Recently, funding from the Justice Assistance Grant was allocated to Hillsborough County for Criminal Justice Program enhancements. The funding totaled $168,612 and can be used beginning on October 1.
Felicia Richardson is the project manager within the Criminal Justice Unit and Grants Management Office for Hillsborough County. She is also the grant manager for the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program.
Richardson explained, “The United States Department of Justice awards Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance formula grants to each county or municipality to improve the local criminal justice system. The county utilizes the Public Safety Coordinating Council (PSCC) to make JAG funding recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). The PSCC has recommended that the county’s JAG funding be used to support the Juvenile Reentry Education Program (JREP) and Veterans Treatment Court (VTC).”
The JREP is administered by Success4Kids & Families, which works in partnership with the Hillsborough School District to ensure youths involved in the criminal justice system are provided the necessary resources and support.
The program’s primary goal is to reduce justice system recidivism by increasing educational and vocational opportunities and achievement for youth involved in juvenile justice.
The JAG-supported court program is called the Veterans Treatment Court. The VTC is a therapeutic court model that serves veterans currently in or about to enter the criminal justice system. Participants either serve or have been honorably discharged and suffer from a military service-related mental illness, traumatic brain injury, substance abuse disorder or psychological problem such as post-traumatic stress disorder or military sexual trauma.
The VTC provides a therapeutic environment coupled with an emphasis on accountability for the veteran. Veterans are engaged in a coordinated strategy developed by a Veteran Treatment Intervention Team. The coordinated strategy encompasses five phases. The veterans advance through each phase while receiving comprehensive services. Progress is determined by the court during each phase.
Richardson said, “Both the JREP and VTC Programs are outstanding examples of the Hillsborough Justice System working with community stakeholders, experts and external resources to prevent recidivism and provide comprehensive support for justice-involved youth and veterans recovering from substance use and mental health disorders. The programs work diligently to improve public safety by aiding program participants to enhance their health and wellness, live a self-directed crime-free life and strive to reach their full potential.”