Spriggs Withdraws from OJJDP Consideration (Updated June 16)

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Vicki Spriggs, executive director of the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission, has withdrawn from consideration for the top job at the Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, JJ Today has learned.

Spriggs had been considered by some to be the frontrunner for the nomination before she withdrew her name last week. A source said she will remain in Texas because the state, facing an $18 billion shortfall for 2011, is poised to make deep budget cuts across the board and Spriggs wants to protect funding for juvenile probation as much as possible.

Texas began reforming its juvenile justice system in 2007, downsizing the role of the state-run facilities and placing more of the responsibility (and funding) with the county systems. Spriggs commission oversees those county offices, and it would seem she fears a backslide coming for them if their budgets are slashed.

It’s unclear what this means for OJJDP in the big picture. If Justice had settled on Spriggs as the OJJDP director, it could be back to the drawing board for yet another round of candidates. If the choice had been reduced to two candidates – say, Spriggs and Ernestine Gray – perhaps this eliminates any decision-making for Justice and the nomination process speeds up. Either way, with the summer recess approaching, a 100-plus nominee backlist awaiting confirmation and a Senate hearing for Supreme Court Elena Kagan on the immediate agenda, it could be 2011 before anyone could be confirmed by the Senate as OJJDP administrator.  

Update: Looks like the excellent Texas justice website Grits for Breakfast scooped us on the Spriggs withdrawl by a couple days! Grits posted this e-mail, which Spriggs sent to TJPC staff, on Friday:

In recent weeks I have shared with audiences at various conferences I've addressed and with TJPC staff that I was approached by the White House Office of Personnel to determine my level of interest in appointment to the position of Director of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). I was honored to be considered for this appointment and to have the opportunity to serve the nation - so my name was vetted as a nominee.

I have recently withdrawn my name from consideration due to circumstances (budget issues and Sunset review) and timing (the approaching legislative session).

Since the creation of TJPC in 1981 we (TJPC and the field) have worked to professionalize juvenile probation. Our focus expanded in 1995 when the Texas Legislature overhauled the juvenile justice system, funded the increase in local and regionally operated secure post-adjudication beds, and invested other funding for juvenile probation services.

We/the field, focused on assuring an appropriate level of system response to juvenile offenders and developing and expanding community based services. Juvenile probation has achieved all of the goals established by the state's leadership between 1995 - 2007 and, in many cases, exceeded expectations.

2007 bought unexpected information forward; abuses were occurring in the state's institutions. As a result of this information the state's leadership began to rely on juvenile probation departments to divert even more youth from commitment to the state's institutions. Funding was increased and again juvenile probation departments exceeded expectations.

All of the success of the past will be part of the record considered as we enter the next legislative session; the looming budget shortfall, state agency budget reductions, the number of youth successfully diverted from commitment and the completion of the TJPC and TYC Sunset review are just a few of the issues that will be addressed.

I look forward to being HERE to address those challenges. My roots are Texas roots and my interests are Texas children and families and Texas juvenile justice.

Working together we can continue to keep justice and children first and foremost in our thoughts and planning and find a way to create wins during the next legislative session.

To say it succinctly, I am here for a long time to come.

Vicki