Weekly Notes: Remembering Allen Breed; Louisiana Juvenile Justice and antipsychotics; where private facility closures are happening; and more

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***Justice justice has lost another luminary. Allen Breed, former head of the California Youth Authority and head of the National Institute of Corrections (NIC), died this week at the age of 90.

His deaths comes just weeks after the field mourned the loss of David Richart, an early innovator in advocacy strategies who used any resource available to him to steer legislation and policy

JJ Today never had the pleasure of meeting Breed, although we certainly knew of him. We asked Barry Krisberg, a friend and former colleague who led the National Council on Crime and Delinquency when Breed chaired it, to share a few thoughts for the column. From Krisberg:

The recent passing of Allen Breed at age 90 is a great loss for our nation and his family and friends. Our systems of juvenile justice and corrections are so much better for his heroic reform efforts.

Allen Breed went to work for the California Youth Authority (CYA) soon after his return from World War II. He began as a youth counselor hoping to save money to enter Stanford Law School. He became so committed to youth work that his legal education was placed on hold. Allen moved up through the CYA organization and became its director. Under his leadership, CYA became renowned worldwide for its innovative research and treatment programs. Allen Breed pioneered the Probation Subsidy Act that became the model for the expansion of community corrections in many states.

He greatly valued researchers as major partners in corrections and supported the earliest work on offender classification. Allen led the statewide effort to remove juvenile status offenders from secure confinement. He was a key advocate for the passage of the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.

President Jimmy Carter asked Allen Breed to lead the National Institute of Corrections (NIC). Allen emphasized the use of research to improve corrections and sought to upgrade professional organizations in the field. At NIC, he placed early and focused attention on the vast disproportionate number of people of color in jails and prisons. Allen fought to keep young people out of adult facilities and he challenged corrections officials to be leaders, not just “practiced survivors.”  While at NIC, Allen Breed was instrumental in the passage of the federal Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act.

After leaving NIC, Allen took over the leadership of the Board of Directors of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency for a decade, and was central to saving that organization.  He also began working on behalf of federal courts as a special master in cases involving prison and jail crowding, the provision of inmate medical care, and juvenile corrections systems in many states.  He was highly effective in mediating conflicts between civil rights lawyers and corrections officials. For elected officials, the media and leaders in philanthropy, Allen Breed was the most authoritative and objective source on best practices.

***Kudos to The Lens, a New Orleans/Gulf Coast news website that published an in-depth look at the use of antipsychotic medication in the state’s juvenile facilities. With The Lens’ permission, the story is available in its entirety here on the Youth Today website. 

Reporter Matt Davis credits Youth Today for prompting The Lens’ story with our national investigation of atypicals in juvenile facilities, and we credit him right back, because the hope here was always that our tip-of-the-iceberg research would lead to more in-depth study on the subject by local media.

Davis’ findings – after spending a considerable amount of time collecting information from eight of the state-level facilities and parish-run detention centers – mirror those in our story: lots of atypicals prescribed for conditions other than bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. But the Lens complemented those findings with great information from local counselors and psychiatrists, as well as stories from parents of juveniles who were medicated in facilities.

One part we found particularly interesting is the section in which local clinical counselor Ron Koval discusses his practice of diagnosing youth without psychiatric issues as having oppositional defiant disorder: 

“Primarily the ones that don’t have a psychiatric issue, we diagnose as oppositional defiant, and that’s where we start doing the character development to start help them choosing not to go the wrong way,” Koval said.

Why does a youth need to be diagnosed with ODD for a counselor to engage him in character development and counseling?

*** Day 918 of the Obama administration and still no nominee to serve as administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Great call by our boss Nancy Lewis: if this count hits 1,000, we’re going to start counting the other way; as in, “X days until the end of the Obama’s administration’s first term and still no nominee to serve as administrator.”

You know, just to change it up a bit.  

***Last week we covered the release of four recommendations made by the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. To recap briefly: the list of recommendations was shorter than we expected, and the process for approving recommendations described by Acting Administrator Jeff Slowikowski was more political than we (and at least one council member) expected it to be.

We asked OJJDP: Was anything put down in writing early in this "Issue Group" project that explained how the process would go, what steps would be taken from the start up of the groups to last week’s voice vote to adopt rules?”

Spokeswoman Starr Small gave an “OJJDP response”:

“The Coordinating Council charged the Issue Teams with developing recommendations for discussion with and review by the Operations Committee prior to presentation to the Council.  The Operations Committee was charged with providing counsel to the Issue Teams and managing and overseeing the work of the Issue Teams. 

“The Operation Committee (made up of agency designees) decided in June to advance four recommendations at this time for Council approval (See below for official language on the recommendations).  Approved recommendations will be posted on the Council’s web site shortly and later incorporated into the Council’s report to Congress. The Operations Committee has referred other recommendations back to the lead agency/agencies for implementation, reconsideration and/or revision. Any additional recommendations submitted to the Council for approval will be posted to the Council’s website after the meeting at which they are discussed.”

Informative, although not exactly what we asked for. This seems clearly to be an explanation written after the fact, so JJ Today remains unclear when the process for adopting recommendations was established and by whom.

If this sounds like nitpicking, this is why it’s important: a committee that meets quarterly in public split into groups, then spent a lot of time developing a hefty amount of recommendations and ideas on juvenile justice. Now, only four of those recommendations are made public, and we can’t figure out exactly why.

***Two weeks ago, we covered the findings released by OJJDP from the 2008 Juvenile Residential Facility Census, which is compiled for the agency by the National Center on Juvenile Justice. Click here to read selected findings from the 2008 census.

One of the most interesting trends, when you compare the most recent findings with the 2006 census: There were about 200 fewer facilities housing juveniles in 2008 than there were in 2006, and almost all the decline was in private facilities. There were just 16 fewer public facilities.

We were curious to determine whether the decline was fueled by the actions of a few states or if it was spread out across the country.

On the public facility side, most states either stayed about the same, closed one facility, or added one. Only three states closed more than three: New York (6), New Jersey (4) and Virginia (4).

Thirty-nine states saw a decline in the number of private juvenile facilities (including private jail and residential treatment facilities), but about half of the overall decline occurred in six states: California (down 31 private facilities), Florida (23), Indiana (12), Alabama (11), Colorado (11) and Utah (10).

Only four states increased the number of private facilities: Hawaii (1), Illinois (4), New Mexico (2) and Virginia (1). The number did not change in seven states.

Our prediction: The 2010 Census findings will show a significant drop in public facilities. There was a total drop of 16 between 2006 and 2008; Florida alone could account for that much of a decline.