Weekly Notes: Local Mentoring Money Doled Out by OJJDP; New York and Cali Facility News; Corporal Punishment; and more

Note: This entry was corrected on Sept. 10

***The Office of Justice Programs has posted a list of winners for the Local Youth Mentoring Grants Initiative, a Recovery Act project of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (no press release whatever on that money; thanks, fellas).

By the numbers: 13 grants, 10 states, about $6.4 million. Five grants went to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) affiliates and two went to school districts, the other eight appear to be for nonprofits or faith-based organizations.

The solicitation for the local grants didn’t specify how much would be given out, so we’re not sure if this is the final tally for this funding stream. The winners thus far:

Merced Youth for Christ, Calif. – $499,989.

Clinton Community School District, Iowa – $450,214.

Helping Services for Northeast Iowa – $499,829.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Acadiana, La. – $482,175.

Wellspring Alliance for Families (BBBSA affiliate), Monroe La. – $500,000.

Family Service Inc., Lawrence, Mass. – $499,830.

Urban Ventures Leadership Foundation, Minneapolis – $500,000.

Great Southwest Council, Boy Scouts of America, Albuquerque, N.M. – $499,998.

Big Brothers Big Sisters Association of Central Ohio, Columbus – $500,000.

South Carolina Department of Education – $486,169.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound, Wash. – $500,000.

Volunteers of America WesternWashington, Everett – $500,000.

University of Wisconsin, Parkside – $497,691.

That leaves the national mentoring grants as the last OJJDP Recovery Act money to be announced. The department has until the end up September.

***Major facility-related news from both ends of the country. In New York, a U.S. Department of Justice report of four juvenile corrections centers there reveals routine excessive force used on youth for everything from stealing a cookie to starting a fistfight. Keep in mind: any youth over the age of 15 is subject to adult court in New York, so wards of these juvenile prisons started there before they turned 16.

The state has been making a genuine effort to reform its system, mostly by keeping more youth away from detention centers and locked facilities. It will be interesting to see how Gov. David Paterson (D) handles this. He could use the report to justify a lot of firing at the facilities, and anyone who has attempted to change the way a facility approaches juveniles will tell you that this is a necessary endeavor. Some guards who have spent a lifetime viewing youth as adversaries can be swayed; some need to go. But that would put Paterson in a fight with the officers’ union for sure, not a politically savvy move heading into the 2010 gubernatorial election.

But if he doesn’t take some action, he runs the risk of the Justice Department suing to take over control of all the state juvenile prisons.            

In California, the Herman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility in Chino had developed a reputation for even more brutal conditions than the New York facilities. But the state announced this week it will close Stark, its largest juvenile prison, this year.

That will leave California with five juvenile prisons, down from 11 in 2003, which makes sense because the population in those prisons is a small fraction of what it was before the millennium. Some advocates in the state would like to see the remaining five closed and the youth in them sent to county-run facilities; others believe that more youths would end up in adult jail if counties didn’t have the option to send their worst offenders to the state. Youths over age 16 who are prosecuted as juveniles in California can be held until the age of 25, but most county facilities don’t have the space to hold them that long. The fear among some advocates is, instead of risking a 16-year-old getting out at 18 or 21, more prosecutors and judges will be OK moving juveniles to adult court.   

It looks as though many of the 400 youth at Stark will be moved to Camarillo’s Ventura Youth Correctional Facility, Ventura County Star‘s Timm Herdt reports. The state had debated turning the Camarillo site into an adult medical prison, whatever that is. That idea was not popular with residents, or so it would appear from this opinion page on the Star‘s website.

Stark, by the way, will likely be retrofitted to become an adult facility.

***In last week’s notes, we mentioned Rand Young’s visit to Wyoming on behalf of the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative. We posted before Young got back to us, but he did e-mail over a few thoughts from his visit regarding the state’s next steps (we quote verbatim):

Next steps to move forward would include:

An organized effort to bring all constituency groups together and to develop a common vision

Accurate data for stakeholders to review

A more thorough understanding of the reforms being proposed such as removing youth from adult jails and alternative programs

A frank discussion on which model is most effective and appropriate for youth (punishment vs rehabilitation)

I believe Wyoming could be close to coming to terms with many of their internal differences and could gain consensus on what direction their juvenile justice system takes. In that vein, I hope your article offers encouragement rather than criticism which could further divide the two groups.

JJ Today will offer encouragement when the state actually does something. Right now, even the advocates pushing reform would tell you there is a lot of talk and no action.

***Indiana held a conference this month to discuss an apparent problem in some counties with racial disparities in its juvenile justice system. Russ Skiba, director of the Equity Project at Indiana University, told the audience of about 200 that black youth were detained at higher rates than white youth for similar offenses.

***When we mention schools here, usually it’s in reference to zero tolerance policies or over reliance on the courts in solving disciplinary problems. But as Human Rights Watch (HRW) reminds us with the recently released report, Impairing Education, there are some states where it is still legal for schools to dish out a brand of justice that’s illegal in the most punitive of juvenile facilities: corporal punishment, most frequently carried out using a paddle.

Human Rights Watch teamed up with the ACLU to document use of corporal punishment, and the results (based on numbers from the 2006-2007 school year) point to two major findings:

1) Sanctioned corporal punishment is now very much a Southern thing. There are only two states in which HRW documented such punishment that could be considered Northern: Idaho and Indiana.

The majority of documented punishment occurred between Florida and Texas. Arkansas, Alabama and Texas were the only states with more than 20,000 incidents; Texas had close to 50,000!

2) Corporal punishment happens disproportionately to students with disabilities. Such students make up about 14 percent of the student population nationwide, but represented about 19 percent of youth who were disciplined with corporal punishment during the 2006-2007 school year.    

***Our colleague in JJ blogging, Reclaiming Futures Everyday, posted a summary of a new book that looks like it could be an interesting read. Check here on the Reclaiming blog for a synopsis of Dispatches from Juvenile Hall from co-author Linda Wagner.



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