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Exercising Judicial Leadership to Reform the Care of Youth Charged with Status Offenses More Harm Than Good: Developing National Standards to Address Needs.

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Presentation on theme: "Exercising Judicial Leadership to Reform the Care of Youth Charged with Status Offenses More Harm Than Good: Developing National Standards to Address Needs."— Presentation transcript:

1 Exercising Judicial Leadership to Reform the Care of Youth Charged with Status Offenses More Harm Than Good: Developing National Standards to Address Needs of Youth Charged with Status Offenses

2 About the SOS Project – Why status offense system reform? Positive Power – Making the Case for Judicial Leadership – Judges have significant convening power – Judges are experts on the system – Judges add credibility and legitimacy to a process – Judges can implement and sustain some change Considerations for Successful Judicial Convening – Assessment and Planning – Defining the Process – Defining the issues and stakeholders – Conducting the Dialogue – Implementing and Sustaining systems change Presentation Overview 2

3 Why Status Offense System Reform? Supports CJJ’s longtime formal position on prohibiting detention of status offenders Advance in practice, the policy change we seek in JJDPA reauthorization Promote optimal and evidence-based policies and practices across all states to limit court contact and prevent adjudication and detention of youth at risk of being charged as status offenders

4 One of the Original Core Requirements Youth charged with status offenses (and youth who are alleged to be dependent, neglected or abused) shall not be placed in secure detention or correctional facilities. Valid Court Order (VCO) Exception Youth charged with status offenses who violate a valid court order may be held in a secure juvenile facility for the period allowable by state/local law. Deinstitutionalization of Status Offenders (DSO) Core Requirement of the JJDPA

5 The nation is divided: In all, 28 states and territories prohibit or choose not to use the VCO exception in practice. Of these, 14 have state laws citing prohibitions. In 2008, 27 of 55 states recorded allowable uses of the VCO exception as part of their JJDPA compliance efforts. Additionally: Wyoming is the only state that does not participate in the JJDPA – appears to lock-up many status offenders. Some non-VCO states are struggling with JJDPA compliance due to detentions of minors in possession of alcohol. Is the Valid Court Order Exception still used?

6 Approx. 9,850 VCO-related detention orders are issued annually in the 27 jurisdictions. Typically a few courts or jurisdictions are responsible for the VCO-related detention orders. According to OJJDP data from , nearly 60% of all such VCOs occur in 3 states: Arkansas, Kentucky and Washington. Is the Valid Court Order Exception still used?

7 When detained, there are safety concerns: Nearly 20% of status offenders are placed in living units with youth who have killed someone; More than 25% reside with felony sex offenders; Half participate in programming with youth who have been charged with murder and/or rape. When detained, there are poor outcomes: Re-offense rates increase; School engagement and success are diminished; Emotional, social, familial and other problems are exacerbated. Nationwide Concern about Status Offender Detention

8 Phase-out use of the VCO exception to the DSO core requirement; Prohibit detention of children under the custody of child protection/child welfare agencies; Place strict limits on lengths of stay in secure detention for all non-delinquent youth, including status offenders; Provide funds to enrich the continuum of services for community based and/or family-connected care for status offenders. JJDPA Reauthorization Push to Improve Outcomes

9 – Preventing non-delinquent children from entering locked facilities where they are housed with more serious offenders; – Reducing out of home placements and incarceration of youth charged with delinquent offenses; – Reducing reliance on secure custody for the full range of juvenile offenders, with community supervision and case management approaches: therapeutic, educational and/or skill-building components; – Family and community-connected services/interventions produce the most positive outcomes for youth development and community safety. National, State and Local Trends Support Deinstitutionalization

10 OJJDP at the U.S. Department of Justice U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee (x2 in legislation) CJJ, NCJFCJ and more than 380 organizations, including: The American Bar Association American Probation and Parole Association Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators Fight Crime Invest in Kids National PTA Broad Consensus to Eliminate ALL Detention for Youth Charged with Status Offenses

11 Young people who are securely detained are more likely to: – become more deeply involved in the juvenile or criminal justice system – re-enter the criminal justice system – suffer from physical or mental health problems – struggle in or not complete school – have difficulty in the labor market later in life What are the Dangers of Detention? 11

12 Youth who commit status offenses often deal with significant challenges in their lives, such as abuse or neglect, undiagnosed disabilities, or effects of past trauma. 12

13 Chief Judge Chandlee Johnson Kuhn Delaware Family Court Positive Power: Making the Case for Judicial Leadership 13

14 Judges Have Significant Convening Power 14 Conveners are ideally: Well-known public leaders Have credibility, and stature in the arena where the change is being sought, and/or in the community Have knowledge of the issues (this is a bonus though not an absolute necessity) Can influence participation by key stakeholders

15 Judges Are Experts on the System 15 Have a vested interest in promoting sound and efficient policies and practices Have access to information and individuals who operate within juvenile justice and related systems Can help ensure that the goals and proposed outcomes of the process are actionable and viable.

16 Judges Add Legitimacy to a Process 16 Can assure stakeholders that the time dedicated to the process is not wasted Can issue orders to compel appearance and the production of vital information or data to inform changes Are viewed as neutral parties May have reach beyond the courtroom (e.g., to legislators)

17 Can, in some circumstances, unilaterally implement changes in practice Can compel or strongly encourage parties to consider changes where needed Can hold parties accountable for commitments made Can raise the public profile of an issue or problem among other key decisionmakers Judges Can Implement Some Change 17

18 Judge Karen M. Ashby Colorado Court of Appeals Considerations for Judicial Convening: The Denver Experience 18

19 Assessment and Planning 19 Identify the issues Truancy? Runaways? Minors-in-possession? Identify the stakeholders Who should be at the table? What are their interests in the issue? Consider desired outcomes What does success look like? Identify potential stumbling blocks Who/what might prevent success? Assess availability of resources Time, money, staffing?

20 Defining the Scope of the Process 20 Decide on a rule of decisionmaking Consensus? Majority rules? Advisory? Decide on the nature of the process Task force—Limited duration, predetermined objective Committee—indeterminate duration, broader mission. Develop a statement of purpose and process participation requirements.

21 Conducting the Dialogue 21 Public or private process? Consider issues of confidentiality and how that may influence participation Consider whether a private process reduces legitimacy or may limit support of the outcomes Define the nature of participation Is the judge-convener the decisionmaker, facilitator or chair of the process? Define the level of accountability required for other stakeholders’ participation Consider power disparities among participants (e.g., agency heads may have more power than community leaders) Agree on data sources and fill information-gaps Even the data playing field Develop and enforce ground rules for participants

22 Considerations for Implementation 22 Ensure that agreements are actionable Not just “agreement in principle” Includes a concrete goal and measured actions Develop a work plan with milestones Review and revise the agreement as needed Develop methods to receive and incorporate feedback from stakeholders during implementation Be flexible to changes in circumstances Recruit new champions who can assist in implementation Monitor outcomes Collect data to track outcomes Record and publicize successes to broaden support

23 Coalition for Juvenile Justice 1319 F Street NW, Suite 402 Washington, DC For More Information 23


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