Bart Lubow on the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI)

Bart Lubow, who has been working for more than 20 years to reduce the number of youth being sent to detention centers, told a gathering of 700 attendees at the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) conference in Houston last week that now, “may prove to be a unique moment in juvenile justice history, a time when, as a nation, we shed some of the system’s worst baggage – including our unnecessary and often inappropriate reliance on secure confinement” of youth. Center for Sustainable Journalism Executive Director Leonard Witt, publisher of the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange and Youth Today, caught up with Lubow to get his take on JDAI initiatives that have expanded to 38 states across the country and become the most widely replicated juvenile justice system reform project in the nation. Learn more about Bart Lubow, Director of Juvenile Justice Strategy for the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Bart Lubow: Cutting Youth Incarceration Doesn’t Cut Public Safety

Bart Lubow, who has been working for more than 20 years to reduce the number of youth being sent to detention centers, told a gathering of approximately 700 conference attendees this morning that now “may prove to be a unique moment in juvenile justice history, a time when, as a nation, we shed some of the system’s worst baggage—including our unnecessary and often inappropriate reliance on secure confinement” of youth. The conference attendees are in Houston for the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative conference, which as its name implies is working to reduce the number of youth sent into detention and instead aims to provide community-centered alternatives. The conference is hosted by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Apparently the 19-year quest is working. Lubow, director of the Juvenile Justice Strategy Group at the Casey Foundation, told the gathering that “JDAI sites have reduced reliance on secure detention overall by 42 percent, with numerous jurisdictions posting reductions in excess of 50 percent.” All of this happening without compromising public safety, he said.

Alternatives to Youth Detention Conference Opens in Houston

Texas State Senator John Whitmire came to the podium last night at the opening of the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) conference in Houston and got right to the core work of the JDAI. Five years ago, he said, 5,000 youth in Texas were incarcerated at any one time. Today the number is down to 1,500. It has happened, he said, without compromising public safety. The JDAI is an initiative backed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and according to its press release, “In 2010, JDAI sites detained 42 percent fewer youth — approximately 2,400 — on an average day than they had prior to implementing approaches that include electronic monitoring, community monitoring, and day or evening reporting centers.”

Bad Mentoring Overheard While Waiting for the Elevator

Working in a juvenile court in metro Atlanta, I become a fly on the wall to some interesting conversations that take place among kids while they wait for appointments. Not long ago, while I was waiting for our reluctant elevator, I overheard a conversation that really caught my attention. Girl No. 1:  Smiling, “Hey, you know this is my second time in court … only my first time in this court though…”

Girl No. 2:  Eyes popping open wide, obviously impressed, “Really, aren’t you afraid you will have to go to the RYDC?” (Regional Youth Detention Center)

Girl No.

Fight Ahead Over Bold California Move to Close State-Run Youth Prisons

This story was originally published by the Center for Public Integrity

California, often a trendsetter, could make history if it approves Gov. Jerry Brown’s bid to close all state-run youth prisons and eliminate its state Division of Juvenile Justice. Much depends, though, on whether the state’s politically influential prison guards, probation officers and district attorneys can be convinced — or forced by legislators — to agree to Brown’s proposal. That won’t be an easy sell, due to both public-safety arguments and sure-to-surface haggling over just who pays to house juvenile offenders. Vowing to restructure government more efficiently, Brown, a Democrat, wants to close the last three of 11 youth prisons that have long been attacked by critics as “expensive failures.” If the state phases out the last three of its aging detention centers, all future young offenders would be held, schooled and treated by California’s 58 counties. This is the second time since taking office last year that Brown has proposed closing the state juvenile division, which is part of its corrections system.

It’s Time to Get Real about Kids and Detention, Anecdotes, Evidence, Blasphemy and the Truth.

It’s time to get real about kids and detention. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said, “All great truths begin as blasphemies.” Well, here are my blaspheming thoughts. I am tired of those with the “lock ‘em all up” attitudes critical of alternatives to detention. They talk off the top of their heads and spew opinionated garbage from their mouths with nothing to show in support of their “get tough” attitude but anecdotes.

Obama Proposes “Social Impact Bonds” to Fund Social Service Projects

The White house is floating the idea of raising money from private investors to pay for privately managed social programs.  The Baltimore Sun reports on this experimental investment scheme that would rely on the private sector to develop solutions for problems such as homelessness and drug addiction. Here’s how it would work:  A group of investors might fund a program to train teenagers who need job skills.  If it brings results, the government would pay them back with interest.  If it doesn’t work or doesn’t meet performance targets, the investors lose all or part of their money. The concept comes from England, where the first social impact bond experiment is underway at Peterborough Prison. The British government has a deal with a nonprofit called Social Finance to provide job training and housing for 3,000 prisoner inmates who are getting released.  Social Finance is raising nearly $8 million from private investors, and promising them a 13% profit. The Obama administration is asking Congress for permission to test the social impact bond model by creating pilot programs for job training, juvenile justice, education and other projects.  The White House wants to set aside $100 million from existing department budgets and spend the money only if the programs work.