Succession plan in place for national alternative to incarceration program
Youth Advocate Programs, which in recent years has secured a high-quality research result and a big philanthropic bet, has now locked in a long-term succession plan within its ranks.
The Harrisburg, Penn.-based organization, which provides community-based alternatives to incarceration in 29 states and the District of Columbia, has named Gary Ivory to be its president. Jeff Fleischer, who has led the organization since 2003 and first joined it in 1985, will serve as CEO and plans to retire in 2026, handing Ivory the full reins.
“The board of directors and myself developed this plan to ensure our unique mission continues for years to come,” Fleischer told The Imprint, in an email. “Over the next five years, as CEO, I will support Gary in his new role as president. I will also shift my focus to external affairs such as national and state policy, advocacy work, strategic partnerships, private sector fundraising, and positioning the organization for the future.”
A former prison chaplain, Ivory came to YAP as a frontline youth advocate 30 years ago. He worked his way to the top of the organization, which he joined after three of his 14 siblings from rural east Texas went to prison.
Ivory said in a statement that he was “honored, humbled and excited” to assume his elevated new role at the nonprofit “at such a pivotal moment in the organization’s growth and our nation’s history when social justice is undergoing much-needed transformation.”
“As systems look to replace outdated institutional justice and social services with safer and more racially equitable community-based alternatives,” Ivory continued, “we will continue to strengthen our model, back it with more data and enhance our training.” In addition to working on donor relations and partnerships, he said he plans to amplify the organization’s successes.
Before taking over as president this month, Ivory served as a senior executive. As president he will be managing business and fund development, strategy, marketing, communications, finance, legal and other leadership functions.
YAP works closely with youth justice, social services and other partners, employing and training neighborhood-based professional mentors to work with young people that might otherwise experience incarceration or be placed in congregate care. YAP’s advocates help young people who have a run-in with the law or seem in danger of doing so identify and build on their strengths while supporting their parents/guardians with tools and basic neighborhood resources to strengthen the family.
The model was added to the Justice Department’s “Programs and Practices” list on the strength of a 2016 study comparing 164 YAP participants to a group of pre-program enrollment youth. One year after discharge, youth who had completed the YAP program reported a statistically significant lower number of “serious dispositions” and improved academic and employment outcomes.
The result also helped YAP secure a $20 million investment from the Bellevue, Washington-based grantmaker Ballmer Group in 2018, which is meant to build the organizational capacity of the nonprofit and help proliferate some versions of its services to new areas.
YAP was founded in 1975, a direct descendant of the famous movement to shut down troubled juvenile incarceration facilities in Massachusetts and then Pennsylvania. Its founder, Tom Jeffers, was a right hand to reformer Jerry Miller, and settled in Harrisburg to start building the programmatic solution to working with juveniles without locking them up.
Jeffers retired in 2003, and passed away at the age of 75 in 2015.