Weekly Notes: Money for Mentoring; Chicago Youth and Reentry; Shakespeare for Juveniles…and more

***The Bureau of Justice Assistance is accepting proposals on mentoring money provided through the Second Chance Act (signed by former President George W. Bush last April). Here’s the thing for the JJ field: The funds can be used to work with teens, but only those who were tried as adults and are returning from adult facilities.

The funding info is somewhat vague: Up to $300,000 for up to 24 months for an unspecified number of winners, strongly recommends bringing some matching funds to the table. The 2009 appropriation for the Second Chance Act carved out $25 million for offender re-entry (about half of what the act authorizes), $10 million of which is for “mentoring and transitional services.”

Deadline is May 21.

***How will Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter’s party swap affect youth-related legislation? Probably not a much,  but it’s worth noting that the bill to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) will probably not carry bipartisan sponsorship. Specter was the co-sponsor on the bill that moved through the Senate Committee on the Judiciary last year, and it’s doubtful his former GOP colleagues will be obliged to pick up the mantle. The new ranking Republican on the committee may be Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), who opposed some aspects of the reauthorization bill last year including the phase-out of the valid-court-order exception.

Will the lack of strong bipartisan support out of committee affect the prospects of reauthorization? Probably not. In the end it will be a good thing for the prospect of reauthorization, said one person involved with Act 4 Juvenile Justice. “With 60 votes eventually, the Dems will be able to pass whatever they want, when Franken gets out of the wilderness in Minnesota,” he said.

***Chapin Hall has released its study of Chicago youths who exited Illinois correctional facilities between 1996 and 2003 (a total of 13,511 exits over those years). There are lots of specific findings, but the general thrust is that the reentry of these youths to the community often did not include much in the way of re-connection, in particular, enrollment in school. Another important figure: 7,506 exits were followed by Medicaid enrollment within a year, but only 4,140 of those enrollments resulted in any form of medical claim.

So more than half of all exits resulted in Medicaid enrollment (and you have to think many more were eligible) but about half of those enrollments were basically worthless, because the enrollees didn’t make use of the program. Only 30 percent of the Medicaid-enrolled youth used Medicaid for mental health services a year out, and about 20 percent used Medicaid for substance abuse rehabilitation.

***The L.A. Times editorial board asked legislators to consider a bill introduced in the California State Senate that would end the practice of sentencing juveniles to life without the possibility of parole. The state currently has more than 200 offenders carrying that sentence.

“Consider … cases such as Antonio Nunez of South Los Angeles, who at 14 was in a car with two adults when someone in the vehicle fired at police,” the Times April 30 editorial stated. . “No one was injured, but the boy was sentenced to life in prison forever. It’s not an unusual story in this city, where adult gang members recruit teens to help them out and take the fall. Dickens would have a field day.”

In Nebraska, a legislator promoting the same kind of change realized she just doesn’t have the support this year.

***Congrats to Liane Rozzell of Charlottesville, Va., who received the Open Society Institute’s Soros Justice Fellowship in the area of juvenile justice. JJ Today met Rozzell at the airport on the way to last year’s JDAI. She got involved in community organizing for JJ reform in Virginia after being shocked at how the system handled her own son. Rozzell will use the stipend (about $70,000) to “build an organization of family, youth, and community allies to reform Virginia’s juvenile justice system,” according to OSI. Rozell has already laid the groundwork for that with Families & Allies of Virginia’s Youth,  a group she coordinates.

***The National Endowment for the Arts made its Shakespeare for a New Generation grants recently, which funds theater organizations to take Shakespeare performances and some educational opportunities to middle schools and high schools. Thanks to some money chipped in by the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, six of the 37 grants will target youth involved in the juvenile justice system. They are: Actors’ Shakespeare Project (Somerville, Mass.), California Shakespeare Theater (Berkeley, Calif.), Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival (Cold Spring, N.Y.),  Kentucky Shakespeare Festival (Louisville, Ky.), San Francisco Shakespeare Festival (San Francisco, Calif.) and Shakespeare & Co. (Lenox, Mass.).


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