Weekly Notes: Famous Diversion Program Will Likely Close; Ohio Complies with Adam Walsh Act; Curfew Law Struck Down; and more

***Edgar Cahn is busy crafting a strategy to compel JJ systems, using the threat of litigation, to address racial disparities in their detention centers. The theory is predicated on the notion that there is now plenty of evidence of cheaper, more effective options for dealing with youths on the front of the end of the system. If Community X willfully ignores those options while its centers get crowded with minority youth, Cahn theorizes, that system can be sued (read our in-depth coverage of the theory here).

Whether you agree or disagree with his theory, the news of Cahn’s own diversion program in Washington is painfully bitter considering his new project. D.C.’s Time Dollar Court, a diversion program Cahn started in 1996 that has helped keep hundreds of juvenile misdemeanor offenders from entering the system and maintained low recidivism rates, did not receive funding from the city for next year. Unless some miracle of governance occurs this weekend, the court will hold its final session tomorrow and close its doors on Sept. 30. The Time Dollar Court, a concept that has now been proliferated around the world, and it is the only D.C. Superior Court-authorized diversion program in the city.

For what it’s worth, this is not the first time Time Dollar has seen its own extinction coming up quickly on the horizon. In April 2007, it was just days from closing because of city budget cuts before getting bailed out with enough funds for half a year. JJ Today hears that the de-funding was simply a product of a new person administering the justice grants competition for the city, and that nobody actually wants Time Dollar to go away.

We don’t editorialize too much in this space, but regardless of what happens, it’s a disgrace that the city treats its only legitimate juvenile diversion program as a last-minute trifle in the budget process.

***OJJDP’s public info listserve, JuvJust@usdoj.gov, was on an absolute tear this week! It’s a great resource by the way, the office uses it to announce their own publications and activities and sometimes agrees to promote the work of others, usually organizations putting on conferences or trainings. Here’s the CliffsNotes version of what was announced:

– A bulletin on reducing disproportionate minority contact (DMC) on the local level, which is a complement to the office’s recently released DMC Technical Assistance Manual. The bulletin was written for OJJDP by Mark Soler and Lisa Garry at the Center for Children’s Law and Policy (imagine that happening in the past eight years?). 

– National Partnership for Juvenile Services will hold its symposium Oct.11-14, 2009, in Indianapolis, Ind. (JJ Today might be roaming the halls at this). 

– An online tool for federal staffers working with community initiatives is available.

– The Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Justice Research and Statistics Association will host a national conference to share justice data and discuss ways to improve the collection of such data in the future.

***There was one more announcement, and our guess is it might irk more than one JJ advocate. JuvJust announced that Ohio and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation are the first two jurisdictions to substantially implement the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), which is part of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006.

The release was accompanied with a quote from Attorney General Eric Holder: “We are pleased to announce the first two jurisdictions to substantially implement this important legislation,” said Holder. “We are committed to working with the remaining states, tribes and territories with their implementation efforts.”

That is not an opinion shared by everyone in the field. There is some concern about what the national registry requirements will do to juvenile sex offenders, who are far more likely to be rehabilitated. The Justice Policy Institute recommended more than a year ago that states pass on the requirement and take the penalty (a loss of 10 percent of their Byrne Grants from DOJ), because managing the registry would cost more anyway. Some states remain on the fence about complying with the Walsh Act, including Texas.

***Of course, OJJDP did not announce the one thing everybody really wants to hear: news of a nominee to lead the agency. But it would appear things took one small step forward: Office of Justice Programs nominee Laurie Robinson’s is officially on the radar of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which received her nomination papers from the White House. Documents related to her nomination can be found here.

Also, the Senate unanimously confirmed Carmen Nazario to serve as the Department of Health and Human Services’ assistant secretary for children and families, which is a roughly parallel position in stature to Robinson’s job at Justice. So it would appear that Congress has started to move forward with the business of filling executive offices now that the Sotomayor confirmation and the town hall-athon that was the summer recess are over.

***The question on pretty much nobody’s mind: What happened to J. Robert Flores, the former OJJDP administrator? Flores left his post with little fanfare over the winter, and we had not seen hide nor hair of him since. But a little birdie sent us a link to this website, Flores was the keynote speaker at the Esperanza Award luncheon held by Washington, D.C.-based Restoration Ministries at a mid-September luncheon. According to its 2008 tax returns, the group, which is led by founder Candace Wheeler, “seeks to bring healing to men, women and children who are trapped in the slavery of sex trafficking and lead them into the freedom of Jesus Christ.”

According to the website’s biography of Flores, he has started Hampton Road Strategies, a consulting and law firm “dedicated to working with small and effective businesses and non-profit organizations that can benefit from sophisticated strategic planning, partnership development and improved resource management.”

***The Supreme Judicial Court, the highest court in Massachusetts, stuck down a curfew law imposed on youth under age 17 in the city of Lowell. Look for that decision to have a rippling effect throughout the state, with some municipalities either junking curfews or rewriting them to avoid a similar appeal as the one Lowell dealt with. This is the second rejection of a curfew law by a state’s high court this year; New York’s high court tossed the curfew in Rochester in June.

***Some good reads:

-Well-written and tragic story by Roanoke Times reporter Rex Bowman about the closure of the Natural Bridge Juvenile Correctional Center in Virginia, which was the state’s best facility when it came to developing juveniles and the worst in terms of handling high numbers. Unfortunately, amidst a budget crisis, the state decided the latter was more important.

-Maryland is using risk assessments to control which juveniles need to be detained, and Baltimore Sun crime reporter Peter Hermann wanted to learn how a juvenile now charged with murder was not detained for a crime that occurred before his alleged homicide. His account does not paint a pretty picture.

Time Magazine‘s Ken Stier looks at the considerable reform effort ahead of New York’s juvenile justice system if it wants to avoid federal oversight. JJ Today has heard the state is bringing in big guns (Mark Steward of Missouri model fame and National Council on Crime and Delinquency) to help get its juvenile facilities under control.



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