Juvenile Peep Show

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Welcome to the voice mail system of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Perversion Prevention. Press x1 for grantmaking guidelines for programs aimed at prosecuting child pornographers. Press x2 for grants to fight illegal speech on the Internet. Press x3 to apply for faith-based grants aiding teen prostitutes to leave "the life." Press x4 for programs for children missing clothes and for other exploited children. Press x5 for grant support to ministries reaching out to porn addicts and former porn-industry workers. Press x6 for a free Eddie the Eagle trigger lock paid for with $37 million intended for delinquency prevention programs. Your call may be monitored for quality control purposes and for possible criminal referral to your local U.S. Attorney in order to provide work for the 94 additional assistant U.S. attorneys soon to be hired.

Could these be the new policy priorities for the U.S. Justice Department's political bellwether agency, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP)? Slated by President George Bush to head the $570 million shop within the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) is J. Robert Flores. He's the vice president and senior counsel at the National Law Center for Children and Families (NLCCF) in Fairfax, Va. The nonprofit was founded in 1991 by Rob Showers, who headed the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography under then-Attorney General Ed Meese. The NLCCF's mission "is founded on the protection of children and families from the harmful effects of illegal pornography by assisting in law enforcement and law improvement." Flores joined the NLCCF in 1997 from the Justice Department, where he spent nearly eight years at the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section within the Criminal Division. Says one Clinton-era political appointee who worked with Flores, "He's very, very interested in child pornography."

Interested may be an understatement. "Obsessed" better captures Flores' entire legal career, which has been spent fighting (apparently, by his own testimony, unsuccessfully) "the explosive and uncontrolled growth of obscenity" as a prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney's office, at the Justice Department and at NLCCF. 

In an interview after the president announced his intention to nominate him, Flores said, "I'm honored" to be tapped for the post and, following the accepted practice for nominees awaiting Senate confirmation, declined to discuss juvenile justice issues or policy change at OJJDP. If confirmed by the Senate, Flores, a Puerto Rican raised in New Jersey, will be OJJDP's eighth presidentially appointed administrator since 1975 and the first non-white male in the position. Flores did volunteer that "there is a lot of child prostitution happening in our cities." In sex crimes involving youth, says Flores, the child "has to be treated as a victim."

Asked to name effective youth service programs with which he's familiar, Flores could cite only two: Westbrook, Conn.-based Paul and Lisa, directed by Susan Breault, which claims it has helped 4,500 adolescents and youth from the streets of Connecticut and New York City; and Children of the Night. Based in Van Nuys, Calif., Children of the Night reports that "since 1979, we have rescued over 10,000 boys and girls from prostitution" in Los Angeles, other California cities and elsewhere through its Western Region Street Program.