Weekly Notes: Illinois juvenile justice commission sells report well; Walsh Act update; and more

***As we write, Congress is playing a lively game of partisan chicken over a deal to fund the government for fiscal 2012 and payroll taxes. The Democrats and President Obama want the Republicans to support a payroll tax extension; Republicans want to pass the spending bill agreed to earlier this week, which includes some murky numbers on youth-related spending.

Great quote snared by David Rogers of Politico: “We are working on some stuff,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). What more do you need to know?!

***The Bureau of Justice Statistics announced that the number of people supervised by adult corrections – probation, jail, prison or parole – dropped for the third year in a row. The number of people incarcerated by adult corrections dropped for the second year in a row: 2,308,400 in 2008, 2,291,000 in 2009, and 2,266,800 in 2010.

The report on the BJS website did not give much of an age breakdown. The appendix does show adult custody rates (per 100,000 U.S. residents) for juveniles in the adult system:

Male: 1,352
Black: 4,347
Latino: 1,775
White: 678

Female: 126
Black: 260
Latino: 133
White: 91

***As we reported this week, the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission’s findings about the state’s shoddy process of paroling, assisting and then re-incarcerating juveniles. Click here to read our story on the commission report. Couple additional thoughts here:

1-Advocates should take note of how the commission handled this. It put a precise report together and laid it out both in a longer PDF format and also a web-linked version. Then, it embargoed the report to reporters a couple days before it came out and scheduled a conference call to present the report and take questions from the media.

End result? Coverage, and plenty of it. We have no clue how many local television outlets covered the findings, but there were more articles than one would ever imagine about a report focused mostly on procedure and practice. And WBEZ, a Chicago radio station that has taken a particular interest in juvenile justice, ran a 10-minute interview with IJJC chairman George Timberlake about the report.

If you want advice, talk to the commission’s media guy, Jim Bray: 217-793-8416.

2-Illinois seems like a pretty good candidate for the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s plan to end training schools in a couple states. Actually, the goal is to reduce the number of juveniles incarcerated in the country by half over the next 10 years, but Casey juvenile justice leader Bart Lubow told Youth Today in October that the initiative would involve developing some model states.

Consider the following factors:

-Illinois has a pilot system called Redeploy Illinois going, where counties receive incentives to use community corrections programs instead of lock-up.

-There are still a lot of juveniles in the state-run facilities: 1,900 offenders in seven youth centers, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections. [Note: In Illinois, an offender can be in a juvenile facility until age 21].

-As the IJJC report indicates, about half of those 1,900 offenders are there because their parole was revoked in a process that clearly needs work, and often involves transgressions like truancy or curfew violations.

So you have an expandable framework for community-based options, a lot of juveniles behind bars in large facilities, and a defined group of them who can be handled without incarceration. It’s hard to imagine a better starting point, right?

***There are 400 days left in the presidential term of Barack Obama, and there is still no nominee to serve as administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Hey, let’s discuss anything else!

***Know what hasn’t been in the news much lately? The Adam Walsh Act, which penalizes states that do not establish a sex offender registry that is in line with the national registry’s standards.

Here’s a roundup of what we know:

The deadline to comply was July, at which time seven states were deemed compliant with the Walsh Act. This brought the total number of compliant states to 14: Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, South Carolina, Missouri, Alabama, Michigan, Nevada, Wyoming, Delaware, Florida, Ohio and South Dakota.

Meanwhile, a slew of compliance packages came in that month to the Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking Office (SMART), which will forever hold the record  for “longest name of an agency just to create a clever acronym.”

Asked by Youth Today how long it might be before compliance status was known for some of those states, SMART spokeswoman Kara McCarthy said it could be a month or more.

Four months later, one other state has been deemed compliant: Tennessee. Either the process is taking longer than expected, which is possible since SMART has a pretty small staff, or a whole bunch of states got denied on compliance.

From local news reports, we know that New Mexico tried for compliance and failed, and Pennsylvania and Illinois have moved legislation they hope will gain them compliance.

Nicole Pittman, a Soros Open Society Foundations fellow working with Human Rights Watch, is lobbying Pennsylvania to keep juvenile offenders off the registry and is also working on building a national coalition get juveniles removed from all sex offender registries.


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