Weekly Notes: Push-back on the Obama JJ plan; Major Luzerne update; Onion paying attention to juvenile justice issues; and more

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***The President released his 2012 budget on Monday, and it included a proposal to drastically change the structure of federal juvenile justice funding. Click here for Youth Today’s story on the plan, which would effectively consolidate formula grants and block grants that used to go to each state into a large pot of money that states could compete for.

In a nutshell, the plan changes the dynamics of how states are rewarded for complying with the four basic federal standards of juvenile justice operation. Instead of getting a modest amount of money for complying with those standards, states would have to comply with them just to be eligible to compete for funds. The upside for states: the money at stake would be substantial in comparison to the amount some states could have received under the old structure.

It appears the states with the most to gain are the small ones that currently collect the minimum allocation of formula funds, about $600,000 each year. All of a sudden, there is an opportunity to grab a big chunk of $120 million for being compliant, instead of less than $1 million.

The states with the most to lose are those who are routinely out of compliance because of a local policy or state statute. Washington’s Becca’s Law basically causes it to be out of compliance each year with the requirement on deinstitutionalization of status offenders; South Carolina has issues with jail separation because of one county.

The first public take on the plan also appeared in Youth Today: an op-ed from Justice Policy Institute Executive Director Tracy Velázquez. She wrote that while the plan is in the vein of Race to the Top funds in education, the “the reality is that the funds are not likely to reach the states that are most in need of support to reach compliance.”

Today, the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, an organization representing state advisory groups on juvenile justice announced it opposed the plan and would craft “a forceful multi-faceted response,” which presumably will be aimed at the appropriators in the House and Senate that must now consider Obama’s proposal.

“CJJ is seriously concerned about the proposal’s dramatic shift away from federal support for all states’ efforts to achieve the goals and purposes of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act and the Juvenile Accountability Block Grant Program,” said an E-mail sent today by the CJJ Executive Board to all state members.

The E-mail said: “The proposal…abdicates federal responsibility for the oversight, training and technical assistance needed to ensure that states that fail to comply with the JJDPA requirements…are compelled to comply.” [Click here to read the message in its entirety].

The 2012 budget process is shaping up to be a war of attrition, and juvenile justice will be no exception to that. Obama is coming in at a low figure with $280 million for juvenile justice programs, which appropriators will undoubtedly find attractive when compared with the spending in recent years ($374 million in 2009, $424 million in 2010).

Opponents of the plan might find a sympathetic ear with Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), the new chair of the House Education and The Workforce Committee. Kline has zero record on juvenile justice, but he has been an outspoken critic of the Race to the Top concept.

***Another note on the Obama juvenile justice plan. The word to JJ Today from some juvenile justice observers is that this plan was a tightly-held secret by the White House and Justice, and that there was little or no feedback solicited from outside the administration.

There is also very real concern that if this plan moves forward, a significant number of states will stop officially participating in the JJDPA. Lots of states use federal dollars to pay the people who monitor compliance, and the plan creates a higher degree of uncertainty as to how much money (if any) would be available to pay them each year. That is not surprising news to us, since we heard rumblings about states dropping out long before this plan was proposed.

Youth Today asked the Office of Justice Programs on Tuesday to answer questions about the plan. The agency has replied through a spokesperson that it will provide a statement on Tuesday, but will not discuss the plan on the record by that date.  

***Here is a breakdown of all things juvenile justice in the President’s budget. We use “all things” loosely, of course, because it’s entirely possible we missed something, so let us know if that’s the case.

Justice Department, Non-OJJDP

State/Local Law Enforcement: Part of a $25 million competitive grant stream aimed at improving “the functioning of the criminal justice system, to prevent or combat juvenile delinquency, and to assist victims of crime.”

Second Chance Act: Part of $100 million will go toward work with juvenile offenders.

Drug, Mental Health, Problem-Solving Courts: Part of $57 million.

Implementation of the Adam Walsh Act: $30 million to help states gain compliance with the act. One of the snags for a number of states is the inclusion of juveniles on a sex offender registry, which is a requirement of the act.

Defending Childhood: $25 million to assist children who have been traumatized by violence that happened to them or a family member, or that they personally witnessed.

OJJDP

System Incentive Grants: $120 million proposed by Obama, which would essentially supplant the Title II State Formula Grants and the Juvenile Accountability Block Grants.

Youth mentoring: $45 million.

Title V delinquency prevention grants: $62 million.

Community-based violence prevention: $15 million.

Gang and youth violence prevention/intervention: $12 million

National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention: $6 million.

Department of Education

State grants for workplace and community transition training for incarcerated individuals: $17 million.

Department of Labor

Second Chance Act national and regional intermediary grants: $20 million.

YouthBuild: $115 million.

White House
Pay For Success: Part of $100 million. Note: These are the “social bonds” discussed in last week’s column, some of which will be spent on juvenile justice.

***Luzerne County Update! A jury found former Judge Mark A. Ciavarella guilty on 12 of the 39 counts against him, including the top charge of racketeering. He faces 157 years in prison, and his lawyer has already announced he intends to appeal. [Click here to read up on the situation]

Next up will be the civil trial, in which litigators will seek damages on behalf of the youths that Ciavarella placed in detention centers. This aspect of the case - that Ciavarella placed youth in the for-profit centers essentially to justify their existence - was largely ignored in the criminal proceeding.

***Popular satirizer of world news The Onion has put up two joke stories related to juvenile justice issues in the last month: a video story on a young white girl being tried as a black adult male, and an online story about  a group of juveniles taken to Cleveland Cavaliers practice as a “scared straight” tactic.  [Thanks to Youth Today reporter Ben Penn and area bartender Ben Park for sending those clips to us].

Humor aside, it does suggest the possibility that juvenile justice has become a more prominent issue in the public discourse. We checked The Onion archive for other pieces; you have to go back to 1998 to find the last spoof about juvenile justice, a snarky take on the crime bill passed after Columbine.