AFJ on ATI and Crime Prevention for Youth in 2021

A message from Executive Director Angel Rodriguez
Last year you made all the difference for our participants and we hope you have remained healthy throughout the pandemic. As our city and our AFJ community centers slowly reopen, I wanted to share how we plan to navigate our court advocacy and crime prevention services in 2021.Reducing crime on our streets in 2021:     We don’t believe in locking up young people—ours are just ages 13 to 24—especially when statistics prove that after incarceration, over 50% return to crime.  We also don’t believe that the courts should simply release them back to the streets without the supportive and rehabilitative services that are so necessary.Instead, by providing intensive court advocacy and crime prevention programs, AFJ has maintained some of the lowest recidivism rates for Alternative to Incarceration (ATI) programs in the nation for over 40 years. On average, 95% of our graduates avoid reconviction three years after enrollment in our program. More importantly, our program averages just $5,000 per participant per year in contrast to the hundreds of thousands of tax dollars that incarceration costs.  

Current participants:  AFJ currently works with 314 youth and young adults, of which 265 have active court cases and 49 are at-risk of involvement in the criminal justice system.

Court advocacy - overcoming the backlog: The courts still have a backlog of cases created by the 2020 closures and many of our participants’ cases are pending as a result. AFJ staff are developing a strategy to ensure that our participants’ cases are being processed through the court system in a timely manner, providing progress reports and updates to judges so that our participants can move past their legal matters and focus on their lives ahead. 

Overcoming crises: We’ve seen a surge in mental health concerns with participants and find long waiting lists at referral providers and partnering agencies. In response, we provide weekly online group sessions with individual mentoring available 24/7 for youth and their families, as well as health and career online workshops led by Maven Clinics.  Our team of Court Advocates now includes an MSW (Master of Social Work). In addition, AFJ continues to provide groceries and help families with rent and utilities.

Navigating online education: Nationwide, 3 million students have gotten “lost” from the online school rolls. We don’t let that happen here at AFJ.  Even with remote learning, our Court Advocates are in touch with teachers, monitor school attendance and provide volunteer tutors to ensure that our participants are completing their coursework.

HIRE UP online training: AFJ’s online digital literacy now has 35 students who have earned 30 certifications, our OSHA construction safety class has 21 students, and our job readiness workshops have been attended by over 300, led by corporate partners including First Republic Bank, Maven Clinic, Capital III Partners and the Junior League of New York. 

If you can join us:  If you or your corporation would like to volunteer with our HIRE UP participants, please contact Gamal Willis at

We look forward to working together again in 2021. Wishing a peaceful year ahead to everyone--especially after what transpired at the Capitol on Wednesday. 


Angel Rodriguez
AFJ Executive Director