Weekly Notes: OJJDP to host national JJ conference; briefing on the intersect between research and pending bills; and more

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Happy Halloween to all! Hope everyone gets in the spirit. Yours truly will be haunting around town in this get-up.

***As everyone under the age of 35 is aware, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will be hosting the Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear this weekend in D.C.

The U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention announced that next October, it will host its own rally of sorts (hopefully to promote sanity and dispel fear). Stewart and Co. will probably get a better turnout, but the 2011 National Juvenile Justice Conference is the first time in recent memory that OJJDP has directly convened the juvenile justice field at large.

There are really no details yet on the conference, except that it will be held in Oxon Hill, Md., from Oct. 10-14. Political climate such as it is, Justice might want to get a nomination in the pipeline ASAP if it wants a confirmed administrator to convene that conference. From what we’ve been hearing, it’s likely to be Jane Tewksbury, the head of Massachusetts’ juvenile justice system.

***The Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy  hosted a juvenile justice briefing this week, which featured a dozen presentations about how existing research might inform legislation in the pipeline regarding juvenile justice. The center is housed at George Mason University’s Department of Criminology, and you can see all the presentations for yourself by clicking here.

One cautionary note for future briefing-holders: If a key part of your desired audience is congressional and administration staffers, you might want to do an invite list instead of first-come, first-serve registration, particularly if your venue is the Capitol building. The room filled up quickly, and JJ Today heard that a number of staffers were kept out of the meeting because of fire code standards.

***JJ Today ran into the soon-to-be-Mayor-Elect of Washington, Vince Gray, at a city council event held in part to honor Youth Today Founder Bill Treanor. However one feels about the city dumping current Mayor Adrian Fenty after he presided over significant reforms of the city’s education and juvenile justice systems, know this: Gray is a veteran of youth work and values the direct input of youth as much as any politician we know of. For the past two years as city council chair, he has held youth hearings once a month where only those under 18 can speak.

One of Gray’s first tasks – you know, after tackling the city’s $400 million deficit – will be figuring out how to get the reform of the Division of Youth Rehabilitation Services back on track. DYRS quickly became a nationally-followed reform effort in 2005, because then-Mayor Anthony Williams tapped longtime JJ advocates Vincent Schiraldi and Marc Schindler to oversee the agency, and because the school at its secure facility quickly became a success story as the agency closed its horrific secure facility (Oak Hill) in favor of the Missouri-styled New Beginnings Youth Development Center.  

But DYRS is responsible for monitoring and serving hundreds of youths sentenced to community programs or who have been released from residential placements. And enough of those juveniles have either been killed or have been accused of killing that Fenty felt he needed to replace Schindler this summer. Schindler had replaced Schiraldi when he left to run New York City’s probation department. In July, Schindler himself was replaced by prosecutor Robert Hildum.

Our brief conversation with Gray yielded two things:

1) Sounded to us like he would seek his own DYRS director instead of keeping on Interim Director Hildum. If he does not choose a new director, he will risk losing some of the remaining leadership left from the days of Vincent Schiraldi and Marc Schindler. One possibility for the job might be David Muhammad, who was DYRS’ chief of committed services. Muhammad left the day Schindler was relieved, and now works for Schiraldi in New York.

2) Gray will consider adding secure beds either to New Beginnings or somewhere else. Our sense was that Gray loves the approach crafted by Schiraldi and Co., and has no intention of going back to a system that incarcerated hundreds of juveniles; but he may decide that 60 beds at New Beginnings is not enough.  

***The Byrne Justice Assistance Grant money is being misspent, according to the Justice Policy Institute, which produced a report on the subject based on research by the U.S. Government Accountability Office and the National Criminal Justice Association.

***Robeson County, N.C., will be home to the nation’s first rural youth violence prevention center, coordinated by researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We will definitely follow up on this in the near future to hear details.