TRENTON – The New Jersey State Library released the slate of recommendations given to Attorney General Creighton Drury following its daylong “Safe Teens = Safe Streets: New Jersey’s First Working Forum on Community Collaboration.”
The recommendations were formulated by librarians, legislators, county prosecutors, youth services commission directors, county social services board directors, educators, gang prevention professionals and other community agencies from all over New Jersey.
“We received a lot of good ideas which we’ve shared with the Attorney General, as well as with libraries and agencies across the state,” said Tina Keresztury, associate state librarian.
“For many of our teens, our libraries are safe gathering places which offer a variety of resources and activities as an alternative to the pressures of the streets,” she added.
“We need to try to extend that security out into our neighborhoods through more programs, more awareness and more collaboration with others who are battling this problem.”
What recommendations can be made on a statewide and local basis on gang awareness and prevention for adults and children/teens?
- Educate parents through training at places of work, i.e., offer or mandate training for state workers on gangs and offer training to other places of employment
- Enhance how children perceive law enforcement – increase visibility and positive promotion of police departments through school and library programs, community programs, children and teen activity groups, and on the street
- Establish a 24/7 hotline for kids to call for gang awareness and for help
- Implement gang prevention education as mandated in the Core Curriculum Standards
- Create opportunities and training for adult and teen volunteers to mentor kids on a one-to-one basis, in schools, and in the community statewide
- Make attendance at programs such as the Ocean County Library’s Gangwise project a condition of probation for teens on probation
- Develop training programs for young police officers to do outreach in communities on gang prevention and awareness
- Expand the GAPP program and hire former gang members on a statewide basis to do programs in community locals and with community groups statewide
- Educate parents about Internet practices/safety and gang dress codes
- Educate senior citizens groups on gang awareness
- Involve the League of Women’s Voters in doing gang prevention and awareness programs in communities
- Tailor presentations to particular audiences especially teens to make sure gang life is not glamorized
- Offer programs to parents on parental coping skills
- Mandate gang prevention training in schools
- Include transportation costs to programs for parents and teens
- Encourage curfews for teens
- Develop some good training videos on gang awareness and prevention, make them available to libraries and groups to borrow
- Educate foster care agencies and the children/teens/families they serve
- Involve businesses in gang awareness and prevention and encourage involvement in prevention activities as a form of community service
What is needed from the state, county, or local government to foster collaboration?
- Fund the expansion of the Gangwise Project at Ocean County Library to a statewide model of gang prevention and awareness programming for parents and kids by funding a grant program for libraries
- Fund the development of the Sussex County Community Collaboration Model on a statewide basis for counties to develop for gang awareness and prevention
- Funding for more youth recreation centers
- Grant programs for collaboration to include collaborations of public and school libraries, churches and faith-based organizations, law enforcement, community groups that involve children and teens
- Offer community mapping of gangs to municipalities and counties
- Encourage local/municipal agencies to reach out to county resources, for example, Morris County promotes presentations on their websites, can be shared with local agencies, provide incentive for municipal/county collaboration
What are some recommendations for statewide collaboration that could help a gang member build a new life away from gangs?
- Provide funding to organizations like libraries and social services agencies to hire gang members to work once a week over a period of weeks
- Provide grants to support ex-convicts and develop other work release programs
- Involve teens leaving prison in Youth Corp or create a new organization
- Provide opportunities for involvement for the former gang members with family members and guardians and mentors
- Provide parole work opportunities in libraries and social service agencies
- Subsidize parole through grants
- Involve parolees in efforts to deliver local services
- Invite libraries in a collaborative program, partner with prison members who will be released in community service programs with libraries, develop a work release program
- Provide separate housing for relocation of former gang members
- Provide housing and relocation grants
- Provide funding to organizations to build community around former gang members, provide safety nets for them
- Hire services to help convicts reintegrate
- Offer vocational training in prisons and bring in job fairs or take soon to be released prisoners job fairs and for job training
- Provide transitional housing, like half way houses upon release for reintegration to community life
- Create more GAPP programs
- Do employment training in and/or for shelters
- Provide assistance with documentation needs like birth certificate, licenses, social security, etc.
- Provide information and personal assistance on programs like food stamps and other help programs such as food banks
- Provide a one-to-one mentor to follow-up on ex-convicts, fund volunteer programs and train volunteers
- Provide counseling services for ex-cons, offer specifically targeted anger management classes for help through reintegration
- Provide intervention services if necessary when released
- Develop more out-of-prison programs to help ex-cons
- Provide funding to employers to hire ex-convicts
- Provide college courses in prison for everyone who wants them, not just those with under five years of sentencing
- Provide one stop centers for skill development for ex-cons
- Provide transportation to libraries and one stops for computer training, job seeking assistance, help with resumes, and e-government services
- Provide prisoners with chances to develop both soft and hard skills
- Develop programs in prison to help inmates develop trust in social services and community
The State Library sponsored the conference in collaboration with several other agencies and organizations to raise awareness of the role that all can play in helping to fight the problems of gangs in New Jersey.
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