Weekly Notes: Survey shows overwhelming support for juvenile rehabilitation; Juvenile Woodstock wraps up; day 1,000 approaches

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***The Campaign for Youth Justice released findings from a 1,000 person national survey this week about adults’ attitudes on juvenile services. Click here for the main results, and here for the entire report.

Among the findings:

-76 percent believed “youth who commit crimes are capable of positive growth, and they have the potential to change for the better,” as opposed to the alternative statement that “most youth who commit crimes are unlikely to change for the better, and they will likely continue a life of illegal behavior” (only 18 percent expressed belief in that assertion).

-57 percent believed putting juveniles in adult jails and prisons would make them “more likely to commit future crimes” than sending them to juvenile facilities. Only 27 percent believed the inverse statement, that adult prisons would lead to less recidivism.

-82 percent favor judges making determinations on transfers to adult court; only 12 percent said prosecutors would be better at that.

They are significant findings to support a system realigned around rehabilitation. Four out of five adults in the survey think judges should be in charge of transfers; three out of four think juvenile offenders should be approached with the idea that they are highly capable of getting it together. The science and research bear out the survey’s results, but science is rarely as good a political selling point as public opinion. 

“This is great news for the reform agenda,” said CFYJ Executive Director Liz Ryan, “especially at a time when Congressional spending cuts are running counter to public opinion.”

The survey was conducted by Gerstein, Bocian and Agne.

***Juvenile Woodstock has come and gone. The roadies are breaking down the stages, and all of the stars are headed to their tour buses. JJ Today heard there is an invite-only wrap-up meeting this afternoon, but the official conference ended today at noon.

We’ve been updating readers here with details and news bytes from the conference workshops and hallway chatter. Here’s our overall impression about the state of things between the feds and the states on juvenile justice (and we encourage anyone with a differing perspective to chime in):

-The interest in juvenile justice has grown. Some early sessions were attended poorly, and some of the non-workshop events were misfires, but more than 2,000 people attended a conference on juvenile justice. A lot of them flew here and then paid to stay in a hotel for between two and five nights, at a time when it is not easy to justify such expenses.

On the other hand, there is significant frustration between states and OJJDP on how much is about compliance and how much is about funding programs. There was a time when the four core standards of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act were things that, in a broad way, states needed to address.

Now, issues of compliance have become more targeted: one county judge mucking up compliance with jail removal, for instance, or a state law that essentially causes non-compliance with Deinstitutionalization of Status Offenders provisions. And as the overall federal pie for JJ funding gets smaller, some state leaders are frustrated that the office seems to be adding to their compliance monitoring – for example, having to include police substations and shopping malls in the monitoring process – because what states really want to focus on is using the federal funds to help courts handle juveniles better and local programs that prevent youths from getting into the system at all.

Outside of the workshops and panels, a whole bunch of business meetings and trainings took place this week between OJJDP staff and the agency’s partners on the state level (specialists, monitors and coordinators). Hopefully, both sides now at least know each other’s challenges.

-We got the sense that some state-level leaders who favored the austere JJDPA spending lines in cushier times now see the value of lumping them together into a more flexible pot of money and tying all of it to complying with the act. This was proposed by George W. Bush and shot down by advocates, and then Obama presented an initial 2012 budget for OJJDP that went even further, replacing the connection between funding and compliance with a structure that made compliance an unfunded requirement just to get into the federal game.

The downside of lumping all the JJPDA money together is obvious: If federal JJ spending levels ever again rise, the strength of the individual program appropriation lines in the act would have been weakened. We would love to hear from readers on this issue. 

***Day 995 of the Obama administration and still no nominee to serve as administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Day 1,000: Wednesday, Oct. 19. Oddly enough, it hardly came up during our conversations with attendees.