Weekly Notes-Jan. 9


It's been a slow week for JJ Today; we're busy at work on a must-read story you will find in an upcoming issue of Youth Today.

***The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) released its first two reports of the new year. Not surprisingly, both titles include a year that has long since passed: Juvenile Residential Facility Census, 2004, and Juvenile Court Statistics 2005.

The Juvenile Residential Facility Census which analyzes raw numbers from facilities for every other year, is actually a great read. You come away with a crisp understanding of important trend lines: public vs. private facilities, secure vs. non-secure placements and how many youth are getting first-day examinations for things like eye problems or dental needs, which can really make an impact on behavior and health.

But how much value do the numbers from the 2004 have for right now? The National Center for Juvenile Justice (which does the data collection and analysis for OJJDP on both of these publications) already has made available on OJJDP's own website raw data for 2006 from the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement. So anybody with initiative and a couple hours could find far more current information.

Even worse, OJJDP has had the 2004 report on its desk since early fall of 2007. Did it take almost two years to proofread? It's 16 pages! But then, Juvenile Court Statistics 2005 has July 2008 written in bold on page 2.

The most interesting trend from JRFC is the continued decline in the number of youth who are placed in a facility that is already at or over capacity when they arrive. Almost 40 percent of youth went to overcrowded facilities in 2000, and that was down to 32 percent by 2004.

But one wonders whether that is because of generally lower juvenile arrest rates, or actual systemic improvements. The majority of youth are still housed in large facilities, and those are still the most likely to be overcrowded. So if arrests were to go up, you could see the improving numbers quickly go into reverse.

The court statistics report is huge and just landed in our inbox; we'll report more next week if anything interesting jumps out.

*** MetLife Foundation and Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC) are teaming up for the eighth year on the Community-Police Partnership Awards. Awards will be made in two areas: neighborhood revitalization (strategies that lowered crime and spurred revitalization) and special strategy (just crime reduction will suffice for that one).

There will be six winners for neighborhood revitalization, two $25,000 winners and four $15,000 runner-ups. Five special strategy winners will get $15,000 each. Groups can apply separately for both awards.

Deadline is Feb. 27.

***Anyone interested in using youth development strategies might want to consider this Washington, D.C., conference hosted by The Performance Institute coming up in late March. Most of the sessions are applicable, and day two features a session exclusively for juvenile justice programs. Definitely the type of stuff that could get funded if youth violence prevention money makes it into a federal budget anytime soon.

Act now: The fee to attend the conference is $700 until Jan. 12, then it goes up to $800. 

***Former OJJDP Administrator Shay Bilchik, who now runs the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown, appeared yesterday on the JJ Matters radio show hosted by the Campaign for Youth Justice. He made some interesting comments:

1) Judges should make the jurisdictional calls when it comes to trying juveniles as adults. Powerful coming from a former prosecutor.

2) He wouldn't name a particular person he endorses for OJJDP Administrator, but here is what he thought the person should be like: not afraid to meet and work with people who do not agree with him or her, committed to bringing the agency's focus back to the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act requirements, and with experience running a fairly large JJ agency at some point. In other words, Vinny Schiraldi? Bilchik mentioned a few other good candidates to JJ Today though, and likely will have the chance to give a list to someone in President-elect Obama's leadership circle.

3) Wants to see OJJDP help expand the boundaries of Annie E. Casey's Juvenile Detention Alternatives (JDAI) and the MacArthur Foundation's Models for Change. JDAI architect Bart Lubow told us once that he was close to an arrangement with OJJDP when Bilchik was administrator, but it fell by the wayside when Flores was confirmed. JDAI could use it right now: one of its most ardent backers, the JEHT Foundation, is out of business courtesy of financial investor Bernie Madoff.

4) Thinks the agency has failed to explore fully opportunities to collaborate with other agencies, most notably the Substance and Mental Health Services Administration and the Administration for Children and Families. The groundwork is definitely there with SAMHSA, because there is communication and shared funding of intervention projects for juvenile drug offenders.

Whoever takes over OJJDP would be wise to keep Bilchik in their inner circle. He has no qualms about admitting mistakes he made as a Florida prosecutor, and you would expect that he will speak intelligently on success and failure during his OJJDP tenure.

***This isn't Star Search or anything, but Youth Today can definitely brag about seeing Tim Smith's potential early on. Smith, who is the superintendent of the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center in Staunton, Va., spoke to us in 2004 for a story about how the design and planning of a facility can dictate success.

Smith was not a JJ guy by trade, he was brought in from the private sector, where he had spent 24 years in the department store business. We were impressed with his ability to find every federal and state resource he could snag, and use them wisely in planning his new facility, which opened in 2003.

It looks like Smith did all right with the actual programming side of things, too. Largely because of his expansion of services to include community placement and re-entry projects, Smith was given the 2008 Meritorious Award in the Area of Residential Services by the Virginia Juvenile Justice Association.