Second Opportunity for Success: Making a Real Difference
Since 2004, The Columbus Ohio Urban League has been successful at addressing the issue of crime in the Black Community through the Urban Crime Prevention Initiative(UCPI). UCPI is based on the successful model employed by the Florida Consortium of Urban Leagues. In Ohio, UCPI has been funded by the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services and the City of Columbus. The design of the strategy has been fortified by the partnerships established at the National Preventing Crime in the Black Community Conference.
As a result of the partnership formed with the Florida Consortium of Urban Leagues, the Columbus (Ohio) Urban League and the Urban Leagues of Broward County, Pinellas County and Tallahassee entered into an agreement to pilot the Second Opportunity for Success (SOS) Program on a national stage. The SOS Program is designed to address the issue of Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) of juvenile offenders with the criminal justice system. The program structure incorporates several methods all intended to address dynamic needs that typically serve as predictors of crime. The need areas in no particular order are case management, employment, education, mentorship, restorative justice and crime prevention.
While the SOS Program had been successful in Florida, the question remained, would it have an impact on juvenile recidivism outside the State of Florida. At the NPCBC in Miami; Florida Urban League executives drafted a proposal that was eventually funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice. Columbus, it was thought would be a good testing ground for SOS on a federal level. Franklin County, where Columbus is situated, provided a microcosm for the problem faced by moderate and large urban areas throughout the country. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Franklin County is 67% White, 27% African-American and 3% Hispanic and 3% Other. Despite the fact that African American youth represent less than 1/3 of the overall juvenile population they account for 66% of youth referred to detention, according to the Franklin County DMC Report produced by the United Way of Central Ohio.
Since the first SOS participants enrolled at the Columbus Urban League in 2007, the program has been going strong. There were certainly challenges to starting up a new program, but over time juvenile magistrates have looked to SOS to divert juvenile offenders and keep them out of state and local detention facilities. In the very first year of operation, from 2007 to 2008, SOS staff received 92 referrals from the juvenile court. As a part of the case management plan for youth assigned to the program, SOS staff make site visits to the participants at school and at home. As a result of the site visits, school attendance and performance improved, and parents reported positive behavior changes in the home. Program staff completed 222 hours of school visits, 247 hours of home visits, and logged 491 community service hours. Most impressively, 49 youth completed the program in the first year with only 1 participant committing an offense during the program period.
Because of the huge success and the demonstrable change in lives, the SOS Program was recently awarded a Recovery Act Grant, by OCJS under the Urban Crime Prevention Initiative. The SOS Program and the Columbus Urban League are living proof that the opportunity that is provided by the NPCBC and the Florida Attorney General’s Office is making a difference in the lives of real people where it is needed most.
Inquiries about the SOS Program should be directed to:
John Ellis, Program Coordinator
Columbus Urban League
788 Mt. Vernon Avenue
Columbus, Ohio 43203
Michael Davis is an adjunct faculty member at Tiffin University in the School of Criminal Justice and is a juvenile justice consultant with the National Training and Technical Assistance Center