No More Delays Mr. President: Appoint the Nation’s Next Juvenile Justice Chief

Four years ago, President Obama was inaugurated, and we expected that within a few months the President would nominate a permanent administrator for the Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). But this past week, as President Obama renewed the oath of office, we are still waiting. Each administration since the office was created in 1974 has made the appointment except President Obama’s. The President should end this delay and here's why:

The OJJDP is the leading federal agency responsible for juvenile justice and delinquency prevention issues. Created under the landmark Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) of 1974, the OJJDP plays a vital role in assisting state and local governments in addressing juvenile delinquency through federal grants, research and guidance.

Looking Back and Casting Forward: An Emerging Shift for Juvenile Justice in America

This story produced by the Chicago Bureau. The close of 2012 focused so narrowly on terrible events and startling numbers - the Newtown massacre, for example, or Chicago’s sharp rise in homicides - some major criminal justice developments were nearly squeezed out of the national conversation. Take the statements made just over a week ago by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who vowed to take on the tricky issue of the skewed racial picture in the county’s corrections and justice system, including within the juvenile justice system. Speaking to a group of reporters, the news – including a statement that she will “work with the actors in the public safety arena” to lessen the overall corrections population and push alternatives to locking up non-violent offenders – the story got little more than a day’s play on the airwaves and in other media. Always outspoken, the board president served many years as an alderman fighting for various social justice causes, including race and drug issues (she at one point challenged the validity of any national “war on drugs”).

White House Taps Juvenile Justice Advocates for Expertise on Gun Violence

Representatives from a group of more than 300 juvenile justice and delinquency prevention organizations at the national, state and local level have met with White House staff and Congressional minority leaders at their invitation in recent weeks to provide evidence-based expertise on ways to reduce gun violence in the country, a coalition leader said. As tasked by President Barack Obama in the wake of mass shootings at an elementary school last month, Vice-President Joe Biden and his staff have spent the last few weeks meeting with gun-control advocates, pro-gun rights groups and dozens of concerned organizations in preparation for the release of the vice-president’s recommendations for the prevention of gun violence. According to Politico, Biden indicated today that the president could use an executive order to act on some of his recommendations, which are expected to be made public next week. On Jan. 4, representatives from the National Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Coalition and other advocates met with aides to the president and vice-president, including Tonya Robinson, a special assistant to the President on the White House Domestic Policy Council; Evan Ryan, an assistant to Biden; and Mary Lou Leary, the acting director of the Office of Justice Programs, said Nancy Gannon Hornberger, a coalition leader who was present at the meeting.

Should 24-Year-Old Offenders be Considered Juveniles?

LAS VEGAS -- When the National Partnership for Juvenile Services annual symposium opened, Jason Bowser, a youth service director from Columbus, Ind., told an executive committee that one of the standing committees was focusing on the question of “What is a juvenile?”

It might seem an odd question for a gathering of folks who specialize in working with youth in the juvenile justice system, but really the question, even when not spoken, would be present in training sessions across the three-day symposium held here this week. Nor is it just a hypothetical question because nearly 250,000 young people under the age of 18 end up in the adult criminal justice system every year, according to the National Institute of Corrections report, “You’re an Adult Now: Youth in Adult Criminal Justice Systems.”

Liz Ryan, president and CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice -- in a session reflecting the “Adult Now” theme -- reminded everyone that New York and North Carolina still consider juveniles to be adults at the ages of 16 or 17 in criminal proceedings, whereas in the rest of the states it’s 18. Ryan said a new report shows that each year 100,000 young people get sent to an adult facility and on any given day approximately 10,000 of them are in an adult facility. Once there, the correction system managers do have rules that treat the juvenile differently from the mainstream adult population. At times that means putting the kids into isolation.

Youth Justice Awareness Month Returns

Four years after a Missouri mother started a homemade campaign about the judicial system that led to her son’s suicide in prison, more than half of the states are hosting events aimed at increasing awareness of the treatment of youth in adult courts, jails and prisons. “I couldn’t fathom the treatment he received. I mean I was really scared,” said Tracy McClard, originator of Youth Justice Awareness Month, marked every October. She started the awareness campaign in 2008 with a 5k run/walk. It’s in memory of her son Jonathan, who hung himself three days after his 17th birthday rather than face 30 years in prison.

Proposed Budget Cuts Loom for Juvenile Justice Programs

Youth advocates are ringing the alarm bells at Congress’s proposed levels of funding for state programs that would prevent young people from being locked up for skipping school, keep young offenders from being held in adult prisons and reduce the disproportionate numbers of minority youth in jail. Since 2002, the funds available for states to implement Title II of the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act have been slashed by more than half from $88.8 million, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Coalition for Juvenile Justice, which brings together citizens and public officials who work on juvenile justice issues in every state. Current funding levels for Title II -- whose four core requirements aim to protect young people from being unfairly confined in prison -- are at $40 million, according to figures released by the Coalition for Juvenile Justice in April. The White House requested $70 million for the 2013 budgetary year, an amount unlikely to pass Congress. If federal funds shrink further, states will have little incentive to meet federal guidelines for keeping juveniles out of the adult prison system, said Liz Ryan, president of the D.C.-based advocacy organization Campaign for Youth Justice.

Americans Believe in Treatment Over Incarceration for Youth, New Poll Finds

A majority of Americans favor rehabilitation and treatment of youth over incarceration, new national poll found. The survey, commissioned by the Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ), also found most Americans, 76 percent, believe youth should not automatically be sent to adult court. The poll was given to 1,000 U.S. adults.

"This public opinion research demonstrates Americans’ strong support for rehabilitation and treatment for court-involved youth, over incarceration and automatic prosecution in adult criminal court," stated CFYJ’s President and CEO Liz Ryan in a press release. "In light of this research, it is urgent that state officials accelerate youth justice reforms to reduce the incarceration of youth and prosecution in adult criminal court, and that Congress and the Administration reject deep cuts to juvenile justice funding."

Other highlights from the poll include:

A large majority of the public, 89 percent, would prefer youth to receive treatment, counseling and education.
Family is an important component in the juvenile justice system. Eighty-six percent of Americans favor involving the youth’s family in treatment while ensuring youth remains connected to their families.
Sixty-nine percent of Americans believe children should not be placed in adult prisons and jails.
Many Americans, 71 percent, favor providing more funds to public defenders to represent youth in court.
Eighty-one percent of Americans trust judges over prosecutors when determining if a child should be tried as an adult.