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Birmingham receives $2.4M DOJ grant to better re-entry and public safety initiatives

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A Birmingham initiative focused on juvenile re-entry is getting help from a federal grant awarded to the city. The $2.4M in funding from the U.S. Department of Justice is meant to help expand and enhance the RESTORE program and public safety initiatives in Birmingham. The platform launched in March of 2023 and assists youth ages 16 to 19 placed in state custody for a minimum of 30 days at a Department of Youth Services placement, the G. Ross Bell Detention Center or any DYS diversion facility.

The city of Birmingham’s website says the DOJ grant will be used to execute the following three goals:
· Expand services and resources for RESTORE pilot participants, ages 16 to 19.
· Engage in community-informed planning to design and launch RESTORE prevention, intervention and re-entry services to youth ages 11 to 15.
· Enhance the city’s current public safety agenda to include an actionable strategic plan for youth crime reduction, equitable justice policies, and evidence-based programming.

Current services from the city’s RESTORE juvenile re-entry program are designed to improve educational outcomes, assist with job growth, empower families, reduce domestic violence and promote healthy relationships.

The initiative is a partnership between the city of Birmingham, Jefferson County Family Court, Jefferson County Family Resource Center and Jefferson County Juvenile Detention Center.

Carrie Buntain is the Executive Director of the Family Resource Center. She said since October, the program has helped a total of 152 youths. Buntain also explained one of the services the program offers is helping to identify and tackle barriers that teens are currently facing.

“Most of them want to get back into school or finish their GED so they can get a job. A lot of them have a real need for their essential documentation,” she said. Buntain explained it can sometimes be challenging for juveniles to gain access to essential documents.

“In order to get a state ID, you have to have a birth certificate and a social security card. If you're under 17, you also have to have the Medicaid card. So, we walk them in through that process [and] getting those essential documents so that they can enroll in a GED class, or a non-traditional educational program that maybe does credit recovery or get a job. When we created this program, we were thinking much more high level,” she said.

Buntain also explained the RESTORE program offers support to at-risk youth.

“When we are actually boots on the ground [and] working with our kids, we are identifying lack of ID as part of the big issue,” she said. “We see a lack of parental support. 60% of our kids say they don’t have a lot of support at the house. Over 63% of our kids have mental health issues, so we also try to make sure they are connected with their mental health provider.”

The city of Birmingham also explained in a press release that the expansion of the RESTORE program will include additional support and resources for the Jefferson County Family Resource Center. The center provides a variety of services to families, including case management, parenting education, and job training.

Additionally, the grant will be used to enhance the city’s current public safety agenda to include an actionable strategic plan for youth crime reduction, equitable justice policies, and evidence-based programming. This plan will be developed in collaboration with community partners such as the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District and will focus on identifying and addressing the root causes of violence in the city.

Read more about the U.S. Department of Justice’s $2.4M grant to Birmingham here.

Hannah Holcombe is a student intern at the Alabama Public Radio newsroom. She is a Sophomore at the University of Alabama and is studying news media. She has a love for plants, dogs and writing. She hopes to pursue a career as a reporter.
Baillee Majors is the Morning Edition host and a reporter at Alabama Public Radio.
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