Weekly Notes: White House reviewing finalists for OJJDP job; Training program on child welfare/juvenile justice integration; and more

Print More

Quick one today, since we have covered the big development on federal juvenile justice – Obama’s plan to overhaul funds connected to the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act – all week. Click here for our most recent story, which addresses the first details to come out of the Justice Department about how the new Race to the Top-style funding scheme might work.

***A few other Beltway tidbits:

–The selection of an administrator for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention has moved from the Department of Justice to the White House, a credible source on the subject tells JJ Today. White House officials will interview finalists for the job, presumably ones that were recommended by Justice.

–Congress has one week to get a spending plan in place for the rest of Fiscal 2011 and get it signed by the president. At this point, there is a very real possibility that is not going to happen.

It doesn’t look good for federal juvenile justice funding in the near future. The House bill would lop the spending total for 2011 down to $232 million. Obviously, zero dollars will go out to states and systems during a government shutdown. And the president’s proposal for 2012 includes a $280 million pot for juvenile justice, which is $143 million less than the 2010 appropriation (although to be fair, there is a lot of additional JJ-directed money tucked into other parts of his budget).

–OJJDP staff are scheduled to meet with juvenile justice specialists next week. It will be the first meeting with state compliance leaders since Obama’s proposal came out. Oh, to be a fly on the wall for that get-together!

***Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform will host its annual certificate program for juvenile justice and child welfare leaders from July 15 to 21. The program focuses on multi-system integration between the two worlds, which sadly are involved at the same time in the lives of many youths.

The program brings leaders together from across the country to Washington, D.C. for one week of intensive study and networking. Click here for some more information on the program from CJJR and get your application ready soon if you are interested: the deadline is March 31.

***A few headlines that caught our eye this week:

–The 14-year-old accused of killing a teacher at Maryland’s Cheltenham Youth Facility will be tried as an adult, reports Gazette.Net’s Zoe Tillman, who has covered this story well from the outset. The teen, who was 13 when Hannah Wheeling was found dead at Cheltenham, will be the youngest person ever tried as an adult in the state and will face a potential life sentence.

Two things about this case:

*At a January hearing to decide which court the teen would be tried in, clinical psychologist James Lewis testified for the prosecution that the juvenile system could not be relied upon to rehabilitate the defendant, and called him “clinical classification of the worst of the worst.” Lewis never interviewed the teen in person or even so much as spoke to him; his analysis was based only on a review of the records. Tillman reported that during cross-examination, Lewis said he was not given permission to speak with the youth.

However one feels about the transfer of youth to adult court, a hearing about the difference between a seven-year sentence and a lifetime spent in prison should not potentially swing on the testimony of someone who has not directly had contact with the defendant.

*The teen’s public defender, Allen Wolf, told Tillman he plans to challenge the judge’s decision to transfer his client. Wolf spoke with JJ Today before the January hearing about his request that a jury decide which court should have jurisdiction over his client; it will be interesting to see if that is part of any appeal down the line.

***This article by James Lowe of the Daily Hampshire Gazette is about Lillian Miranda, a respected juvenile judge in Massachusetts who is hanging up her robe after 17 years.

But it was a quick tangent about a local anti bullying law passed last year that caught our eye. From Lowe’s story:

One of the most significant recent developments in Miranda's field was the passage of an anti-bullying law last year. Miranda said since the new legislation took effect the court has had more requests for harassment prevention orders and juvenile delinquency proceedings related to bullying at area schools.

The law was passed in the wake of last year's suicide of Phoebe Prince, a South Hadley High School student who prosecutors allege was relentlessly bullied by classmates. Three of Prince's classmates face charges in Franklin-Hampshire Juvenile Court, although Miranda has not been involved with their cases.

Miranda said she has reservations about the anti-bullying law.

"Personally, I think it wasn't well thought out, in a quiet moment, with a lot of consideration," she said.

This is an issue that we know some juvenile justice observers in Washington have been watching, especially since October, when the Department of Education circulated a letter to schools around the country about this administration’s intention to ensure that bullying was being addressed by any school that received federal money.

Nobody is supportive of bullying, of course. But there is some concern that, in an effort to get tough on the issue, some schools may push police to arrest youths for bullying; or suspend them, which research indicates can increase the likelihood that the youths will be arrested or become completely disconnected from school.