youth needs to understand how the court system functions, and the resources available to overcome the legal and social stigma of a criminal record. Below are some of our favorites:
1) Citizens Crime Commission of NYC, Guide to Juvenile Justice in New York City (PDF, 2010) New York's juvenile justice system has reached a point of extreme crisis. With increasing frequency, reports of fundamental breakdowns throughout the system have come to the public's attention. The city and state governments have responded with substantial reform plans. In light of this increasing attention and the complexity of the juvenile justice system in New York, the Crime Commission has developed a Guide to Juvenile Justice in New York City to enhance the public's understanding of the City's juvenile justice policies.
2) Fund for Modern Courts, From Arrest to Appeal: A Guide to Criminal Cases in the New York State Courts (PDF, 2005) and A Guide to the New York State Family Court (PDF, 2005). Written for the general public and helpful for anyone who assists court involved individuals, these two publications provide a comprehensive overview of the workings of the New York State court system. Both contain a glossary of legal terms, while the Guide to Criminal Cases also includes an extremely handy listing of the most common charges and their corresponding penal law numbers.
3) Workforce Professionals Training Institute, Getting the RAP Down: Employment Strategies for New Yorkers with Criminal Records (PDF, 2010). They're out, they're in your program, now what? Gathering insights from its popular "Getting the RAP Down" workshops and interviews with major players in the NYC reentry community, WPTI outlines the primary factors involved in successfully moving job seekers with criminal records into employment. Developed by workforce practitioners for workforce practitioners, this detailed guide is full of concrete strategies for every step of the employment continuum.
4) Upper Manhattan Reentry Task Force, Welcome Home! An Upper Manhattan Resource Guide for Reentrants and Their Families (PDF, 2010). The UMRTF has compiled a comprehensive guide to New York City entities providing services for people exiting the criminal justice system. The guide is broken down by the following categories:
- Staying Stress-Free – Mental Health Services
- Living a Sober Life – Substance Abuse Services
- Finding a Job – Employment Services
- Building Skills – Educational Services
- Living Strong – Health and Wellness Services
- Knowing Your Rights– Legal Services
- Coming Home – Housing Services
- Connecting with Loved Ones – Family Services
- Presenting Your Best Self – Clothing Services
- Getting Information and Guidance-One Stops & Referrals
Have questions about a specific legal situation? Need to find legal representation for a young person? Check out the organizations below.
5) Youth Represent (www.youthrepresent.org) is a holistic youth defense and advocacy non-profit organization that provides criminal and civil legal representation to youth age 24 and under who are involved in the criminal justice system or who are experiencing legal problems because of past involvement in the criminal justice system. Founder Laurie Parise wrote the immensely useful guide for young people, Know Your Rights: Understanding Juvenile & Criminal Records and Their Impact on Employment in New York State (PDF, 2009).
6) Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT) (www.liftonline.org) enhances access to justice for children and families by providing legal information, community education, and compassionate guidance within the New York family court system, while promoting system-wide reform of the courts and public agencies. LIFT has prepared a number of useful publications for individuals navigating the family courts.
7) LawHelp/NY (www.LawHelp.org/NY) is an on-line tool for helping low-income New Yorkers solve their legal problems. The website provides information about free legal services throughout New York, about legal rights in a broad range of substantive areas, about the court system, and about related advocacy, government and social service organizations.
8) The Legal Action Center (www.lac.org) and the National H.I.R.E. Network (www.hirenetwork.org) are leading advocates and resource centers for issues relating to ending discrimination against people who have criminal histories. LAC provides consulting on specific legal issues, and both sites contain a wealth of free publications.
What cool resources have we overlooked? Add them below in comments!