Weekly Notes: YouthBuild Evaluated; Maryland Re-Opens Bowling Brook; California LWOP law moves through Senate


***YouthBuild got back an evaluation of its youth offender grants late last month from Social Policy Research Associates (252 pages!). The main findings on outcomes showed that a third of active participants got a GED while enrolled in YouthBuild, and two-thirds were placed in unsubsidized employment after program completion. Picking through it all as best we could, the following jumped out:

- "Participants of grantees that offer both rehabilitation of existing housing and new construction were less likely to recidivate than those in sites without this feature." There was no guess as to why that is, but it should be of interest to YouthBuilds-to-be. Another section included comments from youths about how boring some of the rehab and renovation work is, so it's clear that sort of thing should only complement construction training, not replace it.

- A lot of YouthBuild staff are operating with very little margin for irregularity. When the 2007 appropriation did not include enough to fund a lot of existing programs for a year, lots of sites reported high staff turnover.

- The relative strength of a program's partnerships with education or juvenile justice agencies didn't have an impact on outcomes for youth enrolled in the program. That was not surprising to the creator of the YouthBuild model, Dorothy Stoneman, who now leads YouthBuild USA.

"It's never been critical to quality as far as we've observed," she told JJ Today. "We have always known the pressure to make partnerships is somewhat exaggerated. The more you have control clear and under you own jurisdiction, the more effective [the program is] likely to be."

- Seventy percent of YouthBuild offender grantees (23 of them) were AmeriCorps grantees as well. As AmeriCorps gets bigger, and state budgets for JJ get smaller or are static, one would think an influx of corps volunteers could help keep community-based JJ programs viable. Could YouthBuild sites lead by example on that?

***Two years after the Maryland juvenile facility was shut down following a restraint-related death (See "Restraints That Kill" in the May issue of Youth Today), Bowling Brook Preparatory Academy will re-open under control of a Nevada-based organization. The Maryland Board of Public Works approved a $10 million contract between the Department of Juvenile Justice and Rite of Passage.

Short of hearing about them last year in connection with the Bowling Brook re-opening, JJ Today hasn't heard much about Rite of Passage. Some local advocates are concerned that the group lacks experience handling very troubled youth.

For what it's worth, one of Youth Today's readers gave them a positive mention in a comment he made on Youthtoday.org: "One of the best juvenile facilities I've ever seen is the private, Ridgeview Academy operated by Rite of Passage in Colorado."

DJJ has plans to build new facilities along the lines of the award-winning system Missouri uses, but it simply needs more beds immediately with only one other secure facility in operation.

***A bill that would end life without parole for California juveniles tried as adults has passed the Senate; up next is the California Assembly. There are 250 youths in the state doing life without parole who would receive a parole hearing if this passes. It would also be a fairly large statement for California to make before the Supreme Court takes up some LWOP cases in its next session.

Meanwhile, as reported in JJ Today last month, calls have been made to end the state-run aspect of California's juvenile justice system.

***Abt Associates has produced a progress report on the Shared Youth Vision Partnership, which provides no money but helps states figure out how to maximize resources going toward youth populations. For example, participating agencies in Ohio figured out they could pool unspent TANF funds with Workforce Investment Act dollars into a statewide workforce initiative to work with youths from the general population. That freed up some of the Workforce Investment Act money to focus on young offenders. The TANF money could not be spent on youths with criminal records, but it could cover the other youths while more WIA money was directed at them.

The progress report includes examples such as Ohio, plus findings on how best to set up a Shared Youth Vision Partnership.