JIFF Fights Recidivism

By Jeremy Park

Last week we shared some helpful holiday safety tips, like locking car doors while pumping gas and hiding all belongings BEFORE getting to the store. Extending this theme of crime prevention, let us now highlight a local organization working with youth from in and around the juvenile justice system to equip them with the skills and support necessary to break the destructive cycle of criminal behavior: Juvenile Intervention & Faith-Based Follow-Up (JIFF).

Founded by the Rev. Rick Carr in 2003, JIFF targets youth ages 12-21 (and their families), who are involved in the juvenile justice system. These youth are primarily repeat offenders who are referred from the juvenile court for re-entry or diversionary intervention services. So, Carr and his team are working with some of our city’s youngest criminals and affording them a chance to turn their lives around, become productive citizens, and flourish, free from a life of crime.

JIFF’s program focuses on five key areas of a youth’s life in order to foster an inside-out transition. Focusing on Head, JIFF works on mental health and academic ability through various tutoring, GED training, assessments and mentoring. Heart is core to teaching values and providing a foundation centered on Christ. Health fosters fitness training to teach discipline and routine, as well as promote self-image and worth. Hire-ability is taught through their Learn to Earn (LTE) program, which offers structured vocational classes, like Culinary Arts Training and Career Readiness. Home incorporates parents, teaching anger management, conflict resolution, and how to raise positive kids in a negative world.

JIFF has worked with more than 600 youth and has a number of heartfelt success stories, like Jhukuruin Corley, who I recently met. Corley has turned his life around and is now a successful college student with a full-time job. Carr and his team exemplify how a positive force can affect the lives of these youth and, in turn, help our community lower the recidivism rate with juvenile offenders. In most cases, JIFF is enjoying rates below 30 percent with its graduates, which is astounding when you consider normal percentages exceed 60 percent for these individuals reoffending within three years.

Helping JIFF with their efforts is easy and fun. Start by taking a tour of their center, located at 254 S. Lauderdale St. It is a remodeled YMCA that has quite the history with B.B. King recording his first hit song in their gymnasium. Then, sit down to a gourmet lunch made from scratch by youth at their culinary school. Your meal will be delicious and the personal stories from those who prepared it will be unforgettable! Consider volunteering by playing pool, ping-pong, or basketball with the kids. Or, call one of the kids once a week or send an email of encouragement.

Learn more by visiting www.jiffyouth.org or contacting Rick Carr at 522-8502 or rick@jiffyouth.org.

Jeremy Park, director of the Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club, can be reached at jeremyp@lpinsurance.com and followed on Twitter (@lpbreakfastclub) and Facebook (facebook.com/lpbreakfastclub).