Tag Archive for Department of Juvenile Justice

Signal Amplification: The National Juvenile Justice Network’s Leadership Institute seeking reformers.

The National Juvenile Justice Network’s Leadership Institute is looking for ten great reformers.

Picture somebody in your mind — someone you know — who wants to set the juvenile justice world on fire.  Someone who’s fed up with seeing kids get kicked out of school for minor misbehavior, locked up without due process, or any of a hundred other unjust, unfair things that can blight young people’s lives.

You can see this person in your mind’s eye, right?  You’re picturing someone who stands up, speaks out, and can work with others to reform what’s not working.   A person, in other words, who is ready to take the next step to grow as a leader.

Chances are this army-of-one you’re picturing in your mind is ready to apply to the Youth Justice Leadership Institute, a robust, year-long fellowship program run by the National Juvenile Justice Network that focuses on cultivating and supporting professionals of color. Our goal is to create the foundation for a more effective juvenile justice reform movement by developing a strong base of advocates and organizers who reflect the communities most affected by juvenile justice system practices and policies.

By the way, your force-of-nature will not need to quit his or her job. It does mean that he or she will join a hand-picked group of 10 fellows assembled from all over the country to learn about leadership, juvenile justice system policies and practices, theories of change, and how to develop their skills as advocates.  Plus, it’s free (or close to it). Travel and lodging are paid for; tuition is minimal when compared to other programs of this length and intensity.

Applications are due May 6, 2013.

Anyone who wants to apply for the Institute can:

 

This year, Diana will host two informational webinars for prospective applicants:

•           April 4, 2013, 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm EST (click to register)

•           April 10, 2013, 1 pm – 2 pm EST (click to register)

 

Please share this announcement with your networks!

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A Bipartisan Victory in Georgia!

English: Great Seal of the State of Georgia

English: Great Seal of the State of Georgia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Why are they there? They are there because there are not programs currently in the community that judges can send them to,”

-Rep. Wendell Willard, speaking about the incarceration of juveniles for misdemeanor offenses or truancy charge (as reported in the Marietta Daily Journal).

It looks like that is about to change. In a show of bipartisan collaboration that is long overdue Georgia conservatives and their liberal counterparts have joined forces to fix their state’s juvenile justice system. A system that has done nothing but get consistently worse over the past two decades.

Melissa Carter at the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange writes:

Georgia leaders were recently confronted by compelling data showing that the state is expending considerable resources confining offenders who are mostly at low-risk to re-offend, and further, that these expensive and restrictive interventions are not effective. More than half of all Georgia young people in the juvenile justice system recidivate; that is, they are re-adjudicated delinquent or convicted of a criminal offense within three years of their release. This narrative is not unique to Georgia, and states recognize the need to be more effective and more efficient with their limited resources. A broader set of goals must be satisfied, including those promoting public safety, accountability, fiscal responsibility and positive outcomes for young people. Thus, now is the ideal time to correct the public policy course of the last two decades by making smart investments in our youth.

Georgia’s governor recognized this opportunity and has made juvenile justice reform a signature issue. The state is poised to enact a comprehensive statutory reform package (the state House passed the legislation last week) that includes proposals to treat status offenders through a more service-oriented Children in Need of Services (CHINS) approach, separate felonies into two classes based on the severity of the offense to allow for differentiated sentencing, mandate use of standardized assessment tools, and require improved data collection. The bill also contains a fiscal incentive program to create community-based alternatives to detention.

Programs like these are already showing results- improving outcomes for youth and their families, increasing public safety and reducing costs in five states. Seeing them implemented in a state notorious for its juvenile justice concerns is heartening. Even more important is the continuing trend of bipartisan agreement.

It is no secret that these are insanely polarized times, politically speaking. As a result collaborations across the aisle have become almost mythical. Just look at the “fiscal cliff” and the current brouhaha about sequestration. Yet on this issue there is no choice but bipartisan agreement, the numbers are that cut and dried. There are even precedents for it, as I noted here on this blog back in February of 2012 when I wrote about bipartisan progress being made in aphid and Michegan:

The idea of justice reform is often viewed as a province of the liberal left, however the current reality is that more and more conservatives are embracing it now that they are becoming aware of the harsh financial realities. Let us hope this trend continues.

We have the proof. Numerous studies over the past few decades show quite plainly that more community based approaches and rehabilitative programs are more effective at getting people out of the system, which thrills liberals. These same studies also demonstrate a much lower outlay of funds with a greatly increased return on investment, the goal of all true fiscal conservatives.

Let us hope that the common sense prevailing in Georgia leads even more states to do so. It is, after all, far more expensive to do nothing.

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Losing ground in North Carolina

English: State seal of North Carolina

North Carolina has made great strides over the past several years. The state’s approach to juvenile justice has been a showcase for the effectiveness of shifting the focus away from jails and into community- and rehabilitation-based practices.

Now all that is in jeopardy. James C. (Buddy) Howell, Ph.D., a criminologist and NC resident, recently penned a column for The Herald Sun in which he casts an eye on the situation:

Remarkable juvenile justice outcomes have been achieved in this state, including a 10-year-low juvenile offense rate and reduction of confinement by two-thirds, saving taxpayers more than $20 million. The catalyst for these changes came from the enactment of the North Carolina Juvenile Justice Reform Act in 1998. This act created a stand-alone Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and placed priority back on community-based treatment while reserving confinement for serious, violent, and chronic juvenile offenders. The act also established Juvenile Crime Prevention Councils in each county to ensure the availability of local services that would reduce recidivism and confinement.

However, this incredibly successful juvenile justice system is being dismantled. Many readers may not know that — under the presumption of cost savings — the Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention was eliminated from its independent cabinet-level status and reconstituted as a division within the Department of Public Safety that also houses the Department of Corrections for adults. The lesson from other states that consolidated juvenile justice and adult corrections is that over time, treatment programs gave way to punishment and imprisonment priorities. The successful emphasis in juvenile justice has been on prevention and rehabilitation rather than on adult criminal justice practices. Prevention and rehabilitation goals are better accomplished when the juvenile justice agency is teamed with other youth services such as social services, mental health treatment, schools, mentors, job training and other needed treatment. Tying this agency to the adult criminal justice system threatens to erode the great success we have had over the last 14 years.

Once more the immediate fiscal situation is used as an excuse for short-term savings that become extravagant in the long run.

Economists at Vanderbilt University and the state of Washington agree that their findings demonstrate the effectiveness of interventions that prevent high-risk youth from engaging in repeat criminal offenses: effectiveness that can save the public nearly $5.7 million in costs per criminal! Imprisonment is expensive, but it is far from the only financial drain. Reverting to the old ways incurs: court costs, costs to victims, costs incurred by the offender, increased enforcement costs, and administrative costs. All must be viewed as part of the complete equation.

We are starting to make serious strides across the nation as states take note of the evidence that continues to mount. This is what makes it so sad to see a state that has been a model in this area falling victim to short-sighted, short-term thinking.

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National Juvenile Justice Network to Host Webinar with Rosa Peralta of TeamChild

A quick message from our friends over at the National Juvenile Justice Network. Check out this webinar, it promises to be both facinating and informative. -Loki, HE Blogger

Ever wondered how to translate what we know about youth development into practice in the juvenile justice system? Well, TeamChild, our member from Washington State, has done just that with their “Judicial Colloquies” project. Join this webinar to learn what practice rooted in youth development would look like in court.

Here’s the problem: when youth end up in court, they’re often confused and uncertain about the purpose of the proceedings, and what’s expected of them when they leave. Why? Because much of the language used there by professionals goes right over their heads.

Now, you can change that, with help from a new guide from Models for Change, called the “Washington Judicial Colloquies Project: a Guide for Improving Communication and Understanding in Court.” The document provides guidance on how to consistently use developmentally-appropriate language in court that youth can understand.

TeamChild, NJJN’s member in Washington state, led the development of the guide as part of its participation with the Juvenile Indigent Defense Action Network (JIDAN]. Working with a team of experts, including the National Juvenile Defender Center and a group of teens (many with experience in juvenile court), TeamChild produced a guide that offers draft bench “colloquies” for two critical hearings—(1) an accused juvenile’s first appearance, at which rights and conditions of release are explained, and (2) disposition hearings, at which the consequences of conviction and conditions of probation are explained.

When the team evaluated the effectiveness of the colloquies, they found that while youth ordinarily understood only 1/3 of the conditions of release and probation (ordered only minutes before), they understood 90% of them if the colloquies were employed.

Want to learn more? Then register for this free webinar and alert your colleagues!

WHEN: November 7, 2012, 11 pm PST / 1 pm CST / 2 pm EST

WHO: Rosa Peralta of TeamChild

WHAT: Ms. Peralta will provide an introduction to the colloquies and be available to answer questions.

ABOUT THE PRESENTER: Rosa Peralta has worked with a wide range of private, public and volunteer sector organizations to support and improve services for young people. As the research associate at TeamChild in Seattle, WA, she coordinates the Juvenile Indigent Defense Action Network (JIDAN) and the Models For Change (MfC) defender projects in Washington State.

Prior to completing her Ph.D. training in Sociology at the University of Michigan, Rosa worked for many years as a criminal defense investigator at one of Seattle’s public defense agencies. Rosa taught sociology at the University of Michigan and she also developed and managed recruitment and retention programs for underrepresented undergraduate and graduate students.

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Discussion Series on Juvenile Detention And Incarceration in Chicago

Coming to Chicago in September and October Roosevelt University, in conjunction with the Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation, will be kicking off a fascinating and educational series of discussions centered around the topic of youth detention and incarceration.

It all starts on the 26th of September with a volley of personal narratives. Those of you who follow our work already know the importance we attach to these personal stories. They are the most effective way to re-humanize those on the borders of society. It is a lot harder to ignore a statistic once you’ve met the person represented by the numbers.

While none of our team will be able to make it to the Windy City, we do encourage any of you within range to do so. It looks like quite an array of programming!

So, without further ado, here is their writeup on what you can expect. If any of you, our readers, make it to the series, we would love to hear about the experience!

Youth stories on their experiences in confinement

Learn from youth about what life in confinement is like and how this experience, and other levels of connection with the juvenile justice system, has impacted their lives.
Wednesday, September 26, 5:30 p.m.

Chain reaction: Alternatives to policing

Listen to youth tell stories of their encounters with the police, and then join the dialogues about alternatives to policing as a way to reduce violence and crime.
Thursday, October 4, 5:30 p.m.

Alternatives to juvenile detention and incarceration: Can we succeed? What will it take?

What community-based alternatives exist now? How are youth referred to these programs? Are they designed to educate, rehabilitate and address the needs of youth who have drug dependencies, disabilities, mental health or trauma issues? Are there enough housing facilities and programs available to youths with criminal records?
Tuesday, October 23, 5:30 p.m.

Youth with disabilities need education, not incarceration

Youth with disabilities comprise 30 to 80 percent of youth caught up in the juvenile justice system. How can we ensure youth are getting the services they need to succeed in school and beyond?
Thursday, November 8, 5:30 p.m.

Reentry and life after juvenile confinement: Existing services, or lack thereof, to ensure a successful transition and no recidivism

What services are available to youth when they are released? Is there adequate support for them to complete their education, receive expungement guidance, housing, counseling and other necessary services to ensure they are successful and don’t recidivate? Tuesday, December 4, 5:30 p.m.

RSVP: Nancy Michaels, nmichaels@roosevelt.edu
Cosponsored with Project NIA

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Juvenile Justice in Illinois Gets a Failing Grade

Prison WindowIllinois’ juvenile justice system is failing.  Failing to rehabilitate offenders. Failing to help them return to life in their communities. Failing to provide a clearly spelled out release procedure.  Failing to provide proper case management. The list goes on. These are not my assertions, they are taken from a state commission’s study slated for release next Tuesday.

The proof is in the rate of recidivism. How many youthful offenders return to incarceration for further offenses? More than half, according to the study by the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission. Additionally the report calls the Illinois juvenile justice system “ in many ways, the ‘feeder system’ to the adult criminal justice system and a cycle of crime, victimization and incarceration.”

Ryan Haggerty of The Chicago Tribune brings us the words of the commission’s chairman:

The commission was ordered by law to develop recommendations to help youth offenders successfully transition back into their communities. The commission’s members found a system that is in desperate need of an overhaul, said its chairman, Judge George W. Timberlake, retired chief judge of the 2nd Judicial Circuit.

‘We actually saw a system that doesn’t work so well, if we gauge the worth of the system in increasing public safety, doing so at the least possible cost and improving the outcomes of kids who otherwise might be part of future criminal activity,’ Timberlake said in a phone interview Monday.

John Kelly, a writer for YouthToday, breaks the report’s findings down into four key areas of criticism:

Release Procedures and the Lack Therof - The commission observed 230 Prisoner Review Board (PRB) hearings, the only way to be released in Illinois short of serving a full sentence. Their conclusions were that the  proceedings that were “rushed” and confusing to offenders. Timberlake said that the release process needs to be clearly defined and advised mandated review hearings every six months coupled with the addition of a legal advocate to each facility.

Reentry Practices – The DJJ still uses Department of Corrections standard for adult parole, something at highly at odds with good juvenile reentry practices.

Excessive Parole Revocation - 54% of juveniles who had their parole revoked  were returned to incarceration for a technicality.  The most frequent reasons being curfew violation, truancy or for home disturbances.

‘We are not suggesting future crimes should not lead to re-incarceration,’ Timberlake said, ‘but it was surprising to find that what could be considered normal teen behavior leads to a return to prison.’

Poor and Archaic Case Management - paper-only master files on juveniles are only the beginning. From several of the terms  Timberlake used, “coal-fired computer” and “mainframe that is not susceptible to much upgrade,” leave little doubt as to the currency of their approach. An approach I might add that they share with the Department of Corrections, so it is not only primitive but also geared towards adults not juveniles.

I highly advise Mr. Kelly’s article for further reading as he examines each of these in more detail and also provides some very informative and even handed commentary. [Illinois Probe Finds Rushed, Unmeasured Process for Juvenile Release, Reentry and Parole on YouthToday]

 Image Source: derekskey on Flickr. used under it’s Creative Commons license

What’s Up in Texas? Juvenile Incarceration in 2011

Texas FlagLast week I reported the findings of the Annie E. Casey Foundation in regards to juvenile justice.  The report overwhelmingly supports rehabilitation over simple incarceration, a stance we have long held here at Humane Exposures.

One of the examples referred to in the report was the state of Texas, a state whose juvenile justice system  has been on a rapid turnaround since the sex scandals it suffered in 2007. Allan Turner, a reporter for the Houston Chronicle takes note of this change as it has surfaced in Austin:

Among the more promising reforms, said Ana Yanez-Correra, director of the Austin-based Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, is a juvenile diversion program begun in March 2009 by the Harris County District Attorney’s office.

In that program, first-time, nonviolent offenders are placed in informal probation for up to 180 days. During that period, said Terrance Windham, chief of the district attorney’s juvenile division, they are required to attend school, report to a probation officer, stay drug free and, in some cases, participate in programs addressing special needs.

This is exactly what needs to be done in order to reintegrate these youths into society. The attention to education and special needs in particular are positive steps forward. Of couse, as is the case with any program like this, the big question is “how effective is it?” Turner rings us the numbers further down in his column:

Upon successful completion of the program, cases are closed without charges being filed.

As of Aug. 31, 4,246 of 5,347 offenders completed the program successfully. Only 9 percent of those who completed the program returned with new offenses, Windham said.

That’s a marked reduction- almost 80% completed the program followed by an extraordinarily low rate of recidivism. I love being able to report numbers like this!

This is truly a bipartisan win- fiscal conservatives should love the reduced spending while the social justice angle is one that should appeal to the political left. In the meantime the really important part is that the community overall benefits both from reduced crime and the destruction of fewer lives due to incarceration.

Peter Maloff, a writer for the Public News Service in Texas

‘Comprehensive, well-thought-out strategies in state juvenile-justice systems that will not only ensure that there’s fewer kids locked up but that will ensure that there’s less crime, and less money spent, and that kids have better odds of being successful in adulthood.’

Texas agencies responsible for youth incarceration and parole will be abolished Dec. 1 and replaced by a new Department of Juvenile Justice to direct nonviolent offenders to local rehabilitation services. [Ana] Correa [executive director of the nonprofit Texas Criminal Justice Coalition] praises its mission but says it will only succeed if it is backed by ongoing state support.

‘You can have a system – and you can have all of the wonderful intentions in the system – but without the funding, it’s going to be extremely difficult to pull off. That’s something that we still have to be very diligent about as advocates.’

And this is why advocacy is so extremely important. If funding does not materialize even the reduced costs of this approach will prove too expensive.

Image Source: rcbodden on Flickr, used under it’s Creative Commons license.