Ideas for State Advisory Groups in New Report From CJJ

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SAGs: 4 smiling young men stand behind desk chair that smiling man sitting in at desk holding pen. U.S., state flag in background.

Washington Legislative Support Service

The state advisory group in Washington state has focused its efforts on newly introduced legislation, the report says. Four youths who were among those who wrote legislators in support of Senate Bill 6160 attended the signing ceremony with Gov. Jay Inslee on March 22, 2018. The bill ended the requirement that all youth ages 16-17 who committed certain serious crimes be sentenced to adult court and extended juvenile court jurisdiction to age 25.

Best practices for state advisory groups as federal grant money has diminished is the focus of a new report from the Coalition for Juvenile Justice.

The report examines the ways in which different state advisory groups (SAGs) have adapted over the years. Established to ensure states are in compliance with the four core requirements of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), many SAGs originally took on the role of grant givers and have had to adjust and adapt with the decline in funding.

“It’s left many states sort of wondering, what’s my role,” said Naomi Smoot, the executive director of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice (CJJ), a nonprofit organization for SAGs and allies. “Many of them have been able to figure that out and have found new ways to lead through policy and sort of system change, while others are sort of trying to find a role that works for them.” 

Two of the federal grants available to help states comply with the JJDPA, Title II and Title V, have been cut by 32.4% and 74% respectively. The third grant, the Juvenile Accountability block grant, was zeroed out completely.

“Given the limitations in the amount of funding, it does narrow down the areas that they would like to pursue,” said Mark White, first deputy commissioner at the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, who works closely with the SAGs. New York’s SAG is called the Juvenile Justice Advisory Group, or JJAG.

New York state has taken a more data-oriented approach to make sure the funded programs are effective, he said.

“We share that data with the JJAG membership and then they are able to be a lot more strategic with their plan in terms of where they want to allocate funding and then we put structures in place to make sure we can measure outcomes,” White said.

The JJAG has reached out to other states occasionally to see what works for them, so the report will be a helpful new tool, he said.

According to the report, some states have adapted to the financial squeeze by prioritizing policy reform and pushing legislation, or by emphasizing the role of subcommittees that focus on issues such as compliance with the JJDPA, truancy and education, and reintegration into society.

No Justice info on changes to JJDPA

The report, which comes out six months after the reauthorization of the JJDPA, includes a section on some of the changes made to the Act and suggestions for how to implement them.

“It’s going to have a huge impact on our work, and we really need to be prepared for those changes,” said Vazaskia Crockrell, the director of the Office of Juvenile Justice in Washington state and the juvenile justice specialist for the state’s SAG, the Washington State Partnership Council on Juvenile Justice.

Last year, under the direction of then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention pulled guidance documents, or manuals, that they’d previously provided to states to help them comply with the JJDPA. The manuals were not replaced, and new ones have not been published since the reauthorization, leaving SAGs to figure out compliance with the Act on their own.

“We need something now,” said Crockrell about the lack of guidance from the federal government. “I think this will help us but there’s still processes, procedures, forms, documents required.”

In February Smoot and Marcy Mistrett, the CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice, co-wrote an op-ed calling on the OJJDP to publish guidance documents to help states comply with the changes in the newly reauthorized act.

“There is much work to be done as a result of the Act’s reauthorization and, as is often the case, limited resources with which to accomplish it,” they wrote. “It is critical that the states receive clear guidance on what is expected of them for compliance.”

This report, Smoot said, is not in response to the Justice Department’s actions, nor is it meant to be used as a replacement to fill the gap.

“This is just a report, absolutely not guidance in the sense that that would be,” she said. “It’s its own completely separate document.” 

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