JDAI: Day two: Lubow’s Forecast

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City of Fountains  (Kansas City)– The morning of day two always brings one of the more fiery speeches of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s JDAI Inter-site conference, the State of the Initiative address from Reformer-in-Chief Bart Lubow.

Lubow congratulated the audience on another year of significant drops in aggregate detention placement among the sites, and then hit on a two central challenges he sees going forward. First is the need to improve the ability to collect information about re-arrest rates of youth diverted from detention, as well as data on failures to appear.

Second, he challenged the more advanced sites to start moving the practice of JDAI into codified law at the jurisdictional or state level. At its core, JDAI is about using risk assessment instruments that are based on sound data, and then using those instruments to make decisions about who needs to be detained.

From Lubow’s perspective, there is enough evidence from JDAI sites to support the notion that “admissions should require, by law, a risk assessment” and that “data tracking ought not be a local undertaking but a statewide system.”

Lubow then turned to the initiative’s next big venture, its entry into the arena of post-adjudication reform efforts, namely ending the practice of incarcerating juveniles in big, state training schools. Casey has done some strategic consulting on the subject in Louisiana and Alabama, but Lubow told JJ Today that the work going forward will “go beyond that considerably” and “involve a greater diversity of reforms.”

How it will go, in a nutshell:

1) Casey will release a publication making its case for engaging in the work, highlighting what it will certainly portray as inherent problems with training schools (in other words, problems with the concept of big facilities that would exist even under the best of circumstances).

2) Casey will develop and disseminate tools and resources on the JDAI Help Desk that advocates and practitioners can use to “identify what works to change deep-end commitments,” Lubow said.

3) In 2011, some existing JDAI sites will be selected to start working on reform.

Past that, there are few details now because the project is somewhere in purgatory  between idea and action right. Lubow told JJ Today that selected sites will likely include a combination of state JDAI initiatives aimed at changing state-level commitment practices, and some county or jurisdiction-level projects in places where local leadership might succeed even if a state-level reform might not.

He also expects that the work will be more policy and advocacy intensive than JDAI’s detention work, because changing the placement of juveniles who are deemed guilty will require much more legal footwork than changing decisions on detention. Looking at recent examples of states that moved scores of juveniles out of secure state facilities, he is correct. Texas, California and Alabama downsized the populations in their respective big facilities after legislation mandated that it happen (although thanks to some ugly scandals, many California judges had stopped sending juveniles to state training schools long before that law was signed). 

So what sites will become the JDAI-Adjudication sites? We don’t know, but primary candidates would seem to be states where the state facilities have yielded a combination of high recidivism rates and some documented abuse problems. With the need for policy change in mind, it would also make sense to lean on JDAI sites  where the team in place includes either legislators or people with serious political juice.

We asked Randell Strickland, a former juvenile probation officer in Illinois, whether his home state could use some reform when it came to state facilities.

“We spend $100 million on eight facilities that serve between 1,100 and 1,300 kids,” Strickland said. “What do you think?”

 

***One other rumbling from the hallways here: The Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice (FACJJ) convenes next month, and there are some who think it might be its final meeting.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Preventions (OJJDP) is required to convene some body of state representatives to council the administrator and Congress, so it would have to replace FACJJ with something. The Coalition for Juvenile Justice, which represents the state advisory groups (SAGs), used to fill this role and still believes it is the organization best suited to do the work now.

CJJ recently lost a bid to be OJJDP’s technical assistance provider to the SAGs, which surprised a number of the SAG representatives since they wrote a letter of unanimous support for CJJ to be the provider.  Put it this way: There are a number of people who are very curious to see the peer review information for CJJ.