New Institute Will Offer Juvenile, Child Welfare Court Footage for Research and Training

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A university and film production company are creating what both hope will become a repository for training juvenile justice and child welfare workers about best (and worst) practices when it comes to court proceedings.

The Indiana University Research and Technology Corp. (IURTC) and Calamari Productions, a production company based in Austin, Texas, will form the Institute for Juvenile Court and Corrections Research (IJCCR), which will serve as a clearinghouse for thousands of hours of film  from juvenile and child welfare court proceedings.

Calamari, led by founder Karen Grau, made history in 1998 when she persuaded Indiana to let her cameras film juvenile  and family court proceedings for research purposes.

Since then, Calamari has filmed court proceedings in other states including California, Florida and New York, and the footage has been used in productions appearing on MTV, PBS, A&E and Court TV. But Grau believed the footage should have a more permanent point of access for people or entities that wished to use it for educational purposes outside of television programming.

“Karen thought the content needed to be used to better effect,” said Bill Stephan, vice president of engagement for Indiana University. “They’d been producing documentaries, but her interest was determining whether [the footage] could be used for more.”

IURTC, a research arm of the main Indiana campus in Bloomington, has experience in contract management and distribution of proprietary material. It will serve as the purchase and provider point for Calamari’s footage, much of which is already has already been digitized.

The main anticipated markets for the services are schools or agencies that want to train youth workers who will regularly be involved in court proceedings: lawyers, probation officers, child welfare caseworkers, or judges.

Calamari footage can be accessed through the institute for use in different training sessions. Access to the institute will work “akin to a journal subscription,” according to a statement announcing the launch of IJCCR last week.

There is also potential for the footage to be used for research on tendencies in court proceedings, Stephan said.

Details about how the institute operates are still being ironed out. One pending question is the extent to which the institute will breaks the footage into parcels of “what to do” and “what not to do” clips, essentially passing judgment on the actions of practitioners in the footage.

“I suspect there may be a little bit of both that come into play,” Stephan said. “We’ll probably have both: Some example clips, and some just raw content.”

According to Stephan, vice president of engagement for the university, it was Indiana Department of Children’s Services Jim Payne who brought the two parties together to discuss the creation of the institute. Payne was the juvenile court judge in Marion County (Indianapolis) when Calamari’s cameras started rolling.  

Click here to visit the institute’s new website, which has posted some examples of Calamari’s footage. UCLA, Washington University, Southern Methodist University, Syracuse University, and the Consortium for Continuing Education have signed up to use the content, according to last week’s statements.