Weekly Notes: Walsh guidelines are finalized, a new fed council on reentry, and more

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Hope everyone out there in juvenile justice land had a wonderful start to 2011! Rumors of Weekly Notes’ demise have been greatly exaggerated. After a few weeks of holiday-ing, we are back.

***There is currently no Federal Advisory Council on Juvenile Justice; the most recent iteration of the advisory group held its last meeting in December. What will replace FACJJ is still being determined, but this week, a new JJ-related council was formed by Attorney General Eric Holder.

The cabinet-level Reentry Council will meet semiannually. Cabinet-level does not mean that the actual secretaries will always show up (as anyone who attends the juvenile justice coordinating council meetings already knows); many times, delegates of the secretaries are sent. But the first reentry meeting included Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, among others.

The mission of the council is threefold, according to the Justice Department announcement on its creation: reduce recidivism and victimization; assist those returning from prison and jail in becoming productive, tax paying citizens; and to save taxpayer dollars by lowering the direct and collateral costs of incarceration.

Washington meetings can directly accomplish none of those things, of course. But look for the council to have some say on Second Chance Act programs, and how the money going to states is used. Other possibilities include some type of interagency ventures that could involve, for example, Justice funds pooled with Education money to support pilot projects that return adults and juveniles to the community and into job training or college prep courses. Or perhaps a Justice-HHS venture that would connect returning convicts with mental health of substance abuse treatment.

This is what interagency councils do best. The juvenile justice coordinating council is where the joint venture on juvenile drug courts was born with money from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

***JJ Today has learned that the supplemental guidelines regarding the national sex offender registry have been signed and finalized by Attorney General Holder.

Under the Adam Walsh Act, states must establish a process for registering certain sex offenders on the national registry by this summer, or face a 10 percent cut to their discretionary money from the Bureau of Justice Assistance. These guidelines address a number of concerns that the Justice Department has heard from states about the process, including whether juvenile offenders had to be on a publicly viewable registry or could be on a shielded version accessible only by law enforcement.

This gives states just over six months with the now-official guidelines before the July deadline. Will the new rules grease the tracks for the 46 states that are not in compliance yet?

“If we get to 15 or 20 states, that’s a solid start,” said Ernie Allen, CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, perhaps the biggest non-governmental proponent of the Walsh Act (the bill is named for the son of NCMEC co-founder John Walsh). “The new guidance has been enormously helpful.”

Our guess is that the guidelines will help some states, but rules alone won’t move the cash-strapped states that are terrified of expensive legal battles over Walsh and the increased costs associated with registering and monitoring.

Besides, if you could wait until July and then use the penalized 10 percent of your BJA funds to work on implementing Walsh Act – which is allowed – what impetus does a state have to spend its own funds on that effort before July?

***Catching up: Before the holidays, Missouri juvenile judge Jimmie Edwards was one of seven speakers invited to address the TedX St. Louis conference. TedX get-togethers are essentially local, independently created offshoots of the larger TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Conference, held each year to share “ideas worth spreading.”

Edwards described his state’s approach to juvenile justice, which has garnered national attention for its focus on youth development. Click here for a link to his speech.

***The National Conference of Juvenile and Family Court Judges will hold its annual national conference in its hometown of Reno, Nev., on March 27-30. Click here for more details.

***Anyone interested in doing some peer review for OJJDP? Click here for more information. The agency is also looking for consultants for its National Training and Technical Assistance Center (NTTAC); click here for that.