JJ Today is on the road this week in Indy, where the Annie E. Casey Foundation has allowed us to skulk around the annual Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative conference. We'll post some notes each day on the buzz at the conference. Here is some from the first day (Tuesday):
Indianapolis is turning the corner faster than a car at the Indy 500. JDAI came to town in 2004,when Judge Stephanie Moores took the juvenile bench (we're told the former juvenile judge, James Payne, wanted no part of it).
"We locked kids up at astounding rates," city councilman Vern Brown told the conference this morning, recalling a less progressive era. "We ruined some lives here."
It didn't take long for JDAI to make a difference: Detention population admissions are down 60 percent since 2004, and that decline was accompanied by a drop in juvenile arrests. Much credit goes to Moores, a feisty judge who came in from outside juvenile justice and had to learn quickly. She has curbed the flow of school referrals to her court, and just this week was influential in getting money for detention alternatives into the city's $1.8 billion.
One question, though: How do you hold a coronation of Indianapolis juvenile justice progress and not invite Bill Glick, or at least one of his staff at the Indiana Juvenile Justice Task Force? Glick is JJ Today's first call on anything "youth" in Indiana, period.
Lots of new JDAI sites on the horizon. There numerous visitors from Hawaii, Idaho and Montana about to get going on their second year, which in JDAI is really when implementation happens. There are even more delegates from states exploring a JDAI push. We've seen people from:
*Indiana (including Tippecanoe County, of Tippecanoe Watch fame!)
*Orange County (California)
The last one is a bit surprising, as our information was that only state-level projects were being considered by Casey at this point (more on that in an upcoming story in Youth Today). Then again, the O.C. probably deals with as many juveniles as some entire JDAI states.
People are getting freaked out about the Adam Walsh Act. We posted over the summer about the juvenile sex offenders that would be added to the state and national offender registries, and it is definitely on the minds of people on the state level (all states need to be in compliance by 2009 or risk losing some law enforcement money). Expect a Justice Policy Institute analysis of this soon.
The feds mandate that the most serious juvenile sex offenders be added, but allow states to add a many other juvenile sex offenders as they choose; and from what we heard, Mississippi has already tried to set that example, placing even youth adjudicated for public indecency on the registry and barring them from attending regular public school. From what we've heard, State Rep. John Hines (D) used up a bunch of political capital to keep the juvenile portion of that law from getting passed.
Jurisdictions with lots of non-English speakers get pretty loose with how they handle language barriers. Vera Institute Senior Program Associate Yumari Martinez presented findings on what jurisdictions do when it comes to juvenile offenders (and their parents) who are in need of foreign language speakers.
It's a problem for sure, he says: police officers leave youths in detention because they can't understand parents, and court appointments are missed because documents are in English only. The few bilingual staff get overburdened with requests to interpret (with no extra pay), and some precincts and intake staff resort to ever less accomplished "translators": siblings, school personnel, or civilians that just happen to be in the agency's waiting room at the time...none of whom should be privy to information that needs to be discussed.
Reform vs. Representation. There was a lively exchange at one session about the interplay between sound defense representation and detention reform that was essentially this: There are defenders who feel that the desire to keep youths out of lockup pushes some youth in reform-minded systems to make hasty pleas. In a portion of those cases, defenders feel that due diligence on the road to trial likely would have meant dismissal of the case. And that diligence - even if it meant a stay in a detention facility while it ran its course - would have been better for the youth involved. The counter-argument, though, is that many defenders do not use the time wisely and leave youth locked up needlessly.