Foundation Strives to Create Legacy for Juvenile Justice Reform

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The nonprofit MacArthur Foundation has spent more than $100 million since 2004 on developing blueprints for reform within the juvenile justice systems of 16 states. Earlier this week, its reform initiative, Models for Change, brought together nearly 400 judges, advocates, probation officers and other juvenile justice professionals for two days of workshops in Washington, D.C.

It was the seventh such yearly gathering for Models for Change partners, and it came at a time when the foundation is beginning to wind down funding for new research into juvenile justice reforms and enter a new phase focused on defining, sustaining and disseminating to the rest of the country the reform models its state partners and networks have already developed. As the foundation moves toward solidifying the legacy of its blueprint initiative, its conference this year emphasized the power of storytelling and collaboration as a way to convey the impact of justice reforms to other states and to the public. The storytelling theme ran through several events over the two-day event. Public relations professionals held a plenary session to discuss how juvenile justice organizations could craft an effective public message.

Foundation Honors Champions of Juvenile Justice Reform

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Arrested and convicted as a teenager, Starcia Marie Ague made a decision to escape her present and her troubled past by focusing on her education. She finished high school and began taking college courses while still incarcerated. Upon her release, she completed an associate’s degree at a community college in Spokane, Wash., and went on to graduate from Washington State University with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 2010. This afternoon, Ague, who once spent six years in secure juvenile facilities, became the youngest person honored as a Champion for Change by the John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation, an award reserved for people who have demonstrated a commitment to improving the way things work in the juvenile justice system and who have creatively used the resources provided by the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change initiative to push for system reform. Six other people received the awards, announced today at the 7th annual Models for Change national conference in Washington, D.C. They are Lisa M. Garry of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services; Laura Cohen of the Rutgers School of Law-Newark; Gene Griffin of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine; Arthur D. Bishop of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice; Sharon Guy Hornsby of Northshore Technical Community College, Florida Parishes Campus; and George D. Mosee Jr. of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, Juvenile Division.

VIDEO: Voices of Advocates at the Models for Change Conference

The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange is at the 2012 annual Models for Change conference, a conference geared toward supporting a network of policy makers, government and court officials, advocates, educators, community leaders and families cooperating together in an effort to ensure that "kids who make mistakes are held accountable and treated fairly throughout the juvenile justice process." JJIE had the opportunity to catch up with several different officials from varying organizations about their goals and thoughts on the subject of juvenile justice. Continue checking in for ongoing updates. [Friday 12/7/12]

[4:19 p.m.]

Jessica Sandoval, Director of National Field Operations at the Campaign for Youth Justice, talks about how her organization got its start and where its going in the future.  [12:43 p.m.]

Rhonda McKitten, Director of Training and Senior Trial Attorney of the Juvenile Unit of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, shares a story about a teen who was positively impacted by one of her programs.

[Thursday 12/6/12] 

[2:14 p.m.]

Nancy Gannon Hornberger, Executive Director of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, shares an anecdote about a young person whose circumstances led to her being harshly charged in criminal court.

Simple, Pre-written Language Reduces Confusion for Youth in Juvenile Court

On Nov. 7, the National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) will hold a webinar focusing on the new Models For Change publication “Washington Judicial Colloquies Project: A Guide for Improving Communication and Understanding in Court.”
The guide, published by Washington State NJJN member TeamChild, offers advice on how professionals can better explain and describe the legal language used in court proceedings to young people. Working with the National Juvenile Defender Center and the Juvenile Indigent Defense Action Network, TeamChild created a guide that suggests “colloquies,” pre-written language for judges and attorneys to use during young people’s first court appearances and further disposition hearings. The language is written at a 6th grade-level and designed to be easily understood by juveniles. In fact, according to the the guide, effective use of colloquies sometimes increased young people’s understanding of release and probation conditions from one third to 90 percent after hearings.

‘Models for Change’ Series Available Online

A series of eight reports that summarize effective strategies to improve services and treatment of juveniles in the justice system is now available through the Models for Change Research Initiative website. At a time of tight federal, state and local budgets, the aim of the “Knowledge Briefs” series is to share pioneering strategies that communities can study and possibly duplicate within their own juvenile systems. Supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which has spent some $100 million on juvenile justice reform efforts since 2004, the series outlines inventive approaches adopted by different states to cost-effectively improve the outlook for young people leaving the justice system and re-entering society. The series includes a study that examined whether young people at three sites in Louisiana and Washington state were treated differently in probation if they belonged to a minority race or ethnic group, and a cost-benefit analysis from a juvenile center in Cook County, Ill., that could serve as an example of how to determine whether certain reforms are worth the money. Although the reports were published last December, the MacArthur Foundation announced their release as a series a couple of weeks ago, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention within the U.S. Department of Justice promoted their availability in an email to its news subscribers yesterday. In January, the OJJDP announced a $2 million partnership with the MacArthur Foundation to support key reforms in the juvenile justice system.