Weekly Notes: National conference in October looms large; L.A. Times rips Obama for lack of juvenile leadership; documentary on juveniles in sex trade; and more

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***Day 893 of the Obama administration and still no nominee to serve as administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Do you know what group is really concerned about that? The Los Angeles Times editorial board.

“Momentum is building for meaningful and cost-saving reform” of juvenile justice, the board wrote in a July 6 piece. “All that's lacking is national focus and strong leadership.

“Instead, the office has been left leaderless. Halfway through his term, President Obama has yet to nominate an administrator. …As a result, the office has drifted from its mission while letting states fend for themselves, spending too much money on incarceration of juveniles and on ineffective programs.”

That last part is a bit dramatic. OJJDP is not responsible for the juvenile justice priorities that states reveal in their state budget decisions. And to the administration’s credit, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included a lot of money for juvenile justice and juvenile prevention. Office of Justice Programs boss Laurie Robinson has pieced together millions for Attorney General Eric Holder’s special project to help children traumatized by violence.

There are plenty of reasons to be annoyed with the administration for not nominating someone for the job. But OJJDP has never had any say in state spending priorities past tying its grants to the states to basic standards on juvenile confinement and racial disparities. .

***OJJDP issued its Final Plan for Fiscal Year 2011 today, which is sort of comical in that the fiscal year is over in less than three months. It’s not really OJJDP’s fault, since the agency didn’t know what money it had until Congress stepped off the budget ledge halfway through the fiscal year. The plan lays out what new programs OJJDP will fund with 2011 appropriations, and which existing programs will receive continuation funding.

The final plan includes a summary of public comments received after OJJDP released its proposed plan in January. The comments suggests that many groups want the Justice Department to allot more resources for working with youth who are already in the system, which in tight fiscal times may mean putting fewer resources into prevention efforts.

“Improving conditions and services for youth with disabilities and mental health issues in the juvenile justice system was the single topic that elicited the most responses,” the summary said. “More than a third of the comments dealt with some aspect of improving conditions in juvenile facilities for youth with disabilities and mental health issues.”

*** The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative inter-site conference, an event hosted annually for JDAI participants by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, will not be held this year. The person most responsible for making that conference function each year, Julie Pope at the Casey Foundation, told JJ Today that the foundation will “instead push along our training agenda” in 2011 and that a conference is tentatively set in April 2012 in Houston.

If there was ever a year to forgo it, 2011 is probably the perfect one because of OJJDP’s National Conference for Children's Justice & Safety in October, or as we like to call it in the office, Juvenile Woodstock. The agency is anticipating around 2,000 attendees and presumably, a number of events and discussions at the conference will address detention admissions and alternatives to detention.

It's possible some other national groups will either pass on a national event in favor of the OJJDP conference, and that other organizations will schedule national meetings for Washington, D.C., during the days leading up to the conference. There already are indications that many advocates and researchers will unveil campaigns, reports and policy recommendations in the weeks leading up to Juvenile Woodstock.

***The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics released its 2011 report on child well-being this week. Good news on the juvenile justice front is included: The rate of 12- to 17-year-olds who were victimized by serious violent crime dropped from 12 per 1,000 in 2008 to 10 per 1,000 in 2009, and the rate of 12- to 17-year-olds involved in the commission of serious violent crimes is down from 14 per 1,000 to 11 per 1,000.

***A few juvenile justice media notes:

-Gaming the System, by The Justice Policy Institute, argues that private prison companies in the adult and juvenile corrections industries are using their resources to promote ineffective incarceration policies.

“While private prison companies may try to present themselves as just meeting existing demand for prison beds and responding to current market conditions,” JPI writes, “in fact they have worked hard over the past decade to create markets for their product. As revenues of private prison companies have grown over the past decade, the companies have had more resources with which to build political power, and they have used this power to promote policies that lead to higher rates of incarceration.”

-On the website of the always-informative Reclaiming Futures Everyday blog is a piece that would seem to support the notion of a misplaced emphasis on incarceration: a Michigan principal asking the governor to designate his school as a prison because the money’s better

-Also from Reclaiming Futures: news of a documentary, made by a former detention worker, on females in the juvenile justice system who were involved in the illegal commercial sex trade. “Your American Teen” is slated for release in January 2012.

-The long-term future of juvenile justice in Georgia could be dictated by a new juvenile justice code, developed in part by advocates, which will be on the desks of state lawmakers when they return for a special session in August, reports Josephine Bennett of Georgia Public Broadcasting.

In the short-term, reports Ryan Schill of  the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, the state will soon have to deal with the fact that it is the only state not currently signed on to the Interstate Compact for Juveniles.

***The National Training and Technical Assistance Center will host a free webinar on disproportionate minority contact on Aug. 3 at 2 p.m. EST. According to NTTAC, “Representatives from four states will share their experiences and lessons learned in implementing delinquency prevention and systems improvement strategies that address DMC.”

We couldn’t find any other information on who the speakers will be, but you can register for the webinar by clicking here.