OJJDP Leaders Talk Money, Politics and Advocacy

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The administrators meet for the first time, minutes before the forum. Standing (left to right): Robert Sweet, Shay Bilchik and Verne Speirs; sitting (left to right): John Rector, Alfred Regnery and Ira Schwartz.

Photo: Photos by Aisha Russell

They talked about earmarks. (They’re all against them.) They talked about interagency politics. (It caused some more trouble than others.) They talked about advocacy. (They urged their successors to embrace it.)

When six of the seven living former administrators of the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) gathered for the first time on Nov. 10, they spoke frankly and at times humorously about everything from how they got the job and how they awarded grants to how they worked with and sometimes against elements of the juvenile justice field, Congress and the Department of Justice.

[See related article, OJJDP@35: Recollections; watch videos from the event at Youth Today Exchange]

The OJJDP@35 forum in Washington, hosted by Youth Today with funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, drew an audience of 130 advocates, foundation leaders, OJJDP staffers, researchers and executives of national programs that serve juvenile offenders.

“It was a bridge between generations,” said Liz Ryan, CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice.

Not in attendance were the two administrators at the bookends of OJJDP history. The first presidentially appointed administrator, Milton Luger, who oversaw the office for President Gerald Ford, died in 2001. J. Robert Flores, administrator for almost all of President George W. Bush’s tenure, declined to attend.

The administrators themselves had barely interacted with one another in the past; some had never met. They had a lot to say.