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By Terry Campbell, Professor, Purdue University Global
Published: 06/11/2018

Youth in rec yard Another great topic for the June edition of corrections.com; Juveniles. While conducting some research I came across two current initiatives and articles. The first is “Transforming Juvenile Justice Systems to Improve Public Safety and Youth Outcomes. May 2018.” (Washington D.C. Georgetown University for Juvenile Justice Reform, 2018) and National Juvenile Justice Network, Massachusetts Passes Comprehensive Youth Justice Reforms by Josh Gordon, May 2018.

The first article highlights many improvements to the Juvenile Justice System in recent years. Some areas include; lower incarceration rates and lower arrests, and many states “have adopted data-driven tools and evidence-based programming.” However, improvements in recidivism rates have not been as successful, in fact most rates are very high. The following information and statistics continue to be alarming: “Re-arrest rates for youth on probation are 50 percent or greater in many states, while two-thirds of incarcerated youth are rearrested within two years of release.

(https://csgjusticecenter.org/wp-content/ uploads/2015/01/texas-JJ-reform-closer-to-home.pdf. and http://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/ofpa/ pdfdocs/toughoncrimereport.pdf).

The author alludes to the amount of money being spent toward ‘youth who do not pose a public safety risk. This is expanded upon in the article and identifies these types of crimes. Juvenile justice is lacking ample research data focused on reoffending and the reasons for this. Somewhere along the way, one would think accountability comes into play for not reducing the high recidivism rates. We also do not know how much of the research data is actually used in decision-making roles and distribution of funding. Or does this fall into one of those categories, ‘we do not discuss’? A major goal should be to reduce recidivism.

The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center and the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR), collaborated and identified six strategies. These strategies are ‘achievable, cost effective, grounded in research and best practices and designed to transform how juvenile justice systems currently operate:”
  1. Decriminalize status offenses and automatically divert all youth who commit certain offenses and are screened as low risk from court involvement;
  2. Develop professional standards and supports to cultivate a dedicated cadre of juvenile court judges and attorneys;
  3. Tie conditions of supervision directly to youth’s delinquent offenses and eliminate the practice of filing technical violations of probation and parole;
  4. Redefine the primary function of community supervision as promoting positive youth behavior change;
  5. Focus case planning and service delivery on strengthening youth’s connections to positive adults, peers, and community supports; and
  6. Use data and predictive analytics to guide system decisions and hold supervision agencies, courts, and service providers accountable for improved youth outcomes.
Article contents expand on these six strategies and you should review the article. Each strategy also contains innovative practices from various juvenile systems. I also suggest as a follow up, to make sure you are familiar with your juvenile system in place and see how some of this information may be implemented.

The second article I selected is from the National Juvenile Justice Network and titled “Massachusetts Passes Comprehensive Youth Justice Reforms, May 2018. The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center and the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR) collaborated and identified ‘six strategies.’ These strategies were passed by the Massachusetts legislature with ‘bipartisan support.’ Emphasis was placed on ‘preventing children’s entry into the legal system to ensuring developmentally appropriate policies for justice-involved youth.’ Some of the changes identified in the article are:
  • Sets 12 as the Lower Age of Jurisdiction
  • Creates Expungement Opportunities
  • Creates Parent-Child Privilege
  • Establishes a Statutory Framework for Diversion
  • Decriminalizes School-Based Public Order Offenses
  • Creates a Juvenile Justice Policy and Data Board
  • And More: “The bill codified the juvenile court's policy banning indiscriminate shackling of children in court, codified the department of youth service's model policy significantly limiting solitary confinement of children, decriminalized violations by youth of local ordinances, and raised the felony threshold from $250 to $1200.”
For each of the areas identified above, please take the time to read the article for additional content information. Only time will tell how much of an impact and overall effectiveness these changes will have on the Massachusetts Juvenile System. These are some interesting changes and certainly progressive initiatives. Hopefully these areas will also have an impact on recidivism.

I am not sure how much you know about juvenile recidivism. I wanted to include some information obtained from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/QA/Detail.aspx?Id=113&context=9

According to Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2014 National Report, a report funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP): "There is no national recidivism rate for juveniles. Each state's juvenile justice system differs in organization, administration, and data capacity. These differences influence how states define, measure, and report recidivism rates. This also makes it challenging to compare recidivism rates across states." In addition, view the report "Measuring and Using Juvenile Recidivism Data To Inform Policy, Practice, and Resource Allocation", which is sponsored by OJJDP and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).

Stay safe out there.

Terry Campbell is a criminal justice professor at Purdue University Global and has more than 20 years of experience in corrections and policing. He has served in various roles, including prison warden and parole administrator, for the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Terry may be reached at tcampbell@purdueglobal.edu.

Other articles by Campbell


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