About US

Reclaiming the lives of hundreds of young people a year

OUR HISTORY

A Lower East Side police officer - and an NYU student - launched a program that has prevented crime for four decades and counting.

In 1974, an NYU student from Pennsylvania, Robert Siegal, and an NYPD police officer from Harlem, Andrew Glover, had similar visions: to provide the Lower East Side’s youth with a safe space where they could get homework and tutoring assistance, get meals, and socialize in a safe space. An NYPD police officer from the 7th Precinct recalled Police Officer Glover returning to the Lower East Side, “on his own time off to play basketball with the kids in the neighborhood.”  

Robert, working out of his small apartment near Tompkins Square Park, also organized basketball games, and provided local youth with meal tickets to the NYU cafeteria. At a time when the Alternative to Incarceration (ATI) model was extremely new, Robert began working across the full criminal justice system from the local precinct officers to the courtroom, advocating for court-involved youth to be offered services. That is why our hashtag, #ServicesNotCells, is so important to us.  

David Smith, who was later to become Avenues for Justice’s first board member, was working with the newly created New York Urban Coalition, when Robert stopped by to ask if the Coalition would provide funds so he could hire an assistant to help him with his growing mission. The assistant he wanted to hire was Angel Rodriguez, who was working as a youth counselor at the local Boy’s Club.  

Then, in September 1975, one block from our Center at 100 Avenue B, Police Officer Glover was tragically killed in the line of duty. As Robert began to consider launching a non-profit organization, he asked PO Glover's family for permission to name it the Andrew Glover Youth Program in honor of PO Glover's legacy and the impact he had on neighborhood youth. Sadly, in 1978, Robert’s own life was also cut short due to illness at the age of 28.  

It was left to Angel to continue the work that Robert and PO Glover had started. In 1979, he incorporated the Andrew Glover Youth Program (renamed in 2016 as Avenues for Justice) and a year later, secured headquarters inside the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse where he could rapidly respond to youth entering for a court date, advocating before the judges that they receive services instead of being incarcerated. In 1982, the organization purchased an abandoned building at 100 Avenue B by Tompkins Square and turned it into our flagship Robert Siegal Center. In those early days, Angel was joined by neighbors Sandra Vega, Hector Rivera, Jose Monges, and a few years later, by Nelson Valentine. Nelson Valentine is AFJ’s longest serving Senior Court Advocate to this day. During the 1980s, Angel also collaborated with (ret.) Honorable Judge Michael Corriero, who currently stars on the CBS court show, Hot Bench, to launch the Your Part model in Manhattan. The Youth Part processes youth separately from adults and promotes ATI and diversion services. Today, this model is used nationwide.  

Avenues for Justice’s work proved to be an enormous success. In the 1990s, we began measuring recidivism rates. Currently, only 5% of our Participants are reconvicted of a new crime within three years of enrolling in our program. In contrast, up to 75% of parolees return to crime three years post release.  

What started with committed neighbors helping a few young people in the Lower East Side has evolved to today, helping nearly 400 of New York City’s youth and young adults, ages 13 through 24, with their legal matters. AFJ also assists our Participants with job training, education and tutoring assistance, mental health wellness services, drug treatment, housing assistance, clothing and much more.

Our cORE PRINCIPLES
1. Giving participants a second chance
2. Our program is based in the communities we serve.
3. The relationship between our court advocates and our participants is the key to our programs.
4. Our programs are structured around individual action plans which address the participant not the crime.
5. Participants must be accountable.
6. The duration & intensity of our program depends on the needs & development of our participants.
7. We focus on our core competency while working with our partners.
8. We measure impact with data and success stories.
Our HOLISTIC APPROACH
Court Advocacy
For most of our participants, their starting point with AFJ is to have our Court Advocates assess their needs prior to trial and advocate to a judge that they should be mandated to our services instead of detention or prison. Youth are then assigned to one of our centers for services;
Mentoring
Court Advocates are on call 24/7
HIRE UP Job training and personal advancement
AFJ offers job training with certification, weekly job readiness classes led by corporate partners and mentors, and multiple additional workshops for employment and personal development including legal workshops, on-going mental health sessions for in-depth group therapy or to learn basic coping skills, and communications training to give Participants a voice on justice issues as well as job skills.
Education
Many Participants need help in school and with their school subjects. AFJ assists in reconnecting youth to schools or providing alternatives such as HSE programming. In addition, AFJ recruits volunteers to help tutor Participants and assist with SAT and college preparation;
Healthy socialization
At our community centers, and now online, AFJ provides workshops for creative writing, art therapy, teen empowerment and other forms of healthy expression;
Referrals
AFJ refers Participants to specialized providers to address healthcare, mental health and substance issues when needed.
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