Weekly Notes: Federal JJ Issues Languishing; Funds for Mentoring Available; and more

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Hope everyone’s summer is going swimmingly, pun intended! Notes has been on hiatus while Youth Today wraps up the final print edition of the summer. The July/August issue will include an in-depth look at a theory on litigating race that has been put in motion, and a breakdown of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act compliance patterns since 2000.

FUNDING

***The Justice Department was really cranking out solicitations in April and May, and it appears most of its 2010 funding announcements have been made. But here is one of note from the Family and Youth Services Bureau, a division of the Administration on Children’ and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services:

Mentoring Children of Prisoners Program: To support programs that provide one-on-one mentoring relationships for youth between the ages of 4 and 18, who have a parent who is currently incarcerated, by matching them with trained adult volunteers. FYSB expects to make about 80 awards, each between $200,000 and $1 million per year (more will be in that $200,000 range). It’s a three-year project, and winners must be able to match 25 percent of costs in the first two years and then match 50 percent in year three.

Deadline is July 30; check the resource center at www.mcpsupportcenter.com to learn about the program before you apply.

***The Washington, D.C.-based Public Welfare Foundation released a new round of grants in June, and 10 of them are directly JJ-related.

NEWS

*** Here in the capital, juvenile justice issues appeared to be in the political fast lane back in February of 2009. Now, everything appears to be stuck in neutral.

As mentioned last week, Vicki Spriggs decided to stay in Texas and withdrew her name from consideration for the administrator job at OJJDP. Gladys Carrion, another candidate Justice had in mind, does not appear interested. And JJ Today also heard this week that a third possible choice, Ernestine Gray, had not been contacted about the position in months and was not a serious candidate.

At this point, it will be shocking if there is a Senate-confirmed administrator in 2010. Meanwhile, the Office of Justice Programs just moved Cathy Pierce over to OJJDP from the Office of Violence Against Women. Pierce will serve as a deputy director.

If anyone has thoughts on whom OJJDP should consider for the job at this point, e-mail JJ Today. You don’t have to give your name, but you do have to give at least one reason why this person would make a good candidate. If we get a few legitimate submissions, we’ll run them in the coming weeks.

Reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act? No news is bad news at this point for anyone who wants it to happen this year. Between Independence Day and Sept.12, Congress will only be in session from July 11 to Aug. 9. After Sept. 12, you can bet there will be a lot of work on re-election campaigns.

Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), who heads the House Committee on Education and Labor, sent a statement to Youth Today back in October of 2009 saying he was committed to getting JJDPA reauthorized “in this Congress.” Back then, it sounded like a statement that bought a lot of time, since “this Congress” is around until the end of 2010. Now, the window is closing. 

Quick FYI on an early candidate for OJJDP administrator: David Onek, who has been serving as a fellow at the University of California-Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law, where he has conducted criminal justice podcasts with the likes of Office of Justice Programs boss Laurie Robinson and W. Haywood Burns Institute President James Bell. Now, Onek appears close to a run for San Francisco District Attorney. In a letter to friends and colleagues, Onek said he will likely run if current D.A. Kamala Harris moves on to become California’s next attorney general.

***Another slow-moving justice issue related to juveniles is the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 standards. The act established the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, which spent about half a decade soliciting research and expert opinion, and presented Justice with a set of recommended standards on June 23, 2009.

The act says that “not later than one year after receiving the report…the Attorney General shall publish a final rule adopting national standards for the detection, prevention, reduction, and punishment of prison rape.” So the final rules officially became overdue on Wednesday.

It’s not surprising that the deadline was missed. The department released NPREC’s proposed standards for public comment this year with a deadline of May 10, so Justice has had just over a month to consider those comments.

Seven major youth advocacy organizations, including the Campaign for Youth Justice, submitted a list of recommended changes to NPREC’s standards. They asked Justice, among other things, to not require states to use medical staff members in detention and residential facilities to question juveniles about abusive sexual behavior the youths might have engaged in, and to limit the punishment of juveniles who have consensual sex in those facilities.

Justice submitted the NPREC proposal for comment without making any changes. Will it finalize the NPREC standards in the same fashion?

The NPREC standards are “a step in the right direction,” said Campaign CEO Liz Ryan, but “we would be disappointed if that’s all they did.”

***The Coalition for Juvenile Justice is looking for presenters for its October conference on disproportionate minority contact. Deadline is July 22.

***Condolences to the family of Rowlett Juvenile Judge Belinda Loveland, who police believe was shot by her husband, Richard, who then turned the gun on himself and took his own life. Dallas Morning News reporter Richard Abshire covered the murder/suicide, as well as Loveland’s commitment to preventing area youth from ever making it into her court room.

PUBLICATIONS

***Great summary of the Graham v. Florida case by American Bar Association writer Mark Hansen. Hansen does a particularly good job describing in plain English the evolving science around the functioning and development of youths’ brains.  

***The latest edition of “The Judges’ Page,” a newsletter on the Court Appointed Special Advocates website with support from OJJDP, features a slew of articles from judges and youth experts on the subject of youth who cross over from child welfare systems to juvenile justice (and vice-versa).

In related news, the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform will host a multi-system integration certificate program for private sector stakeholders in juvenile justice and child welfare. The session aims to “bring together current and future leaders in private organizations to increase their knowledge about multi-system reform efforts related to crossover youth.”

MEDIA

***Really fascinating (and disillusioning) coverage by Baltimore Sun reporter Tracy Bishop of the Lamont Davis trial, in which the teen was convicted of attempted murder. Davis received a life sentence and an additional 30-year sentence for shooting a young man with whom he allegedly had an argument over a girl, and a 5-year-old girl who was struck in the head for no reason (both are alive and recovering). It appears the defense may have squandered a chance to use information from the GPS monitoring bracelet Davis wore, because of a previous and unrelated charge, to show that he was not the shooter.

One thing about this story travels past the Maryland state line, and that is the length of his sentence. Davis got life for one shooting, and 30 years for the second victim, which means in theory he could be eligible for parole at some point when he is very old and grey.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled in Graham v. Florida that sentencing a juvenile to life without parole is unconstitutional in non-homicide cases, and this scenario epitomizes the grey area created by that ruling. No, Judge Gale Rasin did not impose a straight-up LWOP sentence on Davis. But Terrance Graham’s lawyer in the Supreme Court case, Bryan Gowdy, talked to Youth Today about the notion that sentences that were the “functional equivalent” of life without parole should be challenged under Graham.

***Another good Baltimore Sun story: reporter Julie Bykowicz covers Maryland’s attempt to build a 180-bed pre-trial facility just for juveniles who are charged as adults. A number of advocates have opposed the building because it’s twice the amount of beds needed on a typical day to house transferred juveniles, many of whom are shuttled back into juvenile court under Maryland’s system.

***A judge-turned-legislator Frederick Kessler (D-Milwaukee), says the next step for Wisconsin after closing one of its two juvenile lockups is to raise its age of jurisdiction to 18 (it is currently 17). That could make sense, considering the state has more juvenile beds than it needs and has an overcrowding problem in its adult facilities.