Weekly Notes: Unconfirmed OJJDP administrators; compliance-less states; new resource on effective programs

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Happy Independence Day. Be safe on the roads and around the grill!

***Day 886 of the President Barack Obama administration and still no nominee to serve as administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. It is all but official now: the next administrator will be placed in that position by the White House without a confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, or a confirmation vote on the Senate floor.

The expected change is contained in the bill the Senate passed this week, S. 679. The bill removes the confirmation requirement for the OJJDP job; all of the other positions on that tier at the Office of Justice Programs; the leader of the agency that oversees funding for foster care and homeless youth; and about 170 other positions in the executive branch.

The House is unlikely to modify a bipartisan bill, pertaining to Senate business, that passed 79-20. The president, who has seen many of his nominees tied up in the confirmation process, is even less likely to resist the change.  

Some in the juvenile justice field, including former OJJDP Administrator Shay Bilchik, believe the confirmation-level status of the job lent the person in that office stature and credibility as someone who answered to the confirmed leader of the Office of Justice Programs but who was also able to think and act on behalf of OJJDP with some independence. The absence of confirmation might therefore weaken the stature of the agency itself, at a time when its appropriations are already declining and Congress is bracing for another fierce battle over spending priorities.

JJ Today solicited a few thoughts from the youth work field on the bill, and the replies indicate that others in juvenile justice have lost confidence in the Senate confirmation process as a safeguard against unqualified candidates and low stature:

Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform: “I don't have strong feelings on the bill, but I think it's absurd to suggest that the bill would discourage good people. On the contrary, they are far more likely to be discouraged by a long, drawn-out confirmation process and the prospect of being in limbo for months because their appointment was held hostage as a result of some unrelated political battle.” 

Earl Dunlap, longtime juvenile advocate and current administrator of the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center: “Just less people in the mix to delay and screw things up. It has become a NON SENSE process over the years.”

Jeff Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice: “Here’s my thought: Unfortunate, but obviously necessary.”

***The July 27 deadline for states to comply with the Adam Walsh Act – which includes the Sex Offender National Registry Act (SORNA), requiring each state to create a sex offender registry that will connect to the national registry – is fast approaching. We asked Kara McCarthy, spokeswoman for the Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking office, whether SMART anticipates more states gaining compliance status before the deadline.

The one-word answer from McCarthy: “Yes.”

Right now, seven states are in compliance: Ohio, Delaware, Florida, South Dakota, Michigan, Nevada and Wyoming. SMART Director Linda Baldwin told Isaac Wolf of Scripps Howard recently that she expects only 10 to 15 states to meet the coming deadline.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which concluded that applying SORNA to juvenile delinquents who committed their offenses “before SORNA’s passage violates the Ex Post Facto Clause,” which protects against the retroactive application of laws.

It’s a pretty complicated opinion (which you can read here) because it involves a Native American youth from Montana who was subject to both federal and state penalties for a sex offense. The bottom line is, the Supreme Court decided the federal SORNA requirements were moot in the case because the Montana government would have placed him on the sex offender registry regardless of SORNA.

It doubtless won’t be the last time the high court has to deal with retroactivity and the Walsh Act. Nevada currently cannot implement any retroactive aspect of the state laws that gained it Walsh Act compliance because of a permanent injunction issued by U.S. District Court Judge James Mahan.

***The Office of Justice Programs recently unveiled its new Crimesolutions.gov website, which was established so state and local justice leaders could easily look at what programs have been shown scientifically to produce results, and what programs have been shown scientifically not to produce results.

In a nutshell, the site breaks down justice-related programs into eight categories: corrections/reentry, courts, crime/crime prevention, drug abuse, juveniles, law enforcement, technology/forensics and victims.

Only programs with thorough evaluations are considered for inclusion, and each one that is included receives a rating of “Effective,” “Promising” or “No Effects.”

The new site is easy to navigate and the “juveniles” category makes it easy for a user to single out programs aimed at juveniles.  

Many of the programs reflect an investment in the prevention of juvenile offending, not strategies for working with delinquent youth. For example, one of the “Effective” programs listed in “Juveniles” is Nurse-Family Partnership. NFP provides first-time moms with a nurse who visits the home and helps prepare the mother for parenting.

But the website has many other models and programs for working with juveniles. providing a broad range of ways to address juvenile crime.

Unfortunately, the cost of many of the programs is not yet listed, a large shortcoming because price is obviously a large factor when policymakers and administrators are considering the viability of different options.