State Advisors to Federal Juvenile Justice Office Briefed on Reforms

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Thirteen advocates and professionals from around the country who serve as advisors to the federal office for juvenile justice met for two days last week in Washington, D.C., to share information on reforms and funding at the state and federal levels. The Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice, which normally meets online every few months, gathered face-to-face for the first time in a year. Its last online meeting occurred Aug. 10. 

Some of the reforms the committee discussed lie within the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention itself. Melodee Hanes, the acting office administrator, told committee members on the opening day of the meeting that a structural reorganization of her office, which has been in the works for months, would be announced soon.

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.

Two Years Later, OJJDP Still without a Leader

More than two years after taking office, President Obama has yet to appoint a permanent administrator to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), a federal agency that funds some state-level juvenile programs and ensures federal standards are being met. The delay has been caused, in part, by a bill removing the Senate confirmation requirement for this and hundreds of other executive branch appointments. The bill has passed the Senate, but has yet to go in front of the House of Representatives for a vote. The measure, S. 697, also known as the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011, received support from both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) before being passed by the Senate in June. The push to remove Senate confirmation for the OJJDP top position has been strongly opposed in some quarters.

One Man’s Journey Through Crime, Drugs, Schizophrenia and Rehabilitation

When Andrew Peterman of Idaho first came into the juvenile justice system at age 15, he did not know that schizophrenia was driving his anger, which in turn was resulting in arrests and illicit drug and alcohol usage. In time, thanks to juvenile detention and treatment for his schizophrenia he has been able to straighten out his life. In fact, he has come so far on his journey that the Coalition for Juvenile Justice awarded him the 2011 National CJJ Spirit of Youth Award to "recognize and celebrate a young adult...who has made great strides through involvement with the juvenile justice system, overcome personal obstacles and is today making significant contributions to society." In the video below by Leonard Witt, Peterman tells of his journey through crime, drugs, schizophrenia and rehabilitation. See the video time splits below.

Juvenile Justice Expert David Schmidt Discusses Juvenile Life Without Parole

Are sentences of life without parole for juveniles a death sentence? David Schmidt thinks so. See the short version just below. For more information on topics on like why a kid convicted of triple murder should still be released by the age of 21 see the full interview at the bottom of this page. Here are the time splits for the important topics Schmidt covers in the longer version below:

Life without parole - 00:33
Judge still could give 150 years - 1:20
Are we tough enough on kids - 1:38
There are dangerous young people - 2:03
Consider the individuals - 2:20
The New Mexico model and a triple murder - 3:00
Life without parole is a death sentence - 5:00
2,500 kids in jail without parole in 27 states - 5:50
Supreme Court acted cowardly - 7:05
Judge's and prosecutor's power - 8:00