We received several letters about a package on juvenile justice reform that appeared in our print edition ("A Tale of Two Reforms," November). The stories reported on the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI), and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's Models for Change initiative. There was also a sidebar on disproportionate minority contact (DMC), which the foundations require their partners to address.
Because we could not fit all of the responses in our December issue, we are running them here, through the links below.
First, a few thoughts on the sidebar - which, not surprisingly, ruffled a lot of feathers.
Where segregated bathrooms and fountains were symbolic of overt racism decades ago, the deep end of the justice system might well be the modern face of racial injustice. Thus, organizations that focus on this work - such as the W. Haywood Burns Institute and the Center for Children's Law and Poverty - command the utmost respect. It is not easy to develop accurate data on a controversial subject when nobody has done so before, nor to confront people in a juvenile justice system who, whether they know it or not, are making decisions that lead to racial disparity.
The leaders of those two organizations, James Bell and Mark Soler, are admirable men driven by their missions.
Nevertheless, some people involved with JDAI and Models for Change believe that the DMC work led by the Casey and MacArthur foundations has not yet been successful; some wonder whether it ever will be. That is worthy of being reported.
One of the letters we received seems to dismiss the views of some people quoted in the story as "angry quotes from the disgruntled." We should point out that two sources in that sidebar are involved in coordinating DMC work at their respective sites.
Youth Today will cover the issue of disproportionate minority contact again, with a more thorough examination of what has and has not happened in the past 20 years. We welcome your thoughts and recommendations about that coverage.
Here are links to the full letters of readers who responded to the package.