The Family Division of the Berrien County Trial Court in Michigan decided in 2001 that its juvenile justice practices simply weren’t working. That meant restructuring the county’s juvenile justice procedures around evidence-based practices, starting by using risk assessments to determine which youth were more likely to commit another offense and thus required more intensive interventions and supervision.
Juvenile Justice Project
The last two decades have produced remarkable changes in state and local juvenile justice systems. An overwhelming body of research has emerged, demonstrating that using secure facilities as a primary response to youth’s delinquent behavior generally produces poor outcomes at high costs. Drawing on this evidence, the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change and the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative have provided the field with models for reform, research-based guidance, and technical assistance that has transformed many state and local juvenile justice systems. In part due to these efforts, between 1997 and 2011, youth confinement rates declined by almost 50 percent. During the same time period, arrests of juveniles for violent crimes also fell by approximately 50 percent, to their lowest level in over 30 years.
The importance and value of these achievements can’t be overstated. At the same time, these trends alone are not sufficient for policymakers to assess the effectiveness of their state and local governments’ juvenile justice systems. They must also know whether youth diverted from confinement, as well as youth who return to their communities after confinement, have subsequent contact with the justice system. In addition to recidivism data, policymakers should have information about what services, supports, and opportunities young people under system supervision need, whether these needs are being met, and to what extent these young people are succeeding as a result.
The Justice Center’s Juvenile Justice Project was developed to provide guidance and support to state and local officials and other key stakeholders on what works to promote successful reentry for those youth who are under juvenile justice system supervision. The project website provides access to the latest research and recommendations for reducing recidivism and improving outcomes for youth in the juvenile justice system:
- Core Principles for Reducing Recidivism and Improving Other Outcomes for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System: This white paper distills and synthesizes the research on what works to reduce recidivism and improve outcomes for youth in the juvenile justice system into four core principles; details lessons learned from research and practice on how to implement the principles effectively; and provides examples of how state and local juvenile justice systems have operationalized the principles in practice.
- Measuring and Using Juvenile Recidivism Data to Inform Policy, Practice, and Resource Allocation: This issue brief highlights findings from a recent survey of the recidivism data collection practices of all 50 state juvenile correctional agencies and provides state and local policymakers with five recommendations for improving their approaches to the measurement, analysis, collection, reporting, and use of recidivism data for youth involved with the juvenile justice system.
- The Juvenile Justice Project also encompasses the Justice Center’s ongoing delivery of training and technical assistance—through the National Reentry Resource Center—to state and local juvenile justice systems that receive grant funding through the Second Chance Act (SCA). The Justice Center is also the technical assistance provider for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program (JMHCP). To support SCA grantees, the Justice Center runs the the National Reentry Resource Center (NRRC). For more information and resources related to “what works” to improve youth reentry and overall juvenile justice outcomes, please visit the Juvenile Justice Reentry page. To learn more about youth mental health issues, please visit the Mental Health page. To learn more about youth substance use issues, please visit the Substance Abuse page.
The Juvenile Justice Project: Looking Ahead
With the support of the MacArthur Foundation, the Justice Center is engaged in two pilot projects to apply the research and recommendations offered in the white paper and issue brief to help five state correctional agencies reduce recidivism and improve other outcomes for youth:
- The “Positioning Juvenile Justice Systems to Track Youth Outcomes Pilot Project” will help position policymakers and state juvenile correctional agencies to track and better measure, analyze, share, and use data on a priority set of recidivism and other youth outcomes to inform system policy, practice, and funding.
- The “Improving Outcomes for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System Pilot Project” will engage state juvenile justice agencies in a comprehensive assessment of to what extent they have adopted and are effectively implementing the core principles needed to reduce recidivism and improve other youth outcomes, and help them to develop and begin to advance an action plan to address priority reform needs.
The Justice Center’s work in the area of juvenile justice builds upon research pioneered and supported by key partners, including the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change Initiative, Georgetown University’s Center on Juvenile Justice Reform, the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators, the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and others. This Project is supported by the U.S. Department of Justice and the MacArthur Foundation.
Posts & Announcements
The U.S. Department of Education is now accepting applications for this demonstration program, which will focus on improving outcomes for justice-involved youth through career and technical education (CTE) programs, reentry services, and employment training opportunities.
This resource center from the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges is a collaborative tool for gathering and sharing information between partners in the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s School Justice Partnership Program: Keeping Kids in School and Out of Court project.
In this webinar panelists share with participants the most recent research on how to reduce recidivism and improve outcomes for juveniles who have committed sexual offenses, and provide a practical example of how the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission is working to achieve these goals.
The webinar is for 2014 Second Chance Act grantees that are developing a comprehensive reentry strategy to reduce recidivism and improve other outcomes for youth under system supervision.
This orientation webinar, held on November 7, 2014, is for FY 2014 Second Chance Act (SCA) grantees developing and implementing juvenile reentry initiatives.
While the prevalence of behavioral health disorders decreases over time among youth after their release from juvenile detention, a substantial proportion of this population continue to have disorders, according to a bulletin from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Youth who have been detained in juvenile detention facilities have a mortality rate that is four times the rate of youth in the general population, according to the results of a longitudinal study featured in a bulletin from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Behavioral health disorders among detained youth are often untreated, and part of the reason for this could be their perceived barriers to mental health services. In a study conducted by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, nearly 60 percent of detained youth said they believed they could overcome their problems without treatment, while nearly one-third reported that they did not know where to get help, and nearly one-fifth said they had difficulty obtaining help.
The U.S. Department of Justice awarded Columbia Heights (MN) police and public schools the 2015 L. Anthony Sutin Civic Imagination Award. They’re the only department and district in the country to earn the honor this year.
A court experiment in Florida attempts to help delinquent girls by promoting rehabilitation rather than incarceration.
Girls Court, as the experiment is called, started a year ago in Jacksonville as a way to address the fact that many of the young women in the state’s juvenile justice system find themselves committing crimes due to trauma experienced earlier in life.
Following the release of a report ranking Tennessee 36th in overall child well-being, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris called on his legislative colleagues and the Haslam Administration to focus more effectively on the needs of the state’s youth.