Below are four lessons in reforming the juvenile justice system that I gleaned from a recent interview with Bart Lubow, Director of the Programs for High Risk Youth at the Annie E. Casey Foundation (pictured below). He’s best known for his pioneering work leading the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI), which helps jurisdictions safely reduce unnecessary reliance on juvenile detention and stimulate other reforms, notably reducing disproportionate minority confinement. --Ed.
Lesson #1: Be Specific About What You’re Changing
"The biggest reason why system reform efforts fail is that they don’t provide system players with an alternative set of policies and programs. Instead, they provide a lot of vague talk, such as, 'We’ve gotta collaborate,' or 'We’ve got to be different,' etc. Without providing the guts of the new, re-engineered system, the status quo prevails. Though people are often critical of initiatives that are relatively prescriptive in terms of laying out the elements of the system reform, it’s a naïve proposition to expect the status quo to be overcome without a lot of operational detail. There can be lots of room for local adaptation, but within a fairly prescriptive framework."