Weekly Notes: Funding for JJ research announced; Obama to start from scratch in OJJDP seach?; findings from major study on juvenile offenders; and more

Couple of quick-hit notes today

***The Senate Judiciary Committee did not mark up the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act reauthorization at yesterday’s committee meeting. Hopefully the committee gets to the bill next week, now that it has moved the Free Flow of Information Act to the full Senate.  

Meanwhile, the House passed a consolidated appropriations act that encompasses most funding for youth-related agencies, so we might see the president sign a 2010 budget for those agencies soon after the holidays.

More on the appropriations next week, but one thing JJ Today did learn immediately was that the House broke out $30 million of the missing and exploited children’s budget for the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force program. It’s the first time ICAC has had its own line in the House approps.

ICAC Task Forces have had real success tracking down and busting Internet predators, and it’s been a good year for proponents of the program on Capitol Hill. The Protect Act passed in October, Sen. Barbara Mikulski managed to secure $50 million for the task forces in the Recovery Act, and now both sides of Congress have recognized ICAC as an official, stand-alone line in the federal budget. And the $30 million appropriated in both the House and Senate bills is double what ICAC got in 2009.

***The National Institute of Justice announced some research solicitations for 2010, and a number are available for youth-related projects. They include:

Program Name: Children Exposed to Family Violence
Program Contacts:  Bernie Auchter, (202) 307-0154, Bernie.Auchter@usdoj.gov
Bethany Backes, (202) 305-4419, Bethany.Bakes@usdoj.gov
Program Description: NIJ requests applicants to submit multidisciplinary research and evaluation proposals addressing interventions, justice system responses, and child development, coping, and resilience related to childhood exposure to family violence; and the impact of domestic violence on child custody decisions. Children Exposed to Family Violence encompasses a broad area that includes both children as victims of various forms of violence and as bystanders or observers of various forms of violence in the home. This solicitation is limited to violence that occurs in the home and excludes violence within the school, community, or popular culture, such as television, movies, music and video games.

Program Name: Crime and Justice Research/Investigator Initiated
Program Contacts: Karen Bachar, (202) 514-4403, Karen.Bachar@usdoj.gov
Marilyn Moses, (202) 514-6205, Marilyn.Moses@usdoj.gov
Louis Tuthill, (202) 307-1015, Louis.Tuthill@usdoj.gov
Program Description: The Crime and Justice Research solicitation is NIJ’s investigator-initiated solicitation for social and behavioral research and evaluation on topics relevant to federal, state, local or tribal criminal and juvenile justice policy and practice. Most crime and justice topics that are relevant to policy makers and practitioners are eligible for consideration. Applications submitted under Crime and Justice Research that appear responsive to other NIJ-targeted solicitations may be transferred to those solicitations at the discretion of NIJ.

Program Name: Evaluation of Programs to Reduce Gang Membership, Crime and Violence
Program Contact: Louis Tuthill, (202) 307-1015, Louis.Tuthill@usdoj.gov
Program Description: NIJ’s portfolio of gang research seeks to understand the interconnectedness of gang membership, firearms violence, drug sales and criminal behavior and how best to control and prevent gang-related crime. Communities that have reduced gang-related crime have done so by following certain principles and applying them to their unique problems, needs and circumstances. NIJ has sponsored evaluations of several anti-violence and anti-gang programs, ranging from Chicago CeaseFire to Project Safe Neighborhoods. These programs were modeled after, and informed by, the strengths and weaknesses of previous efforts such as Boston CeaseFire and its offshoots (Project Exile and the Strategic Approaches to Community Safety Initiative). NIJ will issue a solicitation for further research about gangs.

Program Name: Research on Sentencing and Community-Based Alternatives to Incarceration
Program Contact: Linda Truitt, (202) 353-9081, Linda.Truitt@usdoj.gov
Program Description: NIJ will seek applications for funding to research sentencing and community corrections policies and practices that promote effective and cost-efficient, community-based alternatives to jail and prison without jeopardizing public safety. Priority research questions include what policies and practices promote effective and cost-efficient alternatives to incarceration for alcohol and other drug-involved offenders, including those with mental health (i.e., comorbid) issues, and what technological applications and protocols for assessment or monitoring support effective and cost-efficient alternatives to incarceration. The target population must include adult offenders in federal, state or local jurisdictions who are convicted on criminal charges and may be sentenced to jail or prison.

Program Name: Graduate Research Fellowship
Web Link http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/funding/graduate-research-fellowship/welcome.htm
Program Contacts  Christine Crossland, (202) 616-5166, Christine.Crossland@usdoj.gov
Marie Garcia, (202) 514-7128, marie.garcia@usdoj.gov 
Program Description: NIJ’s Ph.D. Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF) program provides awards to accredited universities that support graduate study leading to research-based doctoral degrees. NIJ invests in doctoral education by supporting universities that sponsor students who demonstrate the potential to successfully complete doctoral degree programs in disciplines relevant to the mission of the Institute. Applicants in policy and health sciences or in an education field are eligible to apply only if the doctoral research dissertation is in an NIJ-supported discipline (i.e., social and behavioral sciences, operations technology, information and sensors research and development, and investigative and forensic sciences). This program furthers the Department’s mission by sponsoring research to provide objective, independent, evidence-based knowledge and tools to meet the challenges of crime and justice, particularly at the state and local levels.

Program Name: Human Trafficking
Web Link: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/topics/crime/human-trafficking/welcome.htm
Program Contact: Karen Bachar, (202) 514-4403, Karen.Bachar@usdoj.gov
Program Description: NIJ will seek funding applications for research and evaluation projects to address the knowledge gaps related to trafficking in persons in the United States. NIJ is particularly interested in evaluations of programs that operate demand reduction interventions for sex trafficking and commercial sex acts. NIJ is also interested in research that describes and estimates the unlawful commercial sex economy in the country. All applications should be for research with direct, immediate and obvious implications for policy and practice in the United States.

Program Name: Violence Against Women: Sexual Violence, Teen Violence, Stalking
Web Links: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/topics/crime/rape-sexual-violence/welcome.htm; http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/topics/crime/stalking/welcome.htm
Program Contact: Carrie Mulford, (202) 307-2959, Carrie.Mulford@usdoj.gov
Program Description: NIJ will fund research projects to increase women’s safety and improve the justice system and related responses to sexual violence, stalking and teen dating violence. Desired research topics include the criminal justice system’s response to sexual violence and stalking; the extent of the problem of teen dating violence and characteristics of abusive teen relationships; and the evaluation of teen dating violence programs, policies and legislation. Applications addressing other areas of research on violence against women, such as intimate partner violence, will be accepted.

***Interesting reads from this week:

Research on Pathways to Desistance. The report was released at this week’s Models for Change conference in Washington, and presents the initial findings of the Pathways to Desistance project, which followed 1,354 juvenile offenders for seven years after their conviction or adjudication. Both Models for Change and Pathways are funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

This is just a seven-page teaser for what this project will ultimately produce; you will be reading about Pathways to Desistance findings for years to come. But two significant findings are unveiled in these pages.

First, researchers found that it is virtually impossible to predict which youth will continue to commit serious offenses, and which will desist after adjudication. This is true even when factoring in the decision to place a youth in a locked facility. So youth who are sentenced to a facility are just as likely to stop offending as those sentenced to community programs, and vice versa; youth in community programs are just as likely to continue offending as youth released from locked facilities.

That finding could produce some heated debates down the line, no? Proponents of more alternatives to incarceration can make the argument that if both options have the same odds of curbing criminal behavior, why pick the more expensive and oppressive one (institutions)? And those who favor secure facilities can make the claim that, if community programs can’t guarantee better odds of reduced criminal behavior, why risk it?

The second big finding identifies perhaps the biggest exception to the unpredictable pattern of persisters and desisters: self-reported substance abuse. Researchers found that substance use strongly related to continued criminal activity, and also found that substance abuse treatment that involved the offender’s family can prevent future offending.

Juvenile Justice Update October/November. This didn’t get released this week, but we read it over lunch a few days ago. Very, very good as usual. Update is available by subscription only, but it’s worth the money. This issue includes Marion Mattingly’s  interview with Miami-Dade Juvenile Services Department Director Wansley Walters, Ted Rubin’s fantastic look at record sealing/expungement,  and Ken Kozlowski’s breakdown of recent legal activity around juvenile justice.

***Speaking of Walters, JJ Today heard that OJJDP will not fall back on her or other candidates who had been interviewed for the OJJDP job before Karen Baynes was recommended to the administration (Baynes withdrew from consideration last week). The word is that it’s back to the drawing board in the search for an administrator.

Most JJ leaders will be diplomatic about it with an administration that is still viewed as amenable to juvenile justice reform, but the delay on nominating an administrator has a lot of them ticked off. The headless agency has been on the sidelines as advocates press Congress on reauthorization and the PROMISE Act.

For what it’s worth, it looks to JJ Today like the office has been remarkably more functional this year under the leadership of Acting Administrator Jeff Slowikowski and deputy Melodee Hanes. OJJDP has probably released more publications and reports this year than it did in the past three under J. Robert Flores, and there have been few complaints on review and dispersal of 2009 grants and Recovery Act money.


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