Weekly Notes: A lively luncheon; new Justice grants; help shape Wyoming’s new juvie center; and more

Print

***A slew of juvenile justice experts were in the old capitol city this week for the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change conference and the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s “Shutting Down the Massachusetts Training Schools: Reflections on the Past, Lessons for the Future.”

The two foundations are, of course, the undisputed heavyweights in the field of juvenile justice philanthropy, although Public Welfare Foundation’s portfolio has grown and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has been funding juvenile drug courts forever now. MacArthur and Casey fund many of the same nonprofits and advocates to carry out their work, and plenty of them were vexed that they had to make a choice between the two events on Tuesday. JJ Today saw a few shuttle back and forth to catch both; the advantage of a relatively small city.

Check the website early next week for some thoughts on what came out of the Casey symposium, which the foundation co-hosted with the Harrisburg, Pa.-based Youth Advocates Programs.

We mostly hung in the hallways during Models for Change, although we did catch a great session on how Outagamie County, Wis., managed to reduce the number of juvenile arrests by allowing police to make referrals to diversion at intake, which is a concept that the immortal H. Ted Rubin discussed with us in an interview we posted earlier in the week. Since the county stopped limiting services to only those juveniles who were formally processed in 2004, the number of juveniles diverted at intake has risen from 36 percent to 56 percent.

But for anyone at lunch on Monday, the 2011 conference will forever be known as the time David Simon, former journalist and The Wire creator, told a bunch of reformers that they were pogo-sticking through quicksand and the system could only be choked, not fixed.

After being introduced by Mark Soler, who has only been litigating and otherwise assisting in the reform of juvenile justice since 1978, Simon delivered an obscenity-laced keynote in which he described the mission of reform as a hand of “shitty cards you’ve been dealt.”

Simon, who Soler called the “poet of outrage for our time” in his introduction, expressed a profound belief that jury nullification is the only way to halt the one thing that will ever stop the system from being bloated and racially distorted: treating drugs and addiction as a criminal war instead of a medical one.

Prosecution does nothing to deter addiction, he argued, and the economy to serve those addictions is the only viable one available to many minority youths.

“They’re not fools, and there’s one factory open,” Simon said. Which is not too far from Republican presidential nominee Newt Gingrich’s controversial criticism of the collective work ethic of poor kids: that they “have no habit of staying all day, they have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash’ unless it is illegal,” he added.

[Gingrich then went on to say that no adults around poor children work or work hard, which really should insult enough struggling families in the swing states to make him unelectable, right?]

Bottom line, Simon argued, is that the justice system won’t get past its obsession with drug-related cases until “they can't find 12 Americans to put a 13th in jail.”

We aren’t sure what the foundation expected Simon to say; because he hasn’t exactly been bashful about his position in the past. But the plan was initially for that and some other video of the conference to be posted on YouTube, and that hasn’t happened yet.

David Kindler, who handled much of the social media for the conference, said “highlights” of his speech will be up on the website. Our two cents for MacArthur: post the thing in full with a disclaimer that it doesn’t represent the views of the foundation, and just censor all of the F-bombs if you’re squeamish about that. A lot of people heard about the speech, a lot of people want to see it.

 

***There are 407 days left in the presidential term of Barack Obama, and there is still no nominee to serve as administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Rumors swirling again that a nomination is imminent…whatever.

***JJ Today received confirmation last week from the Justice Department that no decision has been made on whether OJJDP will lower the minimum allocation of JJPDA Title II formula funds to low-population states. One longtime specialist predicts that states will have to apply for their formula funds without knowing the answer to this question.

“Guarantee we will be instructed to submit applications using the 2011 allocations and they will have us re-submit later when they get the approved amounts,” the specialist told us. A decision on the allocation will have to “go through so many serpentine layers of mystical approval that we still will not know the allocations before May or June.”

***There are some Justice grant solicitations up already from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, all three of which look like they could be used to work with juveniles:

Fostering Desistance through Effective Supervision: For programs aimed at motivating a returning offender to change his or her ways, and to address mental health issues that foster crime-prone thinking.

Funding: Up to four grants will be given for up to $1 million each to government agencies or tribes, although the projects are expected to be partnerships between parole offices and private service providers. The BJA funds can only constitute 75 percent of a project’s total cost, the other quarter has to be lined up by the grantee.

Deadline to apply: Feb. 23, 2012.

Technology Careers Training Demonstration Projects for Incarcerated Adults and Juveniles: For efforts to prepare juveniles and adults for jobs in the tech field, including: computer-assisted design, engineering and construction, Braille transcription and wireless/broadband services.

Funding: Government units only. BJA will make up to six one-year awards for $750,000; there is no match requirement.

Deadline to apply: March 2, 2012.

Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Training and Technical Assistance Program: For facilitating collaboration among the criminal justice, juvenile justice, and mental health and substance abuse treatment systems to increase access to mental health and other treatment services. BJA is currently funding 40 justice/mental health collaborations that are either in the planning, implementation and expansion phase.

Funding: Nonprofits, corporations, colleges and faith-based groups can all compete for one, one-year cooperative agreement for $600,000.

Deadline: Feb. 2, 2012.

***Carol Cramer Brooks is in as CEO at the National Partnership Juvenile Services. Brooks has served as a consultant with Juvenile Justice Associates, and worked in both juvenile detention and corrections for the State of Michigan. Brooks was introduced to partnership members at the NPJS conference in October.

She steps in for Mike Jones, who has filled in as boss since 2010, when longtime NPJS leader Earl Dunlap retired from the organization. Jones told JJ Today he will serve as a part-time managing director of the partnership, the same title he held under Dunlap, and explore “other opportunities with different groups that I have a working relationship with currently.”

In last months NPJS newsletter, Brooks gave details about what the organization needs to focus on in the short-term, and was also frank about the future for NPJS and other membership organizations: 

“We are all hoping that the economy recovers which would allow us to exist as we have always existed. The changes in technology and the demographic shifts in the work force, however, mean that we will never be able to go back to the NPJS that we were. Five years from now, our organization must look different than it does today.”

***Anyone want to help Wyoming plan services at its newly-constructed Juvenile Service Center in Cheyenne? The Laramie County Attorney’s Office has released a Request for Information in the matter, and Deputy County Attorney Sylvia Lee Hackl was nice enough to send that along for us to share with our readers. Click here to read the request.

*** Shay Bilchik’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform has announced the 2012 dates of its certificate programs for public and private sector. The center will offer the public sector program twice: July 6-13 and Oct. 10-17, and the private sector program will take place Nov. 7-14. Click here for more details, and click here to apply.

***Forgot to mention this last week: Buddy Howell, a former senior OJJDP staffer and one of the great historians of juvenile justice, has a new book out called “Gangs in America’s Communities.” Howell is one of the most ardent purveyors of evidence-based practices in the field, and this book is a plain-language breakdown of the existing research on youth gang activity and how to address it. Click here to order.