Weekly Notes: Funding announcements from Justice; Arizona’s plan to shut down state JJ; Dwayne Betts, Image Award winner; and more

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Funding

A couple of juvenile-relevant announcements from the Justice Department:

Research on Sentencing and Community-Based Alternatives to Incarceration: Grants from the National Institute of Justice to conduct research on the success of cost-effect alternatives to locking offenders up. Justice anticipates making two or more awards totaling $1 million, and there will not be a match requirement for the money. Most public and nonprofit entities are eligible; deadline to apply is June 1.

Strategic Enhancement to Mentoring: Grants for public or private agencies to help infuse existing mentoring programs with parent involvement, structured activities or training and support for mentors. Several awards will be granted for between $200,000 and $500,000; deadline is April 14.

Research on Technology-Facilitated Crimes Against Children: Several awards for a total of $2 million for research that helps develop effective responses to the victimization of youth online and over other forms of technology. Deadline is May 3.

News

***The Burns Institute released last week what is perhaps the best and most coherent resource on racial disparities in state and local juvenile justice systems. The interactive state data map allows the public to view racial and ethnic breakdowns of youth at various points in the decision making process.

There are two avenues by which you can view state data. The first option is “One Day Counts,” which is simply data on detained and committed youth from the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement. Helpful, but really just an overview on youths who are housed in locked facilities.

The real value of the map, though, comes through searching a state’s annual data by decision-making point. This option allows you to search by race for any point from arrest to disposition or transfer to adult court. You can search the data by total number or by rate, and you can limit your search to a certain charge or county, if the data are available. Some states are way, way better than others on race stats in JJ, and this map does a great job outing them.

Rates are also searchable relative to the prior decision. This means you can find, for example, the rate at which Latino youth in California are detained after a referral to court compared with the rate at which white youth in the state are detained after a referral.

One big downside: the “rate prior to previous step” measures do not control for offense. So using the previous example, you might find that Latino youth referred to court are detained at twice the rate white youths are. But you cannot use the map to compare those rates only for youths charged with selling drugs, or armed robbery.

Burns Institute Law and Policy Analyst Laura John Ridolfi indicated in a conference call this week that the institute would continue to improve and supplement the map.

***Awhile back we mentioned that Barry Krisberg had joined the University of California-Berkeley’s Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice as a senior fellow, and that he would teach juvenile justice at Cal’s Boalt Hall School of Law.

Joining him on both fronts (as fellow and lecturer) is former BCCJ Director David Onek, who handed off control of the center to Andrea Russi in February. Onek is also hosting a cool series of podcasts on criminal justice, a shared project of BCCJ and the university’s journalism school.

***Congratulations to Dwayne Betts, a young author and poet who for eight years was incarcerated in Virginia’s adult prison system for carjacking. Betts won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for a Debut Author, in recognition of his memoir A Question of Freedom.

Headlines

***Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s (R) proposal to close the state’s Department of Juvenile Corrections (DJC) – which we covered here as part of a larger trend – is still alive in the budget plans of the state Republican leadership, despite the fact that the Arizona Conference of Police and Sheriffs and the Arizona Council of Human Service Providers are opposed to the idea.

Here’s how the plan as currently constituted would work. The three DJC secure facilities for juveniles (average population: 500) would remain open, but the costs of running them  would transfer to counties and cities. That would shift $63 million in juvenile justice costs away from the state: about $20 million to cities, and $43 million to counties.

Shifting some cost burden to counties and cities is not necessarily a bad thing. It can force them to make more prudent decisions about who really needs to go into secure confinement.

But shifting the entire cost over to local governments, in a short period of time, could create the sort of chaotic circumstance that begets bad choices. Like, say, placing all of the confined juveniles in one sheriff’s facility even though said facility has had its share of problems recently.

“Long term there are things that we can do in terms of moving kids from secure to community programming,” said Beth Rosenberg, director of Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice for the Phoenix-based Children’s Action Alliance. “But we want to do it in a reasonably planned way.”

There appears to have been some expectation on the governor’s part that counties could put up some of the juveniles they sent to DJC in detention centers, Rosenberg said. “But they don’t have the treatment capacity, or bed capacity,” to handle youth committed to secure confinement.

***One Republican leader in Maryland wants Juvenile Services Secretary Don DeVore to resign after a teacher in a juvenile shelter was assaulted and killed (a 13-year-old boy from the facility is a suspect in the death, but he has not been charged). Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) issued a statement giving DeVore a vote of confidence.

One Maryland youth policy watchdog, Advocates for Children and Youth (ACY), indicated support for DeVore even though it questioned his decision last year to contract with a private company to run a new secure confinement facility.

“We see some areas where the department is moving in the right direction,” said ACY Juvenile Justice Director Angela Conyers Johnese. She specifically mentioned the state’s expansion of evidence-based practices available in Prince George’s County, and a grant secured from the Department of Labor to do more in the area of after-care.

  • Scott B. Peterson

    Great Interactive map – Outstanding job to the Burns Institute !!

    I will be adding this link to my bookmarks – check it out everyone.