The second and final full day of sessions at the JDAI conference just wrapped up (the first day is just an evening dinner reception), and Indy was a wonderful host city (its collection of monuments rivals even JJ Today's hometown of Washington). We'll stay behind to work on some Indy-related stories, but here are some thoughts on the final day:
The big news at breakfast. Casey Program for High-Risk Youth Director Bart Lubow rousted the bleary-eyed audience at breakfast with these tidbits.
First: New Jersey is officially the first "model state" in the JDAI framework. We'll cover this more in an upcoming story in Youth Today, but it's a key development as JDAI moves toward state-only initiatives. New Jersey, led by Casey consultant Paul DeMuro and Lisa Macaluso, director of local programs for the New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission, has achieved drastic cuts in detention commitments at all of its first five JDAI sites, and expects to have the JDAI framework working in all counties by 2010.
Second: Casey is officially getting in the business of reforming youth correctional facilities, which explains why the guys that developed and operate the Missouri Model were front and center throughout the conference. Lubow announced the selected sites will be supported in efforts to change the way states operate the secure facilities that serve as the "defining face of the juvenile justice system," and that demonstration sites may also be developed. The goal: "to test the hypothesis that we can eliminate the model of the large training school," a strategy that D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services Director Vinny Schiraldi later described as "using leeches to cure the flu."
David Utter is working with Florida, for now. The former executive director of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana left the organization in Dana Kaplan's hands a couple years after Katrina to work on the Jena Six case (all six are living outside of Jena and thriving, he says). So it was curious to see him wearing a conference nametag that described him as hailing from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
Utter is there on behalf of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Right now, he is in early discussions with Florida's new JJ director, Frank Peterman, a Democrat that was brought in by Gov. Charlie Crist (R). Utter sees a reformer in Peterman, and is hoping to work with him on any of myriad changes that Florida needs to make to its system. But it is the Southern Poverty Law Center.... Utter will seek those changes even if the Crist administration isn't interested.
DMC turned 20 this year. Obviously, racism in the juvenile justice system did not begin 20 years ago. But the requirement by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention that states address disproportionate minority contact did; the requirement was added to the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act's core requirements in 1988.
Despite a stated focus on DMC by OJJDP, Casey, the MacArthur Foundation and two national nonprofits (the W. Haywood Burns Institute and the Center for Children's Law and Policy), virtually no jurisdictions in the United State can show tangible evidence of success in changing the numbers of the color of youths arrested, detained and confined in America.
"I'm very proud that some of you are amongst the only sites [in the country] that have actually made a difference on this issue," Lubow said of JDAI's experience with DMC work. "On the other hand, it's been a disappointing experience."
There are some within the JDAI family who quietly wonder whether DMC work will ever be successful. Ultimately, one DMC coordinator told JJ Today, you're trying to fix racism...and that's unrealistic for a coordinator who more often than not is also a state, county or law enforcement employee.
That's all from the conference. Special thanks to the crew from Bernalillo County, who allowed JJ Today to pepper them with questions while they ate on two nights. We covered their innovative approach to tackling mental health challenges in May, it was nice to put faces to those phone calls.