January 2014

Introducing - The Bridgeport AIC UNITY Program

Posted by Verla Michel, BAIC PD

On July 1, 2014, The State of Connecticut Judicial Branch Court Support Services Division rolled out a new pilot program, UNITY (Utilizing New Initiative with Today's Youth). UNITY has been implemented in five AIC (Alternative in the Community) locations: Bridgeport, Hartford, Manchester, New Haven, and Stamford. This new initiative was birthed to address the persisting challenge in terms of lowering the recidivism rate among young adult male probationers. UNITY serves probationers in the 18-24 age brackets by providing age and gender specific programming for them at the AIC. At Bridgeport AIC (BAIC), a team of four Youth Offenders Probation Officers headed by the Chief Probation Officer for that unit teams up with the AIC UNITY component to address this particular group using the same approach as the Women Offender Case Management (WOCM) to ensure best practices in addressing the 18 to 24 probationers. In addition to the ongoing communication that must exist between the referral source and the provider, BAIC teams with the Bridgeport Probation's UNITY Probation Officers weekly during which the officers' caseloads are discussed, appropriate referrals are made based on the risk, need and responsivity model, and the progress of current and exiting clients is discussed.

The Structure of the UNITY Program:
UNITY clients are assigned to the UNITY Case Managers or the Intervention Specialist. The UNITY clients primarily attend the Cognitive Self Change (CSC) intervention. The duration of the CSC intervention may go up to 4 to 6 months with two (2) hour group meetings twice a week. This intervention teaches behavioral change, including cognitive restructuring, social skills development, and development of problem solving skills. Youth clients are referred to this program to address antisocial thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and beliefs which have gotten them into trouble in the past. In addition, they may also attend Employment Services, Reasoning & Rehabilitation, and Treating Alcohol Dependence as stipulated by the referral source. The Case Managers address clients' criminogenic needs through referrals for educational and vocational opportunities, housing, employment, and other community resources geared toward occupying their leisure time with positive and constructive activities. Basic needs such as birth certificates, IDs, books/supplies for adult education, high school transcript fees, college applications fees, hygiene products, haircuts, clothing, and food are addressed via flex funds. Incentives ranging from movie tickets to the opportunity to obtain a learner's permit or driver's license are available for UNITY clients who show progress towards behavior change.

Training Requirements for UNITY Team Staff:
UNITY began with an intensive training regimen specific to this project for all stakeholders involved in the new initiative, which ran from 3/11/14 to 12/5/14. In addition to the regular CSSD-required core training sessions, the UNITY team was required to attend the following training sessions:
  • March 11, 2014: Introduction to the Youth Institute/Understanding young adult brain development
  • March 28, 2014: Understanding the impact of trauma on older adolescents
  • April 11, 2014: Teaming
  • April 24, 2014: Engaging Fathers, Day 1
  • April 25, 2014: Engaging Fathers, Day 2
  • May 2, 2014: The lifestyle and culture of today's youth
  • May 16, 2014: Mood disorders and Impulsivity in young adults
  • June 10, 2014: Foundations in Cultural Responsiveness, Day 1
  • June 17, 2014: Foundations in Cultural Responsiveness, Day 2
  • October 1, 2014: Educational Advocacy (half day), Technology in the Teen World (half day)
  • October 31, 2014: Gang awareness training (half day), Cognitive Self Change (half day)
  • December 5, 2014: Children with Criminal Justice Involved Parents Training
All trainings took place at CSSD's training academy, located at Central Connecticut State University's Institute of Technology and Business Development in New Britain, CT. Any training missed by the first cohort must be attended when the new training cycle resumes. In addition to BAIC's four primary members, a secondary team has been working in the background to provide substitute coverage. The secondary team members will be attending the next training cycle. The UNITY Team has been collaborating with Project Longevity and the StreetSafe project in Bridgeport to ensure the success of the clients involved as well as the safety of the community. The BAIC UNITY Team can be reached at (203) 696-1323 and is located at 255 Island Brook Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06606.

"Together serving to lower the recidivism rate for youth probationers by providing them with the most effective alternatives."