Overview of the Three Comprehensive Strategy Pilot Sites

Since 1996, OJJDP has provided technical assistance support for the development of the Comprehensive Strategy in three pilot sites, Lee and Duval Counties, FL, and San Diego County, CA. Developmental Research and Programs, Inc. (DRP), and the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) were selected by OJJDP to provide training and technical assistance (TA) to assist these three local communities in developing a Comprehensive Strategy. The training and TA consisted of a series of training events for members of the communities and designated working groups and tailored TA consultations to support the communities' planning efforts. As the following summaries show, key leaders and practitioners in these communities have dedicated countless hours and shown a strong commitment to the Comprehensive Strategy planning process. Their experiences have taught important lessons and, as a result, new tools have been developed that can help other communities across the country undertake the Comprehensive Strategy planning process.

Lee County, Florida

Lee County, located on the southwest side of the Florida peninsula, is the smallest of the three pilot sites, although it is the third fastest growing metropolitan area in the United States. With a population of nearly 404,000 in 1998, the county's population has been increasing at a rate twice that of the State and eight times that of the United States. Youth under the age of 18 represent nearly 20 percent of the county's population. This rapid growth has led to an increased demand for services, especially law enforcement, human services, and transportation, particularly in the county's four cities: Fort Myers (the county seat), Cape Coral, Fort Myers Beach, and Sanibel.

Shaken by a series of high profile juvenile crimes, including the murder of a tourist and a spree of murders and arson committed by members of a local juvenile cult, Lee County sought to adopt a comprehensive approach addressing these alarming problems. A preliminary meeting took place in early 1996 to provide general information about the Comprehensive Strategy to key community leaders. Participants in the orientation session included representatives from the State Attorney's office, local law enforcement, elected officials, juvenile court, child-serving public agencies, the State Department of Juvenile Justice, and nonprofit youth-serving organizations. The session was designed to familiarize key local leaders with the purposes, principles, and components of the Comprehensive Strategy to obtain their endorsement of the concept and their commitment to devote the resources of their agencies and constituencies to a long-term planning and implementation process.

Following the orientation for key leaders, the first communitywide training session occurred over a 3-day period in November 1996. Led by trainers from DRP and NCCD, participants developed a common vision and goals for Lee County and learned how to conduct the necessary planning assessments. As part of their overall vision to produce Healthy, Ethical, and Productive (HEP) adults, the community leaders developed specific objectives, including a 25-percent reduction in the number of minority youth under age 18 living in poverty by 2005, a 20-percent reduction in domestic violence within 5 years, and an increase in children's reading and math skills.

The participants divided into two working committees—one for delinquency prevention and one for graduated sanctions—based on the principal components of the Comprehensive Strategy. These two groups continued to meet over the next 2 years to assess community risks and resources, determine priority areas, and recommend program and policy changes.

Prevention committee. The prevention committee, initially chaired by an assistant State attorney, was immediately tasked with researching and documenting local risk factors and, ultimately, identifying priority risk areas. After completing a challenging data collection effort, complicated by inconsistent definitions and counting mechanisms for many data elements, the prevention committee identified three priority risk factors for Lee County: friends who engage in the problem behavior, family conflict/family management problems, and extreme social and economic deprivation. Based on these risk factors and the collected data, the committee evaluated prevention resources available to juveniles and their families. Each resource was subsequently cataloged in the Lee County Community Resource Directory (Lee County Juvenile Justice Council and Comprehensive Strategy Task Force, 1998).

Graduated sanctions committee. The graduated sanctions committee collected data to develop a profile of juvenile offenders in Lee County. The committee inventoried secure and nonsecure programs for juvenile offenders and evaluated the risk assessment and intake instruments used by the State in juvenile processing. The committee then identified gaps in programs and services for juvenile offenders according to risk factors. Among the recommendations made by the graduated sanctions committee was the creation of a Juvenile Assessment Center to ensure uniform intake procedures and provide better services to juveniles and their families. The committee also identified 12 priority tasks to improve the application and effectiveness of graduated sanctions in Lee County:

  • Analysis of the clerk of the court's database.

  • Validation study of the risk-classification instrument (RCI).

  • Analysis of recidivism for each of Florida's five placement levels.

  • Automated inventory of programs.

  • Manual record search of youth in secure detention to assess appropriateness of placement.

  • Analysis of Lee County youth referred to community-based programs compared with Lee County youth in secure confinement.

  • Study of handling of prerelease youth without aftercare options.

  • Analysis of time between disposition and placement.

  • Study of Notices To Appear.

  • Refinement of initial screening instrument to collect more data on youth and family needs.

  • Design of instrument to replace RCI at intake as needed.

  • Evaluation of program effectiveness.

Early in the Comprehensive Strategy planning process, a Youth Advisory Board was formed to provide a forum for youth to present their perspectives on issues and needs in Lee County. Middle and high school youth are represented on the board and participate in three committees: Communications and Recruitment, Peers Educating Peers (PEP), and Teen Center Development. At Lee County's second Comprehensive Strategy training session, held in April 1997, the board reported its recommendations to the prevention and graduated sanctions committees. The board recommended expanding mentoring opportunities, increasing community involvement in the lives of youth, and providing safe hangouts. The county responded by instituting new and expanded mentoring programs in cooperation with local businesses and not-for-profit organizations. Denny's Corporation, for example, supports staff involvement in mentoring activities and donates goods for special events.

The Florida Department of Children and Families and the Department of Juvenile Justice in Lee County have jointly implemented the Parenting Project for parents of children ages 5–18 with attention deficit disorders and other behavioral problems. Selected to address the "family conflict" priority risk factor, the program provides counseling, parental training, and support networks for 60 parents. Participants are referred by the Department of Children and Families, Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Program; schools; juvenile court; the sheriff's department; mental health service providers; and foster parent training programs. A local mental health facility provides transportation for program participants. The collaborative process on this project has been greatly enhanced through its focus on an identified priority risk factor.

Lee County's efforts to establish a comprehensive Juvenile Assessment Center have been central to its Comprehensive Strategy planning process. Now in its final planning stages, the center will provide booking, receiving, and clinical assessment services for offenders, housing as many as 60 youth in a secure, modern facility. It also will offer resources for parents and other citizens concerned about youth behavior and developmental problems. The center will include offices for the school board, the Department of Juvenile Justice, and the Department of Children and Families, with the latter conducting onsite screening and assessments for abused and neglected children. County officials are raising funds for construction of the center through a bond issue passed in 1999 and through annual electric franchise taxes.

Lee County also is working to improve detention placements. The initial graduated sanctions program assessment revealed that juvenile placements tended to be slot-driven rather than needs-driven—that is, youth placements were based on where space was available rather than where needs could best be met. Researchers from the Lee County Sheriff's Office and Florida Gulf Coast University are evaluating placement data and will make recommendations for future placement strategies. In addition, the county is reviewing and validating the State's structured risk assessment instruments and will make recommendations to the State Department of Juvenile Justice for tailoring the instruments to the needs of different localities. The Comprehensive Strategy planning process also led Lee County to streamline its juvenile court system, replacing part-time judges with one full-time juvenile judge who is active in Comprehensive Strategy activities.

The Comprehensive Strategy workgroup members were assisted by collaboration with several existing Lee County initiatives:

  • The Kids Vision and Intervention Program utilizes the faith-based community to intervene in conflict situations through trained mentors and serves as an advocate for youth.

  • The Mentor Center, a collaborative effort of Weed and Seed, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), provides free training for Lee County individuals wishing to mentor a child.

  • The Department of Children and Families developed the Kids 1st Program in an effort to improve Lee County's child welfare system. To accomplish this, the Department works closely with the Lee County School District to establish links between the Department and every school in Lee County. Kids 1st addresses each of the identified risk factors for Lee County youth in the dependency system.

  • FGCU developed its Juvenile Justice Aftercare Program in cooperation with the Department of Juvenile Justice. This program provides intensive supervision and support services for youth released from confinement, including a highly structured and intensive mentoring component. FGCU provides training to university students who serve as intensive case monitors working under the direction of a Department of Juvenile Justice case manager. The intensive supervision, coupled with mentoring, increases the likelihood of the youth successfully completing the transition back into the community.

Lee County representatives are currently in the process of finalizing their 5-year implementation plan for the Comprehensive Strategy.

Duval County, Florida

Duval County and the city of Jacksonville, located on Florida's northeast coast, have the second largest youth population in the State. The county and city have a combined population of more than 1.7 million residents, of whom more than 26 percent are under age 18. Duval County and the city of Jacksonville have a long history of collaboration, particularly since they consolidated into a single government structure in 1967. Three of the area's key elected officials, the State attorney, the sheriff, and the mayor of Jacksonville, work closely together and encourage collaborative, interagency initiatives.

Following a slight decline between 1992 and 1994, the number of delinquency cases in Duval County rose between 5 and 9 percent each subsequent year. This increase was driven primarily by misdemeanor cases, as illustrated in figure 1. Notable among these offenses were misdemeanor assault cases, which nearly doubled, and concealed weapon cases, which nearly tripled between 1993 and 1997. Also contributing to the overall increase in misdemeanor cases were misdemeanor marijuana possession cases, which rose 160 percent, and nonviolent resisting arrest, which more than tripled. In this same period, however, several more serious crimes among juveniles declined. Between 1993 and 1997, rape and sexual assault declined 20 percent, robbery declined 22 percent, and auto theft declined 23 percent.

Figure 1

Among subgroups of offenders, the number of females as a proportion of the total youth offender population increased 7 percent from 1993–1997; African Americans increased 27 percent, and Asian Americans increased 70 percent. The number of white juvenile offenders increased 16 percent during this same period (City of Jacksonville Department of Community Services, 1997).

In light of this dramatic increase in the rate of minor offending, and reflecting the current knowledge that this type of crime can be a precursor to more serious offending (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1998), Duval County made a commitment to enhance its efforts at reducing and preventing juvenile crime. Duval County launched its Comprehensive Strategy initiative in June 1996 with support from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, a national private foundation with offices in Jacksonville. The duPont Fund, which has supported the planning processes in both Duval and Lee Counties, convened more than 100 community leaders to learn about and explore the possibility of implementing the Comprehensive Strategy; provided funding, staffing, and facility assistance for Duval County's planning and training activities; and served as a "neutral convener" for Comprehensive Strategy activities and events. Following the introductory meeting, local leaders formed a Community Advocates Board, chaired by a local attorney and a volunteer from the mayor's office, to guide the planning and implementation processes.

In November 1996, a communitywide training session on the Comprehensive Strategy was sponsored by the duPont Fund. This training session focused on needs and tasks specific to Duval County. The trainers addressed data collection, risk and resource assessment, and other elements of the Comprehensive Strategy approach. The training was attended by the cochairs of the Community Advocates Board and other key community leaders, including representatives from the sheriff's office, State attorney's office, public defenders office, Department of Children and Families, State Department of Juvenile Justice, Jacksonville mayor's office, Jacksonville Children's Commission, Jacksonville Human Services Council, school representatives, nonprofit organizations, the faith community, private citizens, and staff of the duPont Fund. Following this 2-day training, participants divided into prevention and graduated sanctions committees to begin the assessment process.

Prevention committee. The prevention committee, chaired by a retired local attorney, began its task of collecting and assessing local data to identify and prioritize risk factors. Gathering information initially was a major challenge for members of the committee. However, a concerted collaborative effort between the Jacksonville Children's Commission, the school system, and numerous nonprofit agencies enabled the committee to collect data and statistical information required to complete the risk assessment process. Based on its analysis of the risk factor data, Duval County identified five priority risk factors: economic deprivation, early academic failure, family management problems, lack of commitment to school, and the availability and use of drugs. For each risk factor, the committee compiled a list of indicators and identified promising approaches for reducing those risks.

Graduated sanctions committee. The graduated sanctions committee, chaired by a retired circuit court judge, also collected data on juvenile crime and delinquency. This committee divided into three subcommittees to focus on structured decisionmaking, data collection, and programs. Members of the subcommittees included representatives from law enforcement, judicial, and prosecutorial agencies; the school system and nonprofit agencies; defense attorneys; and staff from the Department of Juvenile Justice. Together, the subcommittees' work presented a picture of arrest and incarceration trends and program and service needs in Duval County. Specifically, the program subcommittee noted service gaps in immediate and intermediate sanctions, secure facilities, and aftercare programs and made recommendations for improvements within each of these categories. For example, after comparing available resources with rising female arrest trends, the subcommittee recommended expanding the number of programs and services for female offenders.

Comprehensive strategy plan. Recommendations from both the prevention and graduated sanctions committees were published as part of Duval County's 5-year Comprehensive Strategy strategic action plan. This plan was formally presented to the community and Attorney General Janet Reno at a May 1998 ceremony in Jacksonville.

At the time of the printing of this Bulletin, Duval County's Comprehensive Strategy plan included immediate, short-term, and long-term goals, with the overall goal of reducing juvenile crime by 40 percent by 2015. Implementation of the plan is guided by a steering committee, comprising representatives from local agencies and nonprofit organizations, and by a Comprehensive Strategy Board, cochaired by the mayor, sheriff, and State attorney. Between May and August 1998, four full-time and one part-time staff were hired with funding from the duPont Fund, the Jacksonville Department of Community Services, and the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant to coordinate implementation of Comprehensive Strategy activities. The city of Jacksonville has allocated $900,000 in Local Law Enforcement Block Grant program funds and an additional $100,000 in city matching funds for the implementation of Comprehensive Strategy programs. Within the immediate timeframe (6–12 months), the Comprehensive Strategy staff, steering committee, and board adopted an annual implementation plan, now being executed, that awards $502,000 to 18 nonprofit organizations to enhance existing prevention and sanctions programs that are successful in minimizing Duval County's five priority risk factors and enhancing protective factors. Following are some examples of these programs:

  • Project Abundant Life provides youth and their families with afterschool and weekend tutorial services, family enhancement services, job and career training, computer training, GED classes, and a host of summer activities for youth. This program is a service of Abundant Life Community Church, Inc., which offers certified HIV/AIDS testing, counseling, and related services.

  • The nationally recognized Families and Schools Together (FAST) Program consists of an intensive 8-week cycle of parental and student involvement with a FAST team of counselors. Program goals include enhancement of family functioning, prevention of the youth's failure in school, prevention of parental and youth substance abuse, and reduction of family conflict and stress.

  • The Family Visitation Center provides a safe, supervised environment for abused and neglected youth to visit with their biological parents. The center is a collaborative effort of the Junior League of Jacksonville, the Children's Home Society, and the Department of Children and Families and is a critical component of abuse and violence prevention and intervention. Through the center, families are given the opportunity to rebuild healthy relationships free of violence and abuse.

  • The Together We Will Program (ZIP code 32209) was developed by the steering committee after determining that the identified risk factors were most prevalent in ZIP code 32209. The committee decided to focus funding to support this comprehensive juvenile crime prevention program that addresses directly the five priority risk factors in the predetermined area. Services provided include "Character Counts" components taught by law enforcement personnel, tutoring and mentoring programs, computer skills classes, recreation programs, FAST programs at two locations, family finance counseling, and mental health counseling.

These programs are but a few examples from the beginning stages of Jacksonville's Comprehensive Strategy implementation.

San Diego County, California

San Diego County, the sixth largest county in the United States, is the largest of the three pilot sites. The county's population of more than 2.5 million speaks 80 different languages. From 1994 to 2003, the number of youth ages 10 to 19 in the county is projected to increase 26 percent. Between 1986 and 1996, felony arrests of juveniles rose 22 percent, with violent felony arrests of juvenile females rising 276 percent. From 1988 to 1998, there was a 92-percent increase in the number of juveniles admitted to Juvenile Hall (secure detention) for violent crimes and a 229-percent increase in arrests for weapons charges. Juvenile gang-related violence has also risen dramatically, from 6 homicides in 1987 to 30 in 1993 (Pennell, 1997).

San Diego County's public agencies and private sector organizations have a history of collaboration in responding to community problems. Government agencies and community-based organizations meet regularly to discuss problems and explore promising approaches and have long embraced a shared vision of prevention as an element of crime control. In fact, the county had begun a comprehensive planning process even before its first official Comprehensive Strategy training event. San Diego County's Comprehensive Strategy planning events and schedule are presented in table 2, illustrating typical planning steps undertaken by the pilot sites.

Table 2

In 1996, California's Senate Bill 1760 (SB 1760) legislation made grant funds available to county governments for developing local action plans to prevent and reduce juvenile crime. With $62,000 in SB 1760 funds, San Diego County developed a local action plan, completed in March 1997. In 1996, San Diego County had begun working with OJJDP to become one of the Comprehensive Strategy pilot sites and received its first training for key leaders in October. Because the State's SB 1760 grant program included many components that paralleled the Comprehensive Strategy, San Diego County quickly combined the two efforts, with the local action plan serving as the framework for its Comprehensive Strategy initiative.

In preparing the local action plan, local leaders and members of the Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council met monthly to discuss risk and program assessments and community needs. The coordinating council, representing the police, probation office, child welfare, and youth-serving agencies, is chaired by the chief probation officer, whose staff completed much of the planning work in conjunction with staff from the Children's Initiative, a local nonprofit agency. The Children's Initiative was selected to spearhead the Comprehensive Strategy initiative, serving as a neutral convener able to "transcend local politics."

At San Diego County's first communitywide Comprehensive Strategy training session in December 1996, participants were taught the key elements of the Comprehensive Strategy approach, including community risk and resource assessment, graduated sanctions, and long-range planning. Participants developed a shared vision for the future of children in the community, which was captured in the acronym CLEAR for caring, literate, educated, and responsible children. They also identified potential barriers to the planning and implementation processes and began to identify ways to surmount these obstacles.

Following the first training session, participants divided into prevention and graduated sanctions committees, although they later merged into a single task force with six subcommittees: policymaker "buy-in, stay-in"; resource development; information dissemination and advocacy; coordination/merging parades (i.e., coordination of streams of resources); information sharing; and community engagement/development-inclusiveness. San Diego County's Comprehensive Strategy planners identified five gap areas in which existing programs were judged insufficient to meet community needs: substance abuse treatment, after-school programs, parent training and support, vocational and technical training, and programming for girls. They also identified geographic gaps—the county covers more than 4,260 square miles—in day treatment and supervision programs, drug and alcohol services, and correctional facilities in particular regions. For each priority area, participants identified baseline data, indicators of change, and desired outcomes and a program implementation plan based on promising program approaches.

Following community assessment, San Diego County began addressing gaps and service needs during the strategic planning phase. For example, the Comprehensive Strategy team, with support from the County Board of Supervisors, implemented the Critical Hours program to increase the quantity and quality of positive afterschool activities for middle school youth. The program served more than 14,000 youth at 27 sites in its first year of operation. In addition, the county obtained eight grants to implement teen pregnancy programs in high-risk communities to reduce teen pregnancy and expand programs for girls. A task force on girls' programs is developing new gender-specific opportunities for girls, including those on probation.

The largest program associated with San Diego County's Comprehensive Strategy process is the Breaking Cycles program. Through a $6.9 million SB 1760 grant, this program provides a continuum of substance abuse services, from prevention to graduated sanctions, including treatment and family counseling. The probation department administers Breaking Cycles, in collaboration with the juvenile court and numerous public and private service providers. San Diego County's community assessment teams concept is also part of Breaking Cycles. Now operating in four of the county's regions, community assessment teams offer strength-based family programs and service referrals to more than 3,000 families in more than 80 languages and dialects. Other programs initiated through San Diego County's Comprehensive Strategy process include expanded substance abuse treatment, job training for high-risk youth, and adoption of a shared, structured decisionmaking process involving family "risk and resiliency" checkups.

In spring 1998, San Diego County hired a full-time coordinator for its Comprehensive Strategy activities. Its 5-year strategic action plan was published in fall 1998. Attorney General Janet Reno participated in San Diego County's announcement of their strategic plan.

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The Comprehensive Strategy: Lessons Learned From the Pilot Sites Juvenile Justice Bulletin March 2000