Weekly Notes: JJDPA reauthorization; Florida’s new detention law; and more

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*** Day 974 of the Obama administration and still no nominee to serve as administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Anyway, OJJDP managed to find its way into the news in connection with the Great Muffin Audit of 2011.

A report from Justice Department Inspector General Cynthia Schnedar found numerous examples of absurd purchase points agreed to by Justice planners at various events hosted by the department, including $5.57 sodas and $47 lunches at an AMBER Alert conference held by OJJDP in Denver back in 2007.

Of course, that was long before we started the current countdown. Back when J. Robert Flores was George W. Bush’s OJJDP official.

***Obama did make a juvenile justice appointment this week, though, naming Laurie Garduque to the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. She is Obama’s second appointment to the council; he added Oakland juvenile judge Trina Thompson to the council in June.

Since 2002, Garduque has overseen the Models for Change initiative at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in Chicago, an effort that started with funding for research on juveniles and youth development and led to heavy investment in broad juvenile justice reform in four states: Washington, Louisiana, Illinois and Pennsylvania.

Models for Change has since included more targeted reform efforts in other states, and has established resource banks on issues such as racial disparity, indigent defense and probation.

The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Reclaiming Futures project spearheaded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and MacArthur’s Model for change comprise the holy trinity of privately-funded juvenile justice reform. Garduque is, we believe, the first leader from one of these efforts to sit on the council, which is made up mostly of representatives from federal agencies but also includes some field members.

***Ryan Schill of the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange reported late last week that Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) was “working to streamline” a reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act “given budget concerns.” It is the first tidbit of information on JJDPA reauthorization we had heard recently.

Most likely, Leahy’s new effort to reauthorize the bill will continue the status quo for JJPDA funding with no specified authorizations – just “such sums as necessary” – for formula grants to states, delinquency prevention grants for the state advisory groups, and the Juvenile Accountability Block Grants.

The last push to reauthorize JJDPA got moving in 2008, when the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill authored by Leahy and Sens Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) and Arlen Specter (at the time, a Republican). JJ Today looked up our own coverage at the time and found this breakdown of the funding increases included in that bill:

* A $272 million authorization in fiscal 2009 and to $323 million in fiscal 2010 for delinquency prevention grants.

* Creation of a new incentive grant program authorized at $60 million each year for spending on evidence-based programs that address mental health, substance abuse or work force training.

* A $157 million authorization for state formula grants in fiscal 2009, reaching $236.1 million by fiscal 2011.

What a difference two years, high unemployment, a debt ceiling and the Tea Party make.

***What is going on in Florida? Early this summer, JJ Today heard that some counties were detaining accused juvenile offenders in their county jail before the youths appeared in juvenile court.

That practice would seem to violate the “Jail Removal” standard of the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. That means the state could forfeit at least 20 percent of its formula grant from OJJDP and then have to spend half of its remaining formula grant addressing the problem.

In calls to several jurisdictions, this is what JJ Today found:

-A law signed by Gov. Rick Scott (R) over the summer, Senate Bill 2112, made it easier for counties to assume control of their own detention practices. The law was not considered by either Florida chamber as a substantive bill; it was included in budget legislation.

-Florida law has long allowed counties to keep juveniles in a separate parts of jails. But if the county did so, it had to adhere to different standards developed by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) for handling youths.

SB 2112 allows counties to apply the newly crafted Florida Model Jail Standards. Among the differences between those standards and DJJ’s, said Roy Miller of The Children’s Campaign in Tallahassee: The model jail standards allow the use of pepper spray and tazers on juveniles. Miller worries about exposing juveniles to those restraints, and also voiced concern that the lack of outside monitoring requirements in the standards, since DJJ will not be asked to keep tabs on these jails.

-Under  SB 2112, counties are in compliance with state statutes as long as “each county sheriff or other county jail operator” follows “the federal regulations that require sight and sound separation of juvenile inmates from adult inmates.”

Sight and sound separation is indeed a core requirement of the JJPDA, but it refers to keeping juveniles away from adults in the very limited exceptions to another JJPDA standard, Jail Removal. That standard specifies only a few instances in which it is at all appropriate for juveniles to be confined in the same building as adult inmates: states can hold a juvenile in an adult setting for six hours related to processing or an immediate court hearing, and they are allowed to hold them in a jail as long as a hearing will take place within 48 hours and the jurisdiction is in a remote area.

-Counties have been allowed to keep juveniles in jail under these new standards since July.

Have they been applying the new standards? At least three counties appear to be relying on the new standards.

Starting in January, Polk County will house its own accused juveniles and those from neighboring Highlands County and Hardee County, in the Polk County Jail, which is located in Bartow, the county seat.

The Marion County (county seat: Ocala) Sheriff’s Department took an old adult jail, which had been used for years as a storage facility, and “outfitted” it to house juveniles, according to spokeswoman Jenifer Lowe. For instance, Lowe said, each pod has “chalkboard paint, so they can express themselves on the wall.”

Seminole County, near Orlando, used to house its detained juveniles at a nearby detention center operated by the state, but DJJ closed it. The sheriff’s department is now using DJJ-run centers for now, said spokesperson Kim Cannaday, but has also received county approval to take over the detention center that DJJ closed. This will take place “upon the completion of necessary renovation,” said Cannaday, probably in early 2012.

-Will any of this lead to Florida being found out of compliance? OJJDP officials told  JJ Today that they are “aware of the recent law. No one in the state legislature or state leadership has contacted OJJDP on this law. We do not know enough about the law to comment.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) is no fan of federal funding, and the state’s formula grant was only about $3 million in 2010; it will surely be less this year, and probably even smaller in 2012.

“I don’t think there is too much concern with being out of compliance,” Miller, of the Children’s Campaign, said flatly.

He and other child advocates in the state have sent a letter to all county commissioners urging them not to use the jails or the new standards.