Juvenile Justice Reform in Jeopardy, or Headed for a Golden Age?
- The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) may be in trouble, if Congress reauthorizes it without increased funding for states to comply. That could mean that cash-strapped states may opt out, despite its long success and the high marks given to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) for the training and technical assistance it provides to support the JJDPA. What would happen in your state, if the federal allocation was reduced or stayed the same?
- You can see the same tug-of-war between what works and the poor economy playing out in two recent publications. On the one hand, the research continues to point steadfastly to the sort of reforms that the JJDPA is intended to advance. You can see this in "Juvenile Justice: Lessons for New Era," by Mark Soler, Dana Shoenberg, and Marc Schindler. It lays out the changes in policy and research from the mid-1970s to now. While not light reading, it's an excellent overview, and provides recommendations for the future (see page 538).
On the other side, you have “A Capitol Concern: The Disproportionate Impact of the Justice System on Low-Income Communities in D.C.,” a brief from the Justice Policy institute that examines the connections between poverty, race and the justice system in the District of Columbia, as well as the significance of such factors as housing, education, youth development, health care, and employment.
While it also advocates for reforms in both the adult and juvenile justice systems, this publication shows that communities like D.C. aren't listening to the research or using data to drive policy, with devastating impacts on communities of color.
For example, crime is down 22% overall, but arrests are up -- youth arrests went up 42% between 2001 and 2009, mostly for misdemeanors. Apparently, about 96% of all youth committed are African American; 4% are Latino. (Is it really true that white kids simply aren't committed?)
The point of this report isn't to say that a bad economy drove bad policy choices, but it indicates that many communities may choose harsher law enforcement, despite its cost, rather than rehabilitation. Budget crunches don't have to spell the end of good policy, however; they can, in fact, offer opportunities for reform.
Length of a Youth's Sentence = Number of Birds at the Window
- As if to remind us all of the continuing importance of juvenile justice reform, the Phildelphia Inquirer ran an editorial calling for quick justice for one of the judges involved in Luzerne County, PA's "kids-for-cash" scandal. The editorial pointed out the irony that Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. reportedly rushed youth through the legal process (often without counsel), but his own trial is moving forward with all the ponderous majesty of due process.
Though the editorial firmly states that Ciavarella has a right to due process, it struck me as wistful about the fact that he won't get a taste of his own medicine. And no wonder, when you read this sentence:
"One youth's sentence was set by Ciavarella based on the number of birds perched outside a courtroom window."
Juvenile Justice Reform - More Tools
- The National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) has just released a new policy platform on Youth Reentry/Aftercare to help communities ensure that youth are successful when returning home from a residential or correctional facility. See also NJJN's other policy platforms on disproportionate minority contact, girls in the justice system, positive youth development, and more. (Hat tip to @wiskids .)
- The state Department of Youth Services (DYS) in Arkansas began reforming its juvenile justice system two years ago, and recently paused to celebrate. Newly-focused on community-based services, DYS is promoting its new approach with a package of communications materials called "The Truth of Youth." You might find the materials can be adapted for your community. (I found the interface hard to use and a bit unreliable, so you can download the main presentation -- a template for local communities -- here.)
- Advancing reform means talking about your work with the general public, so congratulations to our Reclaiming Futures site in Orange/Chatham Counties, North Carolina, which just published the first issue of its Reclaiming Futures newsletter. Three things I liked about it: first, the team thanked our site in El Paso, TX for allowing them to use El Paso's newsletter (from which I took the "brain cells - you need them" quote last week) as a model. I also noted their video for parents of youth in the justice system and their forthcoming handbook for youth -- I hope to feature them here soon. And third, it featured quotes from young people in their justice system.
Training Materials and a Webinar: Substance Abuse, Preventing Youth Violence, & Treating Trauma in the Justice System
- The National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare is offering a free, downloadable training package to help child welfare workers support families with substance use, mental, and co-occurring disorders. It provides basic information for new and in-service workers, though it is not aimed at "experienced practitioners."(H/t to @childrensbureau.)
- Looking for best practices on preventing youth violence? The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) publication, Best Practices of Youth Violence Prevention: A Sourcebook for Community Action is "the first of its kind to look at the effectiveness of specific violence prevention practices in four key areas: parents and families; home visiting; social and conflict resolution skills; and mentoring."
- The Council of State Governments Justice Center will be hosting a webinar on August 26, 2010: Trauma Services in Criminal Justice Settings: What, Why & How. Though not specific to youth in the juvenile justice system, it's obviously a topic of great interest, given the Robert Wood Johnson Foudation's online forum on "Chronic Trauma and the Teen Brain" (open for participation until August 20, 2010); the recent publication of "10 Things Every Juvenile Court Judge Should Know about Trauma and Deliquency;" and the Justice Policy Institute's brief on why investing in trauma-informed care for children makes sense.
More Youth Voice
- A recent Tribal Youth Justice Summit hosted by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) was covered in a recent OJJDP newsletter. Of particular interest were the contributions from tribal youth about problems facing their communities. Unsurprisingly, alcohol and drug abuse were high on the list.
Updated: February 08 2018