As discussed in Chapter 3, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has a number of tools available to guide states, localities, and tribal jurisdictions in their implementation of reforms using a developmental approach, including leadership, capacity building, and incentives, all undergirded by existing legal authority. This chapter explores how OJJDP can support training for state leaders, how training and technical assistance should evolve to effectively meet the current needs of jurisdictions, how OJJDP could modify its approach to reducing racial and ethnic disparities within the juvenile justice system based on current research, and how support for demonstration programs could advance juvenile justice reform and fill knowledge gaps. The chapter concludes with a look at reinvestment and realignment strategies that are currently being considered by many states.
During the past 15 years, substantial progress has been made by numerous states and local jurisdictions in embracing and implementing a more developmentally appropriate way of handling youths in the juvenile justice system (National Research Council, 2013, p. 278). Nevertheless, states and localities commonly look to OJJDP for guidance in many areas of governance due to its relative stability within the federal government and a traditional belief that federal agencies maintain a high level of expertise and are positioned to assess successful efforts in the states. Thus, the singular voice of a federal agency is amplified, making it a uniquely effective instrument of change in a highly diverse system. Using this platform, OJJDP is positioned to spotlight the science of adolescent development and its implications for juvenile justice system improvement and delinquency prevention. The 2013 National Research Council (NRC) report noted overwhelming support from the juvenile justice field for rejuvenated federal leadership (National Research Council, 2013, pp. 317-318); this continues to be true, as this committee heard from all those who presented to it (see Appendix A) of the potential value of federal leadership and commitment to juvenile justice reform.
Leadership of reforms based on a developmental approach to juvenile justice reform may come from a variety of places, depending upon the state, local, or tribal jurisdiction. The committee notes that the “prework” required to nurture readiness for reform in a state may take many different forms. It may be launched as a public event
championed by a political leader, generated by the momentum from a grassroots movement or more formalized organization, or quietly and strategically led by a determined change agent, often supported by foundation resources ranging from expert consultation to targeted funding. The 2013 NRC report observed (pp. 326-327) that past successful reform efforts have been the result of engaged state leaders and collaborative efforts often led by foundation initiatives. However, the precise vehicle for change—task force, political leader, advocacy organization, or change agent—needs to be based upon the specifics of the jurisdiction.
The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 (JJDPA) requires each state to have a State Advisory Group (SAG), which is to be composed of citizens, advocates, and government officials at various levels. SAGs serve several functions, including overseeing juvenile justice grant funds from OJJDP, monitoring the four core requirements, and developing or reviewing 3-year state plans (42 U.S.C. 5633 [Sec. 223]). Given their authority, the SAGs have the potential to become key players in a juvenile justice reform effort, serving as a conduit for the efforts that OJJDP could leverage at the state level. However, the committee understands that currently the SAGs are in varying degrees of readiness to engage in, much less lead, a developmental approach to juvenile justice reform. It has been suggested that approximately one-third of SAGs are in a mature stage of organizational development and are “reform-minded.”1 Many SAG members view their work as focused exclusively on the core protections in the JJDPA, and not all SAGs are effective even at this most basic function.2
Given the range of leadership sources, the committee addresses the discussion here both to SAGs and to other “state leaders” to acknowledge the variety of leadership constellations that might exist in a particular jurisdiction. Building the capacity of a SAG, another multistakeholder collaborative body, or even an individual change agent, is one of the fundamental tasks that OJJDP can undertake to foster a developmentally appropriate juvenile justice system. An important component will be to foster involvement of legacy families3 in the SAGs. The committee agrees with the position of Potter and Brough (2004), who argued that building the capacity of SAGs should be a key component of OJJDP’s strategic plan. The committee views OJJDP as having two roles in the capacity building of state leaders: (1) being a reliable resource for guidance and assistance and (2) ensuring that SAGs and support staff are appropriately trained.
The hallmarks of a developmental approach to reform discussed in Chapter 2 include family engagement. Involving families in individual cases improves outcomes for most youths who become involved with the juvenile justice system or other legal authorities; engaging families in the oversight of juvenile justice provides a valuable perspective in planning reform and juvenile justice interventions and treatment. Currently, SAGs do not include legacy families as members, nor do they regularly solicit input from legacy families. OJJDP should support culture and organizational change within the SAGs to create an environment where legacy families are equal and respected members of each SAG. Facilitating active and meaningful participation by youths and families in a SAG may necessitate reimbursements for time off from work, transportation, and other costs necessary for meeting participation.4 To increase youth and family partnerships as integral SAG participants in juvenile justice reform, OJJDP could encourage the SAGs to establish and support advisory groups of youths and the families of system-involved youths, if such groups are not already in existence.
If SAGs are going to play a key role in the task of reforming a system as complex as a given state’s juvenile justice system, they may require political support from the highest levels in their state: the governor, the legislature, the judiciary, or a combination of these. OJJDP could provide guidance for developing strategic approaches and sustaining political support. OJJDP should also facilitate access to fiscal resources, human resources, and tools in order to enable SAGs not only to perform their mandated functions effectively but also to lead system reform efforts. OJJDP also has the opportunity to promote capacity building through a closer and more strategic partnership with the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice and the Coalition for Juvenile Justice (see Chapter 5).
1Discussion with Advocacy and SAG panel to the Committee on a Prioritized Plan to Implement a Developmental Approach in Juvenile Justice Reform, February 13-14, 2014.
2Presentation by Marie Williams and Robin Jenkins to the Committee on a Prioritized Plan to Implement a Developmental Approach in Juvenile Justice Reform, February 13, 2014.
3“Legacy families” is defined in Chapter 1.
4OJJDP may need the authority to authorize the use of administrative funds to support the SAG or may need a source of flexible resources, for example, through a public-private partnership.
Training and technical assistance provided by OJJDP, as discussed below, could be an integral part of a state’s reform efforts. SAGs ought to be fully engaged in the training, technical assistance, and consultation provided. They also have responsibility to allocate federal funds for implementation of programs and effective practices that support reform. To be effective in these roles, each SAG member should have a full understanding of adolescent development and the hallmarks of a developmental approach to juvenile justice reform. OJJDP could require SAG members to complete the curriculum discussed in Chapter 3. OJJDP can also provide recommended standards for the hiring and training of staff who serve the SAGs. SAGs require staff with the knowledge and skills necessary to support a collaborative body that is guiding, overseeing, or participating in transformational change. A verification methodology could be developed before acknowledging a state’s assurance(s) that its SAG members have each completed the OJJDP curriculum on the developmental approach.5 OJJDP could also invest in developing the knowledge and skills of SAG members to support the culture and organizational change that could be necessary within each agency, organization, and entity that is part of the juvenile justice system.
Pursuant to the JJDPA, the SAGs are responsible for developing a 3-year plan for addressing delinquency prevention and intervention in their state, including methods for complying with the core protections. The SAGs update these plans annually and submit annual performance reports to OJJDP that describe progress in implementing programs outlined in the original plan (42 U.S.C. §5633, State plans). OJJDP has the opportunity to amend the state plan requirements to include a plan for and progress report on implementing a developmental approach to reform in the state.
Recommendation 4-1: OJJDP should promote the development and strengthening of the State Advisory Groups (SAGs) to be juvenile justice reform leaders by supporting meaningful family and youth engagement, fostering partnerships, delivering strategic training and technical assistance aimed at facilitating reform, and ensuring that SAG members and staff are knowledgeable about the hallmarks of a developmental approach to juvenile justice.
The committee envisions a technical assistance framework that provides capacity-building support in two broad categories: tactical and strategic. Tactical forms of technical assistance are specific in focus and short in duration (referred to as Levels 1 and 2 in the framework in Table 4-1). They address a specific activity or support development of a particular skill, such as the development of a risk assessment tool and training on its use. This technical assistance can provide basic information to provide and promote access to up-to-date information and resources.
Strategic technical assistance6 is more intensive, provided over a long-term horizon, and is better suited for addressing complex issues (referred to as Levels 3, 4, and 5 in the framework in Table 4-1). Strategic technical assistance spans multiple years, and, when it is well executed, it is customized to the local level and decisions are data-driven. In the present context, strategic technical assistance supports overall system reform.
Strategic and tactical technical assistance are both necessary tools for OJJDP to fulfill its mission. The committee recommends a balance of these two categories so that OJJDP can continue providing some of the tactical technical assistance it has been providing while also allocating substantial resources for long-term strategic technical assistance for the implementation of the developmental approach to juvenile justice reform.
Given the expense of a long-term commitment for technical assistance and the scarcity of resources, OJJDP will need to be strategic in deciding which localities or states are eligible to receive assistance. This can be accomplished through a competitive process where OJJDP evaluates applicants through subjective and objective criteria, based on both the excellence of the application and the entity’s commitment, readiness, and capacity to engage in reform. Providers of strategic training and technical assistance could be chosen based upon their demonstrated
5The OJJDP administrator has the statutory authority to approve annual performance reports from each state (P.L. 93-415, 42 U.S.C. §5633, State plans).
6Notably, while OJJDP refers to the use of strategic consultation, the committee heard repeatedly from the field that, too often, OJJDP training and technical assistance is inadequate, poorly delivered, and conducted in a “spray and pray” approach. See Appendix A for a list of speakers and interviews.
|Type of Engagement||Recipient/Participant||Activity||Provider|
|TACTICAL||Level 1. Ongoing||The juvenile justice field—for general knowledge||
Brokering of resources:
• Partnering with national organizations
• Contracting with providers
• Matching providers with grantee(s) based upon (1) demonstration grant status, (2) grantee self-assessment identifying need, (3) demonstrated expertise of provider Dissemination of materials:
• Newsletters, reports, Web-based resources
|Staff of the agency
National partner organizations
|Level 2. Short-term, infrequent, self-contained||All grantees, system partners, professionals at all decision points, SAGs—to address a specific, identified need; upon request||
Overview trainings without skill building, to raise awareness of an issue or topic:
• Computer-based courses
National partner organizations
|STRATEGIC||Level 3. Long-term, intensive||Demonstration site grantees (senior leadership, management, supervisors, staff, partners, providers, SAGs)—to support initiating a reform plan||
In depth, customized training for specific skills and to build sustainability:
• Multisession training with skill building
• Training of trainers
• Help desk
|Expert consultants National partner organizations|
|Level 4. Continuing, targeted||Demonstration site grantees (individuals or teams)—to build on reform gains, expand, go to scale||
Ongoing support for implementation of new plans, practice, or tasks:
• Mentoring (one-on-one, matched teams)
• Technical assistance to small groups
|Peer-to-peer technical assistance|
|Level 5. Periodic, field generated||Cohorts of demonstration sites (individuals or teams)—to sustain reforms, share and streamline lessons learned||
Transfer of learning to build in sustainability:
• Regional conferences
• Topical conferences
• Online discussion boards
• Social networks
Communities of practice
SOURCE: Adapted from Brown et al. (1999); Garet et al. (2001); Grindle and Hilderbrand (1995); O’Donnell et al. (2000); and Ray et al. (2012).
proficiency and experience with systems reform and with the hallmarks of the developmental approach. In addition, OJJDP can identify opportunities to work with federal agency and national organization partners in the delivery of training and technical assistance in a coordinated and strategic approach, as illustrated in the case of community corrections in New York City, described in Box 4-1. (See also Chapter 5.)
Strategic technical assistance, as the committee has explained it here, is not a scientifically validated approach to system reform. A review of the literature turned up no scientifically validated approaches to juvenile justice
Local corrections agencies struggle with short-term technical assistance provided by federal agencies to achieve the goals of systemic reform, which has raised concerns that such assistance is insufficiently robust. Over the past several years, New York City’s Department of Probation (NYCDOP) has received support and technical assistance from experts funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) to help the organization infuse evidence-based practices throughout its approach. According to a case study (Ziedenberg, 2014), the collaborative partnership of NYCDOP, BJA, and NIC was unique in that the three moved beyond the traditional limitations of federally funded technical assistance by:
- targeting limited federal and local resources over a sustained period of time; and
- identifying and funding technical assistance items “a la carte” through a strategic interchange based on an assessment of NYCDOP’s needs and in real time as the reforms unfolded.
BJA and NIC exhibited a high level of cooperation and blended their approaches, maximizing scarce technical assistance resources. The assistance was provided in a timely, flexible, and targeted fashion in partnership with NYCDOP. It was delivered as part of a strategic approach that included funding from philanthropy and local and state government sources. During a time when NYCDOP was coordinating and shepherding several cutting-edge initiatives, the technical assistance provided by BJA and NIC allowed NYCDOP to:
- Survey and assess staff readiness to adopt new practices and map staff strengths and needs;
- Implement and use the Level of Service Inventory-Revised—a validated risk/needs assessment tool that is now being used across all five boroughs;
- Train over 415 staff in restorative justice practices;
- Train 305 staff in community engagement approaches;
- Train 437 staff in motivational interviewing approaches;
- Use cutting-edge training regiments like SOARING 2, an e-learning system created to assist justice professionals in building skills associated with the effective management of clients in the community; and
- Develop a series of communications and staff engagement strategies.
This focused, tailored federal technical assistance, combined with NYCDOP’s internal and foundation-funded methods, has enabled the agency to move toward a more evidence-based and developmentally appropriate approach to probation practice. The federal efforts melded so seamlessly with the city’s efforts that they became one effort, without being either too shallow to effect the desired outcome or too extensive and costly that they consumed so much of BJA’s/NIC’s resources as to make this approach impossible to replicate elsewhere.
SOURCE: Ziedenberg (2014).
reform. However, in the committee’s collective judgment, the foundation-led initiatives offer compelling examples of how providing an intensive, locally focused, multiyear approach to training and technical assistance is an effective way to achieve system reform in juvenile justice.
Creating tailored assistance will be challenging; each juvenile justice system has different strengths and weaknesses. As noted in Chapter 3, data collection and management, which could be used to assess starting points and track progress toward goals, is highly variable across states and localities. Training and technical assistance providers will need to fully comprehend the nuances of the individual jurisdictions they will support. (See Chapter 3 for additional discussion on the expertise needed from training and technical assistance providers.) Assistance plans developed by the jurisdictions and their training and technical assistance providers should address data collection and reporting systems as a threshold activity, require outcome measures to establish baselines and track progress, and support multiyear commitments where needed.
A useful strategy observed in recent reform efforts is to bring stakeholders together to create a shared vision of reforms relevant to their work and to understand how their pieces of the system interact with others (National Research Council, 2013). Key partners typically include the police, intake staff, prosecutors, public defenders, judges, probation staff, citizens, and system-involved families (see also Box 2-1). Training and technical assistance providers must be able to engage each partner with information that is relevant to the interests and needs of those stakeholders. The training information needs to be tailored to the specific decisions that each partner makes. Data that could measure the effect of changes on the behaviors of these stakeholders should be collected and reported. If systematically analyzed and reported, this method of training and technical assistance could create enhanced and replicable models of practice.
Recommendation 4-2: OJJDP should develop a portfolio of training and technical assistance, properly balanced to be both strategic and tactical, to support the implementation of a developmental approach to juvenile justice reform. OJJDP should coordinate with agencies and organizations proficient in providing training and technical assistance based on the hallmarks of a developmental approach to juvenile justice reform. This proficiency should include historical experience working in system improvement efforts.
Recommendation 4-3: All applicants for technical assistance or demonstration grants sponsored by OJJDP should be required to show how they would use the assistance, either strategically or tactically, to implement or strengthen a developmental approach to juvenile justice reform.
Reducing racial disparities and disproportionate representation is a critical element of juvenile justice reform.7 Whatever their underlying causes, continued disparities call into question the fairness of the juvenile justice system and reinforce social disaffection and disrespect for the law among minority youths at a time when they are particularly sensitive to perceived discrimination and injustice (National Research Council, 2013, p. 194).
The literature reflects continuing uncertainty about the relative contribution of differential offending, differential enforcement and processing, and structural inequalities to these disparities. However, the current body of research suggests that poverty, social disadvantage, neighborhood disorganization, constricted opportunities, and other structural inequalities—which are strongly correlated with race/ethnicity—contribute to both differential offending and differential selection, especially at the front end of juvenile justice decision making. Because bias (whether conscious
7As the term has been used in the field, disproportionality represents a finding, based on a simple quantitative calculation, that the percentage of minority youths in the system at any stage is far greater than the percentage of minority youths in the general population would predict. Racial disparities are “between group differences” of similarly situated minority and majority youths, which “may stem from differences in offending, from laws or policies that differentially impact minority youth, or from racism in the juvenile justice system” (National Research Council, 2013, p. 214). Because disparities create disproportionality, disproportionality can be reduced indirectly through the elimination of disparities. (Piquero, 2008).
or unconscious) also plays a role, albeit of unknown magnitude, juvenile justice officials should embrace activities designed to increase awareness of these unconscious biases and to counteract them, as well as to detect and respond effectively to overt instances of discrimination. Although the juvenile justice system itself cannot alter the underlying structural causes of racial/ethnic disparities in juvenile justice, many conventional practices in enforcement and administration magnify these underlying disparities, and these contributors are within the reach of justice system policy makers.
(National Research Council, 2013, p. 239)
Congress first focused on racial disparities in the juvenile justice system in 1988 when it amended the JJDPA to require states that receive federal formula funds to ascertain the disproportionality in their systems. Subsequent actions included a refocus on disproportionate minority contact in 1992 and establishment of the disproportionality-ascertainment requirement as a core protection of the JJDPA Formula Grants Program in 2002. If the percentage of minority youths detained in secure detention facilities, secure correctional facilities, and lockups was disproportionate to their proportion in the general population, states were required to develop and implement plans for reducing the disparities. In order to determine the extent to which disproportionality exists in the jurisdictions, OJJDP requires states and localities to annually submit data known as the Relative Rate Index (RRI). The RRI measures the rates of differences between races at each decision point throughout the system. Specifically, it consists of three components: (1) a system map describing points of contact a juvenile may have with the system, (2) a method for calculating rates of activity by race/ethnicity at each point, and (3) a method to compare the rates of contact for different demographic groups at each of those stages (Feyerherm, 2011; Feyerherm et al., 2009; National Research Council, 2013). Although using the RRI allows one to ascertain patterns among groups and compare them across groups, the data are notably limited. The 2013 NRC report detailed these limitations and most critically noted:
An additional problem with the RRI calculations is that they do not come with any sort of statistical significance measure; thus, there is no way to measure whether an RRI of 1.0 is statistically significant—much less whether an RRI of 1.38 is significantly different from an RRI of 2.53. As a result, these sorts of official statistics provide limited leverage on the larger question of disproportionate minority youth contact with the juvenile justice system.
(National Research Council, 2013, pp. 217-219)
Because OJJDP’s disparities reduction model only requires identification, assessment, program implementation, evaluation, and monitoring of disparities—that is, it does not actually require states to reduce disparities—very few, if any, states find themselves out of compliance with the core requirement of the JJDPA. 8 According to the W. Hayward Burns Institute, 61,000 youths were arrested in 2011, of which 75 percent were for nonviolent offenses. Of those incarcerated for nonviolent offenses, 65 percent were youths of color, making black youths 4.6 times more likely, Native American youths 3.2 times more likely, and Hispanic youths 1.8 times more likely than white youths to be incarcerated (W. Hayward Burns Institute for Juvenile Justice Fairness & Equity, 2013).9 Data compiled from select counties exhibiting large declines in incarceration show that, even as reliance on confinement has decreased, youths of color represent a higher proportion of adjudicated youths in 2012 compared to 2002. In 2002, youths of color represented 67 percent of all dispositions (parole, placement, or secure confinement); in 2012, this rose to 80 percent of all dispositions. Similarly, 12 percent of the 2002 dispositions were for the secure confinement of youths of color (3 percent for white youths), whereas in 2012 the fraction who were youths of color increased to 22 percent of the dispositions for secure confinement, versus 6 percent for white youths (Davis et al., 2014).
These data indicate that, in spite of overwhelming compliance by the states with federal requirements, racial and ethnic disparities persist throughout the juvenile justice system. Notwithstanding a research and policy focus on this matter for more than two decades, remarkably little progress has been made. As a result, OJJDP has little empirical, evidence-based guidance to disseminate to the field. The 2013 NRC report noted that the lack of progress in this area was due, in part, to a lack of motivation; insufficient cross-system collaboration; inadequate resources;
8See http://www.ojjdp.gov/compliance/compliancedata.html [August 2014].
9For additional information, see Mapping the Youth Incarceration Problem. W. Haywood Burns Institute for Juvenile Justice Fairness & Equity, April 16, 2014. Available: http://www.burnsinstitute.org/blog/our-new-data-map-is-live/ [May 2014].
the extreme difficulties of disentangling the many complex, multilevel, and interrelated contributing factors; and deeply rooted structural biases (National Research Council, 2013, p. 213).
While too few examples of exemplary practice exist in this area, and the practices that do exist have been insufficiently researched, the committee notes that OJJDP’s efforts have increased states’ willingness to reduce disparities and create an infrastructure for monitoring and addressing them (National Research Council, 2013, p. 298). Reforms in the jurisdictions at the school/pre-arrest and detention stages offer an opportunity to examine how new approaches could help both to reduce disparities and to increase procedural justice.
There is increasing evidence that, even when other factors are held constant, every school suspension makes the next suspension, expulsion, drop-out, and arrest more likely. Successfully navigating school is a key developmental milestone for adolescents, and disruption to that path is not only harmful to proper adolescent development but may contribute to contact with the juvenile justice system. Research points to unwarranted disparities in suspensions—which lead to arrest, entrance into the juvenile justice system, and disruption from continued schooling—as a cause of disproportionality within the juvenile justice system (Fabelo et al., 2011; Morgan et al., 2014; New York Civil Liberties Union, 2013). Racial disparities continue to persist in out-of-school suspensions and expulsions, and studies show minority students and students with special education designations are suspended at rates disproportionate to their representation in the student body, especially for less serious misbehavior over which educators and law enforcement may exercise more discretion (Fabelo et al., 2011; U.S. Department of Education, 2014). An important vehicle for reducing referrals to juvenile court and reducing disparities in those referrals would be to reduce school-based arrests, particularly for trivial and normative school misconduct. While reforms like these apply to all students regardless of race, they have especially benefited youths of color who were disproportionately being suspended and arrested for lower severity misbehavior. Examples that warrant further study and possible replication include the following:
- School-Based Diversion Initiative in Connecticut. Launched in 2009, schools in Bridgeport and Hartford implemented strategies to reduce suspensions, expulsion, and arrests, including training for police on local diversion programs and empowering a review board to review misdemeanor arrests for possible diversion. In Hartford, arrests decreased by 78 percent from March through June 2012 compared to the previous year, contributing to a 28 percent decline in overall delinquency referrals to juvenile court from January to June 2012. Over the same period, Bridgeport schools saw a 40 percent decrease in school-based referrals. (Center for Children’s Advocacy, 2013a; Morgan et al., 2014). In the 2012-2013 school year, Hartford experienced a 57 percent reduction in school-based arrests of youths of color and Bridgeport experienced a 34 percent reduction (Center for Children’s Advocacy, 2013b).
- Clayton County, Georgia. Schools, police, and the juvenile court have agreed to a series of intermediate steps aimed at limiting the overall number of school referrals to the juvenile court and reducing the disproportionate contact of minorities with the juvenile justice system. The initiative has resulted in an 86 percent decrease in referrals for fighting and a 64 percent decrease in disruption-of-public-school offenses, especially for African American youths (Advancement Project, 2014; Morgan et al., 2014).
Building upon OJDDP’s existing efforts, such as the Supportive School Discipline Initiative jointly announced by the secretary of education and the attorney general in July 2011, the agency is well positioned to help coordinate needed conversations and collaborations across youth-serving systems that include, but are not limited to, courts, schools, and law enforcement.
The 2013 NRC report detailed the historical context for the increasingly punitive approach to addressing delinquent behavior that resulted in greater reliance on detaining youths in secure facilities (National Research
Council, 2013, p. 32). In the past decade there has been a move away from restrictive correctional placements as a routine response, based on an emerging understanding of adolescent development and adolescent brain research and the implications for the justice system. In fact, this well-documented body of research led the 2013 NRC report to conclude that:
There is no convincing evidence, [however], that confinement of juvenile offenders beyond the minimum amount required to provide [intensive services], either in adult prisons or juvenile correctional institutions, appreciably reduces the likelihood of subsequent offending.
(National Research Council, 2013, p. 181)
The effects of punitive policies disproportionately impacted minority youths, who experienced higher rates of arrest and detention than nonminority youths. This, coupled with the research demonstrating that confinement does not reduce the likelihood of re-offending, led many jurisdictions to undertake efforts both to reform the juvenile justice system and reduce racial disparities. Studies of these efforts, including an analysis of sites in the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, demonstrated that even a successful strategy for reducing detention would not necessarily result in a reduction in disparate outcomes (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2013; Hinton Hoytt et al., 2001). Rather, the research suggests that a purposeful analysis of every decision point to examine the potential for contributing to the differences or inequities is needed to reduce racial disparities (W. Haywood Burns Institute for Juvenile Justice Fairness & Equity, 2013). The following examples of examining decision making at the point of detention demonstrate how such an analysis can lead to changes in practices that contributed to disproportionality and disparities:
- System stakeholders reviewed and revised their risk assessment instrument to ensure that there were no factors that increased the likelihood that minority youths would be detained while adding no value to the assessment of whether a youth was a risk of flight or re-arrest.
- Culturally relevant detention alternatives were created in neighborhoods with high minority populations where most arrests were made.
- Social workers were placed in the public defender’s office to provide relevant information and alternative proposals to the courts for indigent youths at detention hearings.
- Case expediters were hired by the juvenile justice agency to constantly monitor whether youths were languishing unnecessarily in detention.
(Hinton Hoytt et al., 2001)
As with school-based approaches, these reforms—a better risk assessment instrument, improved access to detention alternatives, and an expedited system of processing cases—were available to all youths in the system and disproportionately benefited minority youths (Hinton Hoytt et al., 2001).
OJJDP has both the authority and the opportunity to work with the SAGs and the research community to develop a new approach requiring states to: (1) identify key decision points in their juvenile justice systems; (2) create data collection systems for each of those decision points disaggregated by race, ethnicity, and gender; (3) develop plans for reducing disparities at the decision points where disparities are apparent; (4) evaluate the outcomes of those plans; and (5) report those outcomes to OJJDP for monitoring purposes. This new approach also ought to coincide with phasing out use of the RRI in favor of new measures developed collaboratively through the process described above. The textured analysis of causes and solutions to disparities at each processing deci
10While the discussion in this section is focused on youth in detention, which is defined as a short-term placement, the findings about confinement from the 2013 NRC report are relevant and important given that in 2011 (the most recent year for which data are available) more than 30 percent of youths were detained for more than 3 months and 5 percent were detained for 6 months to 2 years or more (Sickmund et al., 2013).
sion point will obviate the need for the RRI, which the 2013 NRC report, as noted above, critiqued as ineffectual (National Research Council, 2013, pp. 217-219). As that report found,
[A]ny reform strategy should focus on eliminating formal and informal agency policies and practices that are shown to disproportionately disadvantage minority youth. To do so will require the identification of key decision points and decision-making criteria that appear in practice to fall disproportionately on minority youth and perhaps to reflect implicit bias.
(National Research Council 2013, p. 240)
OJJDP can help promote a fairer and more equitable system, and therefore a more developmentally appropriate system, by (1) providing meaningful and well-informed training and technical assistance to the field, (2) supporting and highlighting best practices in reducing disparities, and (3) ensuring that learning networks are established among the demonstration sites to share knowledge in this important area.
- Training and Technical Assistance. Changing the differences in outcomes or rates of involvement at different points in the system by similarly situated minority and majority youths will require interventions targeting the specific factors leading to the differences. Training and technical assistance can help jurisdictions build the capacity to conduct a critical analysis of the specific conditions in their communities before initiating interventions.
- Supporting Best Practices. OJJDP can partner with state and local governments to support the analysis of disparities at different decision points and the identification of the factors leading to disparities, such as unequal access to opportunity and resources, limited access to services, lack of community resources, social problems, individual bias, and institutional racism. While the juvenile justice system itself cannot alter the underlying structural factors that cause racial and ethnic disparities, it can work as part of a larger collaborative effort and it can work to reform its own practices that magnify disparities. OJJDP can assist by supporting rigorous evaluations and developing the scientific evidence regarding the impact of interventions on the contributing factors.
- Learning Networks. As part of the Demonstration Grant Program described more fully below,11 OJJDP can partner with jurisdictions to identify, implement, document, and share reform strategies that ameliorate the effects of disadvantage and discrimination by reducing unnecessary system referral, involvement, and confinement. The demonstration grant program should include strategic, in-depth technical assistance to jurisdictions and the development of “learning networks.” The jurisdictions competitively selected should include those that consist of populations with high proportions of minorities, so that any effects on disparities can have the largest impacts and the jurisdictions can serve as national models to grow and implement successful policies nationwide. These promising approaches can be highlighted by OJJDP, disseminated to the field, and supported through partnerships with appropriate federal and national-organization partners.
The committee believes that these strategies will position OJJDP to assist states with the four reform strategies specified in the 2013 NRC report for moving forward toward the goal of reducing racial disparities: paying special attention to the arrest and detention stages at the front end of the system, reviewing school disciplinary practices and eliminating those that are punitive and discretionary and likely to result in a referral to the juvenile justice system, eliminating formal and informal agency policies and practices that are shown to disproportionately disadvantage minority youths, and increasing the accountability of governments for reducing racial and ethnic disparities.
Recommendation 4-4: OJJDP should establish new approaches for identifying racial and ethnic disparities across the juvenile justice system, promulgate new guidelines for reducing and eliminating racial and ethnic
11Relying on a system reform and developmental framework to improve safety, fairness, and youth outcomes, the multisite demonstration project described below would require data-driven planning; evidence-based and research-informed best practices in policy, practice, and programming; state re-investment commitments; and independent evaluation to create practical, replicable, and sustainable examples of comprehensive change.
disparities, build the internal capacity and/or establish partnerships for assisting states with these new requirements, and strengthen the role of State Advisory Groups (SAGs) in monitoring the new guidelines by providing training and technical assistance to SAGs.
As noted in Chapter 3, OJJDP could help guide the juvenile justice field by leveraging its available funding and establishing creative partnerships with experienced agencies to develop and offer demonstration programs. A multiyear pilot program or demonstration program could be developed to support, with funding and technical assistance, jurisdictions demonstrating a readiness to implement change and create a developmentally appropriate system. Each demonstration or pilot jurisdiction could be required to formulate a comprehensive reform plan designed to promote accountability, ensure fairness, and reduce the risk of further delinquency in ways compatible with the hallmarks of a developmental approach.
To be selected, jurisdictions could be required to demonstrate a willingness to collect and analyze data to measure youth outcomes and system improvement progress over time; foster partnerships that reach across traditional program categories such as health, behavioral health, social services, education, juvenile justice, housing, and workforce development; and identify avenues for meaningful youth and family participation in the design and execution of the jurisdiction’s plan.
The outcomes of these projects should provide replicable guidance for state and local jurisdictions across the country. These sites ought to be viewed from the outset as “learning laboratories.” Since this is an area without proven, independently researched models, evaluators will need to engage in “action research” in an iterative process analogous to open trials in the medical arena. During the demonstration phase, evaluators, technical assistance providers, OJJDP personnel and officials, and SAG members in states with demonstration sites will need to periodically convene to share lessons and create a learning community.
Recommendation 4-5: In partnership with other federal agencies and the philanthropic community, OJJDP should develop a multiyear demonstration project designed to provide substantial technical assistance and financial support to selected states and localities to develop a comprehensive plan for reforming the state’s juvenile justice system based on a developmental approach. The demonstration grant should include a requirement for strategies that reduce racial and ethnic disparities and the unnecessary use of confinement as well as other hallmarks of a developmental approach. OJJDP should ensure that State Advisory Group (SAG) members in states with demonstration sites are intimately involved in their state’s pilot projects and help disseminate lessons learned to other states’ SAGs.
In the justice field, recent reforms have attempted to balance developmentally appropriate policy choices and budgets while still protecting public safety. In cash-strapped times, some states and counties have found that through realignment, reinvestment strategies, or a combination of both, they are able to reduce institutional commitments and capture the savings to fund community programs for youths who would have been committed to placement otherwise (National Research Council, 2013, p. 272). Realignment is a process of organizational and structural modifications: “[r]econfiguring the justice system to expand the roles and responsibilities of local government while reducing or even eliminating the direct control of state government” (Butts and Evans, 2011, p. 12). Reinvestment is the creation of financial incentives to change system practices, such as diverting funds that would otherwise be used for confinement to evidence-based alternatives. RECLAIM Ohio and Redeploy Illinois relied upon reinvestment reform strategies; Wayne County, Michigan, and New York City used a realignment model to facilitate change; and California and Texas used a hybrid of both strategies (Butts and Evans, 2011). Although research on realignment and reinvestment strategies is not extensive, it appears that the primary goals of such strategies—reducing institutional populations, redirecting funds to community-based programs, and reducing recidivism—are being achieved (Butts and Evans, 2011).
Current examples of realignment/reinvestment systems reform approaches—including those from criminal justice and mental health—offer a number of important lessons. In almost every case, it is apparent that reform and organizational change take time and energy; they require building relationships and trust and the continuing engagement and education of stakeholders and decision makers. Additionally, documented assurance and measured outcomes that ensure that resources will be reinvested in the intended manner seem to be critical for successful reform. For example, legislatures of some states in the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative program did not mandate reinvestment of criminal justice spending due to budgetary or political concerns. As a result, cost savings from the program were not reinvested in community-based justice programs and interventions (Austin et al., 2013; LaVigne et al., 2014). Reform can also be hampered by staff and policy-maker turnover, lack of public support, and high-profile incidents that undermine the goals of reform (LaVigne et al., 2014). Political compromises can water down reforms and hamper their implementation (Austin et al., 2013).
In the mental health field, evaluations of reforms have shown tempered success. Goldman and colleagues (2000) concluded that since experimental studies have not detected positive clinical outcomes in the presence of continuity-of-care initiatives, reorganization of service systems may increase organizational cooperation but may be only as effective as the clinical services, programs, and practices instituted as part of the reform. Scheffler and colleagues (2001) found that the effects of realignment in California’s mental health system were not consistent across the state, which they thought was likely due to socioeconomic and political difference among local mental health authorities, prompting them to conclude that economic differences among regions can affect the success and equity of realignment programs. In the juvenile justice field, an early evaluation of California’s recent judicial realignment noted similar concerns regarding the availability of programs throughout the state, as some counties are at the forefront of instituting reforms while others, for historical or cultural reasons, lag behind (Rappaport, 2013).
Given these early findings, the committee thinks that the success of realignment and reinvestment will probably rest on the uniform development of community alternative services. OJJDP can play a role in the juvenile justice field by guiding the development and incorporation of alternatives to confinement. OJJDP can also advance the state of knowledge on these strategies by inviting competitive proposals for conducting further research into realignment and reinvestment approaches. OJJDP can assess and evaluate the implementation of these strategies and assemble lessons learned. This evaluation would include focusing on system reform outcomes, incentives for changing practices, and consolidation of the data efforts. In addition, OJJDP could provide assistance to states engaged in or seeking to use these strategies, to ensure that they are implementing a developmental approach to their reform and decision making.