Weekly Notes: New OJJDP Candidate; Summer Reading; Juvenile Sex Offender Program Shows Promise; and more

***The scuttlebutt on candidates to lead the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention has died down over the summer months, but JJ Today has heard one more name is in the mix: Wansley Walters, director of the Miami-Dade County Juvenile Services Department. Walters has overseen a significant overhaul of how the city handles juvenile offenders, and has worked closely with OJJDP on the National Demonstration Project, which uses Miami’s civil citation initiative as the centerpiece of a model to lower juvenile arrests. 

One thing JJ Today knows about Walters: She’s a believer in improving the technology used by JJ systems. Walters contracted for a new case management system with the guys who built the Quest system in Marion County, Ind., which a number of Indianapolis counties have adopted and now swear by.

We asked Shay Bilchik, who knows a little bit about running OJJDP and was once a Florida prosecutor, about Walters. His assessment: “Very sharp leader. Innovative, smart, knowledgeable.”

***A few good reads from the summer:

Marion Mattingly’s interview with Charles Ogletree. “Tree,” a Harvard professor and mentor of President Barack Obama, was omnipresent at JJ functions after the election, and our esteemed colleague at Juvenile Justice Update snagged a Q&A with him after a Harvard conference in February. The interview ran in Update‘s June/July issue.

When Mattingly asked Ogletree if he thought the administration would budget more money for OJJDP, he said “I’m going to insist on it.” When she asked if he thought there’d be an appointment at OJJDP soon, he replied, “There will be.” Hmmm.

The New Yorker‘s John Seabrook on the Ceasefire. Seabrook provides an in-depth look at the Ceasefire approach developed by John Jay College of Criminal Justice Professor David Kennedy. Kennedy’s theory – that if the community imposes the threat of an impending crackdown as the stick and the offer of jobs and other help as the carrot to known violent offenders and gang leaders, communities can put a dent in gang violence. Ceasefire has been successfully used by Boston, Cincinnati and other jurisdictions.

JDAI piece on myths and realities of juvenile justice. National Council on Crime and Delinquency President Barry Krisberg led this study of three cities (Dallas, Washington and San Mateo, Calif.), which compares the accounts of area juvenile crime presented by juveniles themselves, JJ system leaders and media coverage.

Perhaps the most interesting finding was that media tended, in the opinion of study authors, to overstate both the negative and the positive. Authors cite numerous examples of  “juveniles are getting more violent”-type comments being included with no stats to back them up. They also cite glowing stories about diversion programs in which the basis for the program is presumed to be logical. 

***Luzerne Update! The state supreme court initially ruled that the records of some 6,500 juveniles who appeared before disgraced judge Mark Ciavarella were to be destroyed, which did not sit well with lawyers and families going after the judges and other named defendants for damages in a class-action lawsuit. The court has changed its mind.

***A juvenile sex offender program in Calcascieu Parish, La. is producing results and may be replicated statewide. Nationally, that’s a great story to get out there. There is now a year for advocates to play with before states are required to comply with the sex offender registry aspects of the Adam Walsh Act (or lose a fraction of their federal justice assistance grants). The Walsh requirements would land a lot of juveniles on registries for decades if not their entire lives, though there is evidence that juvenile sex offenders are far more amenable to rehabilitation than adults.

***In Indiana, a Brown County Circuit Court judge has waived the murder trial of 13-year-old Blade Reed into adult court. The state only has 50 juveniles in adult facilities, according to this article in the Indianapolis Star, so it’s somewhat surprising that such a young teen would face the 45 to 65 years that an adult murder charge carries in the state.

If he was adjudicated in juvenile court for the homicide, Reed would likely be locked up until he was 18 and then placed on probation. The prosecutors did not believe that was long enough, and Judge Judith Stewart agreed.

Stewart’s written explanation: “The evidence taken as whole has failed to show that the best interests of the community are served by maintaining the child in the juvenile system.” An adult sentence “would prevent the child from returning to his and Ms. Voland’s neighborhood when he is still in his teens or early adulthood, a time when his immaturity may cause him to pose more of a threat than later in life.”

[Voland, 77, was allegedly stabbed by Reed; her husband was allegedly shot and killed by Reed’s brother Bennie, age 17].

Jim Roberts, who is defending Blade Reed, strenuously disagreed with the notion that punishment within the juvenile justice system would not suffice in his client’s case. The boy has suffered serious abuse, Roberts told JJ Today, and his “mental age” is probably closer to 10 than 13.

“It’s not the length in years, it’s the timing of the years,” Roberts said. “In the years between 13 and 16, the brain is developing rapidly.”

Those years in juvenile custody, he said, “would be worth 30 years of so-called adult rehabilitation. That’s what the prosecutor doesn’t get.”

***WRAL, the local television network in North Carolina, has posted a Q&A with new juvenile justice boss Linda Hayes on its website, with questions from viewers.



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