Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today announced that MENTOR Rhode Island has been awarded a $491,332 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to support the launch of a new mentorship program aimed at improving outcomes for youth involved in the juvenile justice system. Whitehouse advocated for the grant with the Department of Justice.
“Kids who end up in the juvenile justice system deserve a chance to get their lives on track,” said Whitehouse, a former Rhode Island Attorney General and U.S. Attorney who was one of the lead sponsors of the 2018 bipartisan overhaul of the federal juvenile justice system. “Rhode Island has led the way on juvenile justice for years, and this new mentoring partnership will continue that work.”
The grant will fund a public-private partnership between MENTOR Rhode Island, Rhode Island’s leading youth mentor agency, and Rhode Island Family Court. The initiative will be aimed at keeping young people out of the criminal justice system and equipping them with the skills to become productive adults.
Rhode Island Family Court will refer at-risk youth involved in the juvenile justice system to MENTOR Rhode Island’s community-based diversionary initiative for one-on-one mentoring, community and life skills workshops, and work readiness programs. MENTOR Rhode Island will develop the programming in partnership with community organizations, including Youth in Action and Foster Forward.
“We are thrilled to engage in this work,” said Jo-Ann Schofield, President and CEO of MENTOR Rhode Island. “We will join with local communities to increase diversion opportunities for black and brown young people, as research shows they are more likely to be involved in the formalized justice system than their white peers. Together with our partners from Youth In Action and Foster Forward, we will grow and support mentoring relationships as well as workplace readiness and leadership skills for young people who are at risk of falling into the school to prison pipeline. We are so grateful to receive this grant and for the support from our congressional delegation for this project and the work we do.”
MENTOR Rhode Island’s Juvenile Justice Initiative will serve more than 200 youth ages 12 to 17 over the three-year term of the grant. The program will serve young people who have been diverted to specialty courts, like the Truancy Court; referred to local juvenile hearing boards; or placed on probation.
MENTOR Rhode Island is an official technical assistance provider of the National Mentoring Resource Center, which is supported by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.