In a farewell message on OJJDP's website, Flores ticked off a list of achievements made during his 6 ½-year tenure in the office.
There are some few items on the list for which the Flores-run agency deserves credit. There is no doubt that OJJDP brought more faith-based organizations into the mix and, with federal and state budgets in disarray, they could be a major force in keeping alternatives to incarceration alive and well.
The Gang Reduction Program was rolled out in four cities - Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Richmond, Va., and North Miami Beach, Fla. - during Flores' first full year, 2003. Milwaukee dropped out, and North Miami Beach posted no significant changes in violent or gang crime levels that were attributable to the program. Richmond and Los Angeles both experienced decreases in gang presence and gang-related crime.
Ned Loughran, executive director of the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators, says Flores has done right by the Performance-based Standards (PbS) for Youth Correction and Detention Facilities, which were established in 1995 and won the Innovations in Government Award from Harvard's Ash Institute in 2004.
The original grant to set up demonstration sites implementing PbS was three years. It was renewed by Clinton OJJDP Administrator Shay Bilchik, and then Flores renewed it again.
Loughran, whose CJCA is the organization that trains and monitors PbS sites, firmly believes the standards should become mandatory for the more than 1,000 detention and correctional facilities in the country (only 183 are PbS certified now). But he says Flores "is completely accurate about the success."
That said, there are a number of areas Flores viewed as successes that did not jive with what JJ Today has heard in our travels. We asked a few people in the know to address them:
Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force Program
These task forces are set up regionally to monitor and bring down people who buy or download child porn.
"In FY 2007, OJJDP awarded more than $3 million to state and local law enforcement agencies to form 13 new ICAC task forces in their regions. With these grants, there are ICAC task forces in all 50 states and a total of 59 ICAC task forces nationwide. Also in FY 2008, ICAC investigations led to more than 3,047 arrests and 13,800 forensics examinations."
Grier Weeks, National Association to Protect Children, which has pushed for increased investment in ICACs:
"OJJDP added 13 new ICACs but used existing money, so they cannibalized the [already established] programs to do it. ICAC had a $15 million baseline, and they got temporary money, I think from Bureau of Justice Assistance, to expand. But the next year, they didn't get it again. So now they're trying to manage 59 ICACs with the same $15 million level, the ICACs have taken a big hit...and OJJDP refuses to even acknowledge the problems they've created.
"Bob Flores leaves behind a politicized and demoralized agency. Let's hope the good career staff hang in there and the tide changes."
Girls Study Group
"Very little research had been conducted on girls' delinquency since boys had previously accounted for the majority of arrests and, therefore, the majority of research efforts. The study group sought to identify both factors for delinquency and solutions to resolve it. Initial research findings determined the higher arrest rates were due primarily to changes in arrest policies that affected both boys and girls."
Dr. LaWanda Ravoira, director of the National Center for Girls and Young Women, who spent 14 years working with at-risk and court-involved girls as CEO of Florida's PACE Center for Girls:
"The National Council on Crime and Delinquency's Center for Girls and Young Women (NCGYW) reviewed the Girls Study Group report and identified serious concerns with the initial summary findings and with the methodology used to support their conclusions. On face value, it is our contention that the implications of the Girls Study Group report cast doubt over the importance of gender differences and perpetuate the current state of practitioners' dismal confusion over what programming should look like in practice."
Native American Juvenile Justice
"OJJDP has engaged in a range of efforts to strengthen juvenile justice systems and protect children in Indian country. In 2004, OJJDP convened a Tribal Leaders Listening Conference to foster collaboration between tribes and the federal government on a range of issues affecting tribal youth, including justice, education, prevention and intervention, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, and child abuse... OJJDP has also led efforts to protect children in Indian country through its support of the AMBER Alert program, which coordinates media broadcasts on radio, television, and highway signs when a law enforcement agency determines that a child has been abducted and is in imminent danger."
Chris Hartney, senior research associate for the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, who wrote Native American Youth in the Juvenile Justice System in March of 2008:
"A conference every few years and $10 or $20 million a year in funding is not nearly sufficient to improve circumstances for Native American youth involved or at risk for involvement in the justice system. With almost a million Native Americans under 18 years of age in the U.S., greater effort needs to be made, both on and off Indian lands, to strengthen communities, improve prevention efforts, and improve system equity for those arrested. Of particular concern is the continued disproportionate representation of Native American youth in the justice system - with the largest disparity at the harshest levels, that is, those in custody or transferred to adult court. Reducing Native American DMC requires concerted effort at both the federal and local level, but OJJDP, which should be in a particularly strong position to make a difference, has not placed sufficient emphasis on this important issue."
Disproportionate Minority Contact
"OJJDP continued to focus its efforts on reducing disproportionate minority contact (DMC) with the juvenile justice system. During the past six years, OJJDP has developed and funded many initiatives to reduce DMC, including annual national conferences, training and technical assistance sessions, research, and publications."
Earl Dunlap, CEO of the National Partnership for Juvenile Services:
"The real culprit [on the lack of DMC progress] is OJJDP and specifically Flores. He has provided absolutely NO LEADERSHIP on policy issues that could impact on DMC, conditions of confinement and the growing litigation. His tenure over the past seven years has returned OJJDP and national policy initiatives to the 70's and in some cases the Stone Age. To be quite candid, the juvenile justice profession looks more to the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative then they do to OJJDP for leadership."