Weekly Notes: Robinson Confirmation Hearing Next Week; Good Reads; Veteran to Lead Vegas JJ; and more


***The void of permanent leadership for federal juvenile justice may soon be filled. Laurie Robinson, Obama's nominee to head up the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week for her confirmation hearing.

Assuming Robinson is confirmed (there is no reason to think that won't happen), the conventional wisdom in Washington is that a nomination for administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention OJJDP will come quickly.

JJ Today has heard more than one person speculate on whether Robinson might recommend to her superiors that the OJJDP job, and possibly other positions which would report to her, be moved out of the Senate-confirmable realm. Our two cents: unlikely, given the sharp eye conservatives are keeping on what they believe to be an overuse of "czars" by Obama.

The OJJDP nominee, whoever it is, cannot be made known soon enough. The lack of leadership on juvenile justice issues, including youth violence, could not have been more obvious than it was last week. Chicago teenager Derrion Albert was brutally beaten to death in the midst of a neighborhood conflict caught on a cell phone camera, while President Obama prepared to pitch his former home as the site of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

For a long time, the lone response of the administration was a comment by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs: "I can tell you obviously that the reports of and the video that we have seen on television is among the most shocking that you can ever see. The killing of an honor student by others, who was beaten to death is chilling, chilling video."

Now, it appears Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan will head to Chicago to meet with people from Albert's community.

By the way: If you have a perspective to share about the Albert killing (especially its relation to youth crime, youth work, juvenile justice and/or youth gangs), JJ Today will be collecting some over the next week and publishing at least some submissions (if not all) in the near future. Send any thoughts you have to jkelly@youthtoday.org

***Global Youth Justice, which promotes and supports peer-led justice programs around the world, launched its website this week. About 1,250 local communities in the United States operate such programs, which generally include a jury of youths determining the consequences for other youth offenders.

Pay particular attention to the "Funding and Grant Info" section once it is filled with content. Global Youth Justice is run by Scott Peterson, a former OJJDP program manager and current head of justice programs for YouthBuild USA. There are few people who know more about securing money for JJ programs than Peterson.

The site will also feature news and information on trainings related to youth courts.

An unrelated youth court organization, the Baltimore-based National Association of Youth Courts, funded by OJJDP, is holding a strategic training conference at Disney World in November.

***A couple of good reads worth mentioning:

-Dispatches from Juvenile Hall, by John Aarons, Lisa Smith and Linda Wagner. The three authors let 10 youths tell their stories, then follow with a brief discussion about what does and does not work in juvenile justice. If there is a lesson from the narratives, it is this: Moving a youth from a destructive path to righteous one is almost never a one-time correction of course. For these youths, it took time and a number of positive influences to get them headed the right way.

-Runaway and Homeless Youth and the Law: Model State Statutes, by the National Network for Youth and the American Bar Association Commission on Homelessness and Poverty. This is a great approach to proposing policy change. The publication tackles 14 issues that are central to efforts to help the runaway/homeless population: education, status offense rules, family law, health, sexual orientation, immigration, access to custodial systems, discharge from custody, housing, identification, public benefits, legal services, employment, and funding for providers to help runaways and the homeless.

For each of those issues, a basic briefing is provided on what anyone would need to know about why the issue is important. That is followed, for each issue, with model legislation a state could adopt to (in the opinion of the authors) more effectively assist this vulnerable population.

Will any state just wholesale adopt the network's legislative language, which would undoubtedly require increased spending in the midst of state budget shortfalls? Of course not. But casing the network's positions in legislative language starts the conversation at a place beyond theoretical policy chat.

***Congratulations to Fritz Reese, who is officially the director of the juvenile justice system in Clark County (Las Vegas). Reese has been a county employee for 35 years, and stepped into the director position with an interim tag last September when Cherie Townsend left to run the massive Texas juvenile justice system.

***Last year around this time, JJ Today reported on the practice of using report cards to update the public on the performance of juvenile justice systems. If any readers are looking for good report cards that a system might use for inspiration, add Ada County's (Idaho) to the list to  consider. Thanks to Ada County Research Analyst Deborah Fulkerson for the heads up.