California Justice Leaders (CJL), the nation’s first AmeriCorps program for formerly incarcerated adults, is showing clear signs of success. We’re proud to share the following outcomes from the second year of a three-year evaluation conducted by researchers at Impact Justice.
CJL Members are highly motivated and successful in the program.
Being a California Justice Leader is a personally validating experience.
They made me feel I mattered, that my story matters, like go and tell your story because you’re going to influence a lot of people by telling your story.
Members take pride in being a Justice Leader, often remarking that the program gave them the opportunity to step into their authentic self. This is significant since many of them felt ashamed and isolated prior to CJL because of their past involvement with the legal system.
The program is a vehicle for professional growth.
[Now] I can knock it out of the park and make it obvious that I’m the only pick for an interview or for a position.
Graduates are developing or pursuing careers in reentry case management, reentry navigation, and community advocacy, as well as deepening their knowledge and skills through advanced degrees in criminology, sociology, education, journalism, and other fields.
I’m more than just a messenger. CJL has taught me how to become someone who [eventually] could run this program.
Community-based organizations and the youth they serve reap rewards.
[CJL Members] come with the right skills … and the lived experience alone is huge.
It definitely helps having someone the youth can depend on … They were excited for those meetings [with their mentors].
Among many tangible benefits for youth, the Justice Leaders support them through the process of applying for an honorable discharge, which removes barriers to employment and housing and lifts other restrictions.
One less burden they have to carry moving forward.
For most of these organizations, the partnership with CJL provided their first-ever sustained and meaningful opportunity to work alongside justice-involved individuals, a great benefit to the organization.
To bring that to our agency helps us continue to develop and really think outside our own box.
About California Justice Leaders
This first-of-a-kind AmeriCorps program enlists formerly incarcerated adults to provide reentry coaching and mentorship to justice-involved young people facing many of the same challenges they once did. Drawing on common lived experience, the Justice Leaders function as credible messengers for their younger peers, a best-practice framework that guides their year or more of service at community-based organizations across the state of California. The program is also a growth opportunity for the Justice Leaders themselves, who transition from AmeriCorps placements into permanent jobs, go on to pursue advanced degrees, and excel in many other ways. Learn more about California Justice Leaders at www.impactjustice.org.