Weekly Notes: OJJDP Funding; Tuba Man’s JJ Impact in Washington; Job Opening at Berkeley; and more

**A couple of funding notices from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. First, an OJJDP grant that seems reasonably open for competition was announced this week. It is a call for proposals to do a $3.5 million, 5-year study on the viability of mentoring as a preventative measure against juvenile delinquency. Probably a good thing to know, since juvenile mentoring is now one of the largest pots of money

The way the RFP is phrased, the office isn’t looking for a referendum on mentoring and juvenile justice; just what approaches work best.

“While mentoring appears to be a promising intervention for disadvantaged youth, more evaluation work is needed to determine the components of a mentoring program that are necessary for bringing about positive youth development,” the solicitation notice states.

Deadline is June 2.

The other notice appears to be the administrative equivalent of an earmark. The solicitation is for the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force program for expansion in New York and Texas. Here are the eligibility standards for the two $500,000 grants:

“Only state and local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies within the Eastern or Southern Federal Judicial Districts of New York or the Eastern or Southern Federal Judicial District of Texas are eligible to apply.”

Deadline is June 2.

***The Center for Juvenile Justice Reform and the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative issued a report on the lessons learned from the fields of child welfare and juvenile justice over the years. Supporting Youth in Transition to Adulthood focuses particularly on “crossover youth,” who are known to the child welfare agency and have spent time in juvenile custody as well. One interesting recommendation made at the end of the report: allow child welfare to retain jurisdiction of crossover youths, especially older ones, because that system can usually access more resources to help them. Not a bad idea. After-care is generally not a large enough funding set-aside for JJ systems, so keeping child welfare-involved youths connected to another stream of resources (like those available from the Chaffee Act or the recently-passed Fostering Connections Act) could help maximize what is available within juvenile justice.

***Could the case of the “Tuba Man” draw questions about the legislative model approach to juvenile court administration? Edward McMichael, a symphony tuba player who became famous in Seattle for playing his instrument at local sports events, was beaten to death in November by a group of teens, who were all 15 at the time of the attack.

A judge rejected the prosecutors’ attempt to move the case to adult court; that likely pleased advocates that wish to keep violent juvenile offenders within the juvenile court, where more services are available to help get their lives on track.

But Washington uses a legislative model to handle juvenile court decision-making, which means the judge has to adhere to specific guidelines that dictate what is done with youths based on their offenses. There are some extenuating circumstances that allow a judge to act outside of those guidelines; none applied in this case.

In this case, because the youths are all 16 or close to it, none of them will spend even a year in secure facilities for the fatal beating, which was committed after a string of robberies the same night.

You wonder if that makes some JJ reformers in Washington state (where both MacArthur’s Models for Change and Casey’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative are engaged) squeamish. Is less than a year enough time for teens who brutally beat a man to death?

Let’s say one of these teens commits another serious felony, kills someone else down the line. Given the high profile of this case, you can see what might follow: the group outraged by how little time was spent rehabilitating the teens, then Politician X reacting to that outrage calling for far-reaching reforms of the penalties for juvenile offenders.

And since the legislature dictates the guidelines, it might be easy for Politician X to get that done.

Michael Curtis, the managing director for the Center for Children and Youth Justice, says the legislative model has its virtues and vices.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” he told JJ Today. What the state pays for in rigidity, he says, might be made up for in that disproportionate minority contact is not as pervasive as it is in other states.

Also, Curtis adds, “the thing in Pennsylvania with the judges? That could never happen here.”

***Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) and the head of his Department of Juvenile Justice, Frank Peterman, spent the week promoting the department’s success in improving the state’s juvenile justice system. This Ft. Myers News-Press article cites one anecdote they used to highlight success, followed by a few promising stats.

Local watchdog Cathy Corry, head of Justice 4 Kids, doesn’t buy it. The system is still rife with youth who are criminalized for “misbehaving and misdemeanors,” Corry said. “Whoever is in charge [here] just likes to give their own slant.”

A few Florida counties might be close to a venture into the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, from what we’ve heard.

Meanwhile, the investigation into the horrific White House Boys scandal in Marianna, Fla., is going nowhere, according to the former DJJ boss who pushed for the investigation. Corry said Florida law enforcement is guarding the exhumation of graves at the reform school like it’s a national security secret.

The St. Petersburg Times produced an extensive piece on the scandal last Sunday.

***A vote on a proposed daytime curfew law in Dallas is delayed to May 13, when Mayor Tom Leppert vows a “final vote, one way or the other,” according to the Dallas City Hall Blog. There are mixed emotions about the curfew and uncertainty about its potential, as we reported in February.

***Bay Area residents (or aspiring ones): the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice is currently looking for a research associate. The center’s mission is to “research, develop and advance innovative criminal and juvenile justice law and policy approaches through collaboration with and among scholars, policymakers and practitioners.” E-mail arussi@law.berkeley.edu with any questions.

Depending on how things shake out and when the center makes the hire, you might end up briefly working for the next head of OJJDP.


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