The NBA Is Impacting A Different Court With New Grant Supporting Criminal Justice Reform

The National Basketball Association (NBA) Foundation recently selected 12 non-profit organizations throughout the US and Canada to share in $4.8 million in grants intended to support the development of job opportunities, career advancement, and increased economic empowerment for Black youth.

The annual grant-giving is part of a five-week celebration during the holiday season where the NBA gives back by supporting youth, families and organizations across the country.

One of the 12 non-profits selected to receive grant funding is Avenues for Justice (AFJ), a New York City-based alternative to incarceration organization. 

“The NBA grant is going to help us provide access, exposure and opportunity to 400 participants who are primarily African American and Hispanic youth between the ages of 13 and 24,” AFJ Chief Operating Officer Elizabeth Frederick tells ESSENCE. 

Avenues for Justice has kept thousands of African American and Hispanic youth and young adults out of the criminal justice system in New York City since 1979, reducing recidivism rates for court-involved youth through what the organization says is one of the most successful and cost-effective alternatives to incarceration models in the country. 

With a 94% success rate, AFJ offers free ongoing court advocacy services, mentorship, vocational and educational support, and life skill workshops for close to participants, ages 13 to 24, each year.

“Our program first deals with the criminal justice issue. We custom tailor the service to these kids, and part of that would be them getting the services that they need to pursue employment, address mental health issues and education, which is crucial to this population,” AFJ Co-Founder and Executive Director Angel Rodriguez explains. 

“We use all that not only to help these kids move forward, but we also use it in court to communicate to judges and prosecutors how these kids are making efforts to change their lives,” he adds. 

The funding from the NBA will support AFJ’s court advocacy services for youth and its HIRE UP program, which provides educational and vocational training, including Digital Literacy and OSHA Construction Safety certifications. Additionally, HIRE UP offers other online services, hybrid and in-person workshops, mentorship and mental health wellness sessions. 

“The organization’s dedication to intervention and diversion for youth in systematically disadvantaged communities dates back decades and we look forward to the continued growth of its impact on the trajectory of Black youth in the US,” NBA Foundation Executive Director Greg Taylor. 

Created in August 2020 with a 10-year, $300 million commitment by the 30 NBA team governors, the NBA Foundation is the league’s first-ever charitable foundation. 

The NBA Foundation’s mission is to provide “skills training, mentorship, coaching, and pipeline development for high school, college-aged, job-ready, and mid-career individuals,” and the grants will help improve the impact of national and local organizations like Avenues for Justice.

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