Weekly Notes: Money from NIJ; Cuts to State Courts; FACJJ Recommendations; and More


***A quick update on the suicide report, which author Lindsay Hayes told us was essentially buried by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention for years. OJJDP says it will have some explanation on what happened with the report to us soon. For what it's worth, we don't think they're stalling, just having difficulty tracking the report's whereabouts from 2004 to now. One thing we have been told: former Administrator Bob Flores signed off on publication of the bulletin, even though it's Acting Administrator Jeff Slowikowski's name on the final product.

***Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), who plans to reintroduce his Youth PROMISE Act next week, held a hearing titled "Youth Violence: Trends, Myths and Solutions." Topics discussed included the research about youth violence trends, ways to measure a particular youth's likelihood of joining a gang and what initiatives have succeeded in thwarting youth violence. Among the witnesses were Barry Krisberg, head of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, and Robert Woodson, who described his Center for Neighborhood Enterprise's work with Milwaukee youth.

Perhaps the most interesting subplot is that the hearing used James Alan Fox's recent report, which focused on homicide arrest and victimization rates of young black males, as a basis from which to argue for the PROMISE Act. Fox, of course, is the guy who ticked off many a JJ advocate (including, no doubt, some on this hearing panel) by forecasting "blood bath of teenage violence" back in the 1990s.

Hilariously, Fox told JJ Today he didn't even know about the hearing.

***The National Institute of Justice sent out its Crime and Justice Research solicitation this week. About $10 million will be given out, and NIJ has listed five priority subject areas. Three are JJ -related: human trafficking, preventing gang crime, and identifying specific components of successful re-entry programs. Proposals are due April 9.

***The National Center for State Courts does some great work rounding up and identifying national court news and trends. Katia Miller, a research assistant for NCSC's Knowledge and Information Services department, sent us over this chart that shows what states are making cuts to court operations. We didn't see too many direct cuts to juvenile justice and family courts, but the overarching themes are going to affect everything: urging voluntary furloughs for staff, early retirement, and not filling open positions.

Not to self-promote too much, but if courts and systems are going to have to do more with the same or less, it's time for them to get technologically efficient, which is exactly what a number of Indiana counties have done with Quest case management. 

*** The Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice has released its annual report. The report's main focus was to examine compliance with the four core requirements of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, with extra sections on the effectiveness of counsel to juveniles and the presence of mental health and substance abuse issues in juvenile justice. Among the most provocative recommendations:

*OJJDP should start tracking data on juveniles tried as adults, then do research on them.

*Include Disproportionate Minority Contact as a purpose area within the Bureau of Justice Assistance's Byrne Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program.

*Add another core requirement to the JJDP Act: appointment of counsel with specialized training to all juvenile proceedings.

*Congress should pass a law mandating substance and/or mental health services for all juveniles who need it.

Hard to imagine the latter two happening; they would mean a lot of costs for states, which you might have heard are all broke (except Wyoming). But a proactive approach to research by OJJDP could definitely start with adult transfers. The agency put out a bulletin this year that hints on how bad transfers are for youth and the public; formal data and research could lead to the kind of strong statement that no get-tough prosecutor or lawmaker could ignore.

Adding DMC as a program area in JAG is feasible, too. Plenty of people think a lot of current JAG-funded projects are mediocre, anyway. It would concentrate dollars on the first point of DMC: the interaction on the street between law enforcement and minority youth.

***The Child Welfare League of America produced a live radio show on bridging the juvenile and child welfare systems, which discussed, among other things, Arizona's efforts to make both systems share records and management of its clients.

***Massachusetts high court this week struck down a law allowing the state to hold some juvenile offenders until age 21. The law permitted the state to hold a juvenile for up to three years after his 18th birthday if an official deemed the juvenile "physically dangerous to the public." Hard to believe a law that discriminatory even existed; is a big 18-year-old any more dangerous than a scrawny 15-year-old that gets released and arms himself with a gun? But Massachusetts just put into law what many suspect happens at the front end of the system anyway: bigger kids are more likely to be detained, more likely to be transferred to adult court.

***It's official: Luzerne County judges who sent juveniles to detention centers in exchange for kickbacks have pleaded guilty. Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, both of whom have resigned, will serve 87 months each in prison for accepting a total of $2.6 million from developer Robert Mericle. A courtroom was full of residents who came to watch the judges plea out. As the judges left the courthouse, they were serenaded with yells of "Rot in Hell!" and What do you have to say now to the kids you sent away, you pig!" according to coverage in the Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader.

The Supreme Court has appointed Berks County Senior Judge Arthur Grim to review the cases of the hundreds of juveniles who came before Ciavarella since 2003.

***Second Chance Day co-coordinator Sarah Walker reports that the event, held to draw attention to the increased need for better policies regarding offenders headed back to communities from prisons and juvenile facilities. There is no money to be had in Minnesota right now; its budget shortfalls are among the worst in the country. But Walker believes the organizing group gained traction with lawmakers on policy changes it was asking for. The event was covered by local media in articles here, here, and here.

***Some Oakland businesses want a curfew for the city's youth, and councilman Larry Reid is attempting to accommodate with a 10 p.m.-to-5 a.m. curfew; he would provide about $75,000 for the police to conduct curfew sweeps. Looks like the Oakland community isn't having any of it, though.