A program that aims to keep juvenile offenders in treatment and out of jail in Anne Arundel County that was threatened with cancellation because of state budget cuts will continue for the next year and expand to Baltimore City with federal stimulus funds.
The Juvenile Intervention & Family Independence Project, or JIFI, was told in October that state funding for the 10-year-old program would cease at the end of 2009 because of budget constraints, said Ivan Leshinsky, executive director of the Baltimore-based Chesapeake Center for Youth Development, which administers JIFI and also runs an alternative school and an after-school program.
JIFI received about $120,000 in funding for the past two years from the state Department of Juvenile Services.
Kristen M. Mahoney, executive director of the governor's office of crime control and prevention, said JIFI received a grant that was part of $26 million in federal stimulus funds the state received in support of saving jobs.
"The governor was pleased that we were able to put the recovery act funds to use," Mahoney said. "It's going to save jobs. It's going to save a program that supports at-risk youth. It's great."
JIFI employs two social workers who handle a caseload of more than 100 juvenile offenders.
The $135,000 grant allows the program to hire a third social worker, and expand the program to Baltimore and serve about 170 families.
JIFI was developed by public defenders, who typically refer juvenile offenders to the program. Social workers and families work together to obtain counseling and other services to prevent further contact with the criminal justice system. The prosecutor's office agrees to drop criminal charges when offenders participate in the program.
Advocates said the program has been successful. Of the offenders who participated in JIFI, between 13 percent and 21 percent re-offend, while other juvenile offenders have a recidivism rate of between 70 percent and 80 percent, Leshinsky said.
"I've been doing this for 35 years," said Leshinsky, who added that the savings from court appearances and probation officer time far outweighs the program's yearly funding. "I believe very strongly that treating kids in the community is far more effective than taking them away from their homes."
The funding for the JIFI program was part of the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant, which was expanded this year as part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.
While thankful for the money that will keep the program going, Leshinsky notes it's only for one year.
"We're very concerned about what's going to happen in 2011," he said.