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The CUNY Catch Program

In 1991, LaGuardia Community College initiated a provision of transitional services for adolescent at risk in high school, creating an alliance of three CUNY colleges committed to fostering service support for returning adolescents to their home communities. This alliance of LaGuardia, Bronx Community College and Medgar Evers College has developed a model for transitional services for incarcerated youths, using funding for municipal jails from the New York State Education Department/AEA Section 326.

The CUNY Catch Mission

The immediate mission of CUNY Catch is in the delivery of a transition program that complements, reinforces, and extends into the post-release period, the academic and vocational training effort initiated at the high schools. In this way fostering for the youngster a stronger family and community reentry along with education and preparation for entry into the labor market. The long range mission is to enhance public safety, decrease recidivism, and through the dissemination of philosophy and positive outcomes--via literature and presentation, promote the transition intervention as an effective method for dealing with incarcerated youth.

Program Vision

The vision of our program is captured in the early and immediate contact with the youngster while still incarcerated. This early intervention allows an experienced and successful staff, working collaboratively with Board of Ed program staff, the opportunity to share with the youngster key vocational training and post-release workplace entry issues, as well as academic and career issues in preparation for their return to their families and communities. This continuum of shared support the adolescent receives from the CUNY Catch counselors in moving from a prison environment to a campus atmosphere greatly reduce barriers in an effort to make community reentry successful.

Each of the three colleges participating in the CUNY Catch alliance has a long record of community service and in particular have worked with diverse populations of New Yorkers normally excluded from mainstream service. Our colleges have always recognized the diversity of students in New York City and have made an enduring commitment to integrating the education needs of all students into our campus communities. These on-campus programs are in an ideal site for "mainstreaming" recently released young men and women, offering them an opportunity to identify with a new group of striving young adults, and to gain the skills and access to the labor market necessary for successful reintegration into their communities.

The incarcerated adolescent is not amenable to the referral process. The majority of our clients were not in school when arrested, many have difficulty with the subway system beyond their communities, most have a desire to disassociate with the prison connection, and almost all are wary of the unknown agency or unfamiliar adult they are referred to. One can refer a youngster out from facility, and invite oneself to believe that the youngster will make his appointment when released, but the youngster will not.

The transitional approach as an intervention for incarcerated Adolescents is effective. Transition is Early (begins in facility), Beneficial (case work is initiated in facility), Continual (what begins in facility is continued on a CUNY campus with the assistance and support of the family). Adolescents have the desire for security and stability when they. return to their community. Our counselors have established relationships with the youngster while incarcerated. The counselor. has. assured the youngster that CUNY and the labor market is open to them when released. The youngster knows this is the very same counselor that will be assisting him or her at their CUNY sites on the outside. The likelihood of a continued relationship after release is strong.

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