I was disappointed to read John Kelly’s “Tale of Two Reforms.” I am the recently retired chief probation officer in Santa Cruz County, Calif., and as such, I have had vast experience with implementing the core strategies of JDAI (Santa Cruz is a model site for the JDAI) and working with the Burns Institute to address racial and ethnic disparities in our juvenile justice system.

Given the urgency of the situation, and the human rights issues at stake, it is unfortunate that Mr. Kelly chose to approach this issue with a gossip rag journalistic style rather than producing a thoughtful piece that could raise awareness and give practitioners a real sense of the status of reform work. In fact, many sites are now moving the dial on eliminating disparities by mapping their decision points; creating and tracking data by race, ethnicity, gender, geography and offense; identifying areas of inequities and disparities in program access, outcomes and case processing; surveying users of the system to uncover problems that cause barriers for clients; proposing and implementing changes in policies, practices and programs; and re-measuring to see if the changes resulted in more equitable treatment regardless of race, ethnicity or gender.

These sites are indeed demonstrating success. Please, Youth Today, raise the level of your reporting on the state of reform. I don’t think your readers want to see a food fight that was orchestrated by the author, nor do they want to read unattributed, angry quotes from the disgruntled. Your readers are left with the impression that the work of the Burns Institute is nothing more than rabble rousing, that JDAI has no evidence of success and that MFC is a pile of excrement.

We are in need of a higher level of discourse and analysis about the current successes, challenges and lessons learned from reformers on the front lines than what was dished up by Mr. Kelly.

Judith A. Cox
(Cox is a technical assistance provider for Casey on its state JDAI project in Hawaii.)


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