Weekly Notes: Justice Wants Your Feedback, Drug Courts on Chopping Block, and more

***A bit of federal news: The Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is soliciting public comments and feedback on the four priority areas it has established for itself in the coming years: education, reentry, race and tribal youth.

The council is looking for “ideas, insights, reflections, and suggestions grounded in experience in and with federal support as to federal policies and practices that either support or act as a barrier related to juvenile justice outcomes.”

This is an excellent chance to be heard on specific policy issues. The council has always been a venue for OJJDP staff to work with people outside the traditional constraints of federal JJ policy making. But the profile of the council has been raised significantly under President Barack Obama because Attorney General Eric Holder personally has  chaired the first two meetings of the council.

***Aside from that, not much by way of big federal JJ news. Still no House bill to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act; still no nominee to lead OJJDP.

The Senate has confirmed another leader in the Office of Justice Programs family: James Lynch, who is officially in as director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Lynch served on the National Academy of Sciences Committee on National Statistics, which is responsible for independently assessing the statistical programs at BJS. In the 1980s, he helped redesign the Uniform Crime Report, the nation’s main crime data collection.

BJS just release its report on mortality rates in local jails between 2000-2007. It doesn’t specify an exact number of deaths for people under 18, but gives a few numbers that can be used to estimate that number.

The report states that the mortality rate for juveniles in jail was 49 per 100,000 during those years. The average daily population in jails during that time period was about 700,000, and juveniles made up about 2 percent of the adult jail population. So you figure there were about 14,000 juveniles in jails each year, for a total of 112,000 over the course of the eight years (obviously, some could be the same youth held in jail more than once). Using those figures, about 55 juveniles lost their lives in prison between 2000 and 2007. Most were by suicide.

***New York Law School put out a sizeable volume of legal and policy pieces on the school-to-prison pipeline. Subjects include the use of litigation to remedy an overreliance on law enforcement, the varying ways in which school resource officers are used, and protection of students with disabilities.

***Wayne County (Detroit) Prosecutor Kym Worthy wants to arrest parents who miss parent teacher conferences, reports the Associated Press’ Corey Williams. Williams does a terrific job here explaining Worthy’s motivation, and the many potential problems with her plan. There is no chance will be happen (parent-teacher conferences aren’t even mandatory in Wayne County), but Williams lets readers see the exasperation a prosecutor like Worthy must feel when she has to deal with a 12-year-old murderer (Demarco Harris, now 13, convicted in May of murder) whose parents couldn’t account for his whereabouts when police went to their door at 2 in the morning.

***A South Carolina juvenile drug court that has shown results may close now that the judge who pioneered it has left the bench, reports the Post and Courier’s Robert Behre. That couldn’t come at a worse time, because the Department of Juvenile Justice has already been forced to cut back on treatment and alternative programs and will probably have to cut even more once federal stimulus money runs out in 2011.

Kentucky will shutter its juvenile drug court program on July 31.

***A large chunk of the sports-viewing public soured a bit on LeBron James after his self-created ESPN special to announce his basketball future; well, at least the public living outside of the Miami-Dade County area. But give him credit for this: the $2.5 million in commercial proceeds from that broadcast  is going to Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and according to BGCA it was his idea to do that; the organization did not approach him. And as any direct service nonprofit leader knows, any money coming into charity at the moment could be the difference between active programs and closed doors.

Two of the beneficiaries of the funds will be BGCA affiliates in Akron (where James grew up) and Cleveland (home to the Cavaliers, the team he just left).


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