New Contender for OJJDP Job?


Another contender for the top spot at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has emerged of late: Child Welfare League of America's Director of Juvenile Justice-Child Welfare, John Tuell.

Tuell was in juvenile probation for the State of Virginia, then worked for former OJJDP Administrator Shay Bilchik, and in 2003 rejoined Bilchik at CWLA. At OJJDP, he was in charge of state relations, assisting states and monitoring their progress on the four core requirements of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA).

That division also handled the Juvenile Accountability Block Grants and OJJDP's comprehensive strategy on serious, violent and chronic juvenile offenders, which was launched in 1995.

"He has a nice background," says one former colleague at OJJDP. "A lot of things that would serve that office well."

Another disagrees. "He does not have my vote," the former staffer said.

Experience with state relations and core requirements are certainly relevant, as reauthorization of the JJDPA heats up and advocates push for better enforcement of the requirements. OJJDP also has an entire child protection division, so Tuell's knowledge on the interplay between child welfare and JJ systems could be a boon there.

From what JJ Today hears, the favorite for the job is still probably the director of D.C.'s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, Vinny Schiraldi. His resume includes advocacy work and experience as an administrator. He has the support of a lot of advocates and some formidable former OJJDP staff, and it's not a secret that he wants the job.

But as the field touts Schiraldi's success in moving a historically atrocious system in the right direction, the public in Washington, D.C. has continuously been presented with a different take on his track record on the opinion page of The Washington Post. Columnist Colby King has slammed DYRS for more than year in his weekly, Saturday space. on issues ranging from fudged stats to youths killing and being killed while in DYRS custody (check King's archive page online for all of his columns).

Some of King's columns have been on point, others reflect only his point of view or are based heavily on anecdote. All have been provocative, and the feeling now among many Schiraldi supporters is that he would face tough questions about King's criticisms at any confirmation hearing.

It doesn't help Schiraldi that he was recently taken to task by D.C. Councilman Jim Graham for the case of Lafonte Carlton. Carlton, who was in DYRS custody for 2½ years after killing a man at the age of 15, killed two more people within weeks of being released from a residential treatment facility by DYRS officials. DYRS has basically passed on responding to King's criticisms; Schiraldi has said that the Carlton case was botched by DYRS.

Schiraldi's ascendancy to the administrator's office, says one JJ insider, will happen only if judiciary committee members such as Sens. Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) can be persuaded that King is not telling the whole story. 

If they can't be persuaded, says one Schiraldi supporter, OJJDP will still need a leader who "can stand up and present issues and information" to state leadership. "John [Tuell] has that knowledge."

"Is he as good as Vinny?" the supporter asked. "Probably not. If someone asked me for five other candidates, John would be in that five."

Meanwhile, our colleague at Justice Update, Marion Mattingly, included a long list of OJJDP candidates in the February/March issue. Hers is a list of people who could run OJJDP, not all of whom are necessarily pining for the job.

Aside from the three JJ Today identified in an earlier piece, Mattingly includes:

*Michael Corriero, former judge and current head of Big Brothers Big Sisters New York;

*Tim Decker, director of the Missouri Department of Youth Service (home to the famous "Missouri model";

*Dick Gardell, CEO of St. Paul, Minn.-based 180 Degrees;

*Ned Loughran, director of the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators;

*Two Juvenile Law Center execs: Director Bob Schwartz and Legal Director Marsha Levick;

* Michael Nash, presiding judge of the juvenile court for the Los Angeles Superior Court

*Patti Puritz, director of the National Juvenile Defender Center;

*Jane Tewksbury, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services;

*Laurence Wojcik, a partner at DLA Piper, a law firm that has done pro bono work on juvenile justice projects in Chicago.