The September 24, 2010, meeting of the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention featured presentations on a broad range of topics, including update reports from Coordinating Council teams examining federal practice in four priority areas; Missouri's award-winning program for rehabilitating juvenile offenders; current efforts to reform New Orleans' criminal and juvenile justice systems; and OJJDP research. The meeting was chaired by Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Perrelli briefly described the Defending Childhood initiative recently launched by Attorney General Eric Holder to prevent, address, reduce, and more fully understand childhood exposure to violence. The initiative includes demonstration programs, research, and evaluation activities that are designed to develop best practices for addressing this serious national problem. Mr. Perrelli noted that two of the eight demonstration sites are in Indian country. "It is very important to us that tribal areas be a focus of our efforts to address children's exposure to violence," he said. For more information on the Defending Childhood initiative, see the article entitled "Attorney General Announces $5.5-Million Initiative To Address Children's Exposure to Violence" in this issue of OJJDP News @ a Glance.
Following are other highlights of the Coordinating Council meeting:
Recommendations for Enhancing Federal Practice
Teams staffed by the Council's member agencies presented preliminary recommendations for enhancing federal practice in four areas: education and at-risk youth, tribal youth and juvenile justice, juvenile reentry and transition to adulthood, and racial and/or ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system and related systems.
Since the Council identified these priority areas at its January 2010 meeting, the teams have been analyzing policies, legislation, regulations, and practices that foster as well as hinder achievement of federal goals in partnership with states, tribes, and units of local government. Selected preliminary recommendations that resulted from the analysis were shared with the Council. Approved recommendations will be incorporated into the Council's 2010 annual report to Congress.
Improving Outcomes for Delinquent Youth
Since the early 1970s, Missouri's Division of Youth Services (DYS) has been increasing public safety through innovative approaches that emphasize rehabilitation rather than measures that control, punish, and isolate juvenile offenders. The Missouri juvenile justice system uses small residential treatment centers with homelike settings that offer the experience of community life, a structured environment, treatment, and many opportunities for family involvement. Explaining the philosophy of the program, DYS' director, Tim Decker, said, "We believe that youth at the end of the day want to be successful.... We are [using]... approaches that bring about internal change, not just compliance."
Mr. Decker emphasized that there is a compelling "public safety argument" for programs such as the Missouri model. Three years after discharge, 93 percent of DYS youth have avoided further incarceration, and 67 percent have avoided further involvement with the juvenile justice system or adult corrections. More than 86 percent of DYS youth are productively involved in their communities through school or work. Eighty percent earn high school credits, compared to 50 percent nationally. Thirty percent earn a GED or high-school diploma, compared to 11 percent nationally. And 40 percent successfully return to their local school district, compared to 20 percent nationally.
In 2008, the Missouri program won the Annie E. Casey Innovations in American Government Award in Children and Family System Reform from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. DYS has hosted visits from juvenile justice officials from more than 25 states who are interested in the program's therapeutic approaches, successful outcomes, and cost-effectiveness.
Championing Reform in New Orleans
When he became mayor of New Orleans in May 2010, Mitch Landrieu continued his longstanding commitmentpreviously as Lieutenant Governor and as a state representativeto improve the criminal and juvenile justice systems in Louisiana.
In the last several months, he has initiated a community-led, national search for a new chief of police and reorganized the police department so there are fewer officers behind desks and more on the streets. With the goal of fostering transparency and accountability, the mayor also has opened numerous police department meetings to the public, held public meetings in every district, and each month joins the chief of police on crime walks across the city.
Landrieu's presentation at the Council meeting encompassed a broad range of subjects, with a focus on initiatives to improve the juvenile justice system. He discussed efforts to ensure that youth are separated from adults in the justice system and to reduce the number of young people who enter the juvenile system for status offenses as a result of schools' zero-tolerance policies. He cautioned against social services, education, and juvenile justice agencies working "in silos" and emphasized the importance of integrating services and programs. Landrieu has launched a new program focused on prevention and rehabilitation measures coupled with wraparound services to support the city's youth and families.
OJJDP is currently working with other components of the Justice Department, including the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana, the Office of Justice Programs, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, and the Office on Violence Against Women, to assist the city of New Orleans in developing a sustainable cultural change in its juvenile and criminal justice systems. The working group, with local officials, is developing a strategic plan to reform the city's juvenile justice system and providing training and technical assistance to staff at the city's detention center.
Overview: OJJDP Research Program
OJJDP staff described the Office's mission to provide national leadership, coordination, and resources to prevent and respond to juvenile delinquency and victimization. The Office currently has 56 active grants, cooperative agreements, contracts, and interagency agreements supporting research, evaluation, and statistics activities. Staff reported that there were 21 new research awards in fiscal year 2010. Plans for the coming months include the launching of a new Web page that will offer information about all of OJJDP's active research projects.
Understanding the Why's Behind Juvenile Crime Trends
Dr. Jeffrey A. Roth, principal investigator in an OJJDP research project that aims to deepen understanding of the factors associated with the drop in juvenile crime since the middle 1990s, presented some of the study's major findings. Researchers have found that the greatest reduction occurred in crimes that youth committed in pairs or groups, a process known as "co-offending." Participation in religious and volunteer organizations, the shift in the drug market from the sale of crack cocaine to marijuana, and a reduction in the use of guns were all positively correlated with the decrease in violent crime. On the other hand, exposure to violence and childhood abuse and neglect were found to be highly correlated with juvenile crime. Researchers also found that crime is extremely concentrated in small geographical areas such as individual street blocks, an argument in favor of "hot spots" policing, which targets prevention and intervention efforts to discrete locations in the community.
OJJDP expects the lessons learned from this inquiry to yield a number of tools that federal, state, and local policymakers and planners can use to anticipate, monitor, and explain future trends and plan effective prevention and intervention strategies.