Juvenile Justice Committee Needs Your Help

Let’s begin with a short quiz.

  1. Who advises the president and Congress about matters of juvenile justice policy? My guess is that “lobbyists” is the first answer that comes to mind and, of course, that answer is correct but incomplete. There is a legislatively created committee of citizens to render such advice; it is the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice —usually called FACJJ.
  2. Where does this committee reside? Most readers of JJIE will guess the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and that is the right response.
  3. Why am I asking these questions? Because new members are being selected now and we need your help — by Aug. 12 — THIS FRIDAY!

Timberlake-headshot-2015-bLast October, I was elected chair of the FACJJ. I can tell you from personal experience that the members’ energy, wisdom and genuine concern mean that the group recommendations are supported by research, best practice and a breadth of experience in the juvenile justice field. OJJDP is the host agency for the FACJJ and is directly affected by the recommendations, but the reach is far greater than that.

The current list of pending juvenile justice-related bills in Congress has been influenced by the work of you, dear reader, because FACJJ members are selected from State Advisory Group — SAG — members.

I suggest that you go to the FACJJ website to examine past recommendations or to the OJJDP website under About OJJDP, then Councils and Committees.

Currently, our subcommittees are considering several topics. The Legislation group continues to monitor and support the re-authorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. Members have been a source of information for sponsors in both the Senate and House. They also keep tabs on all juvenile justice-related federal bills and are now surveying state reform statutes to develop an understanding of where good work is being done as a future guide for their federal advice.

The Expungement and Confidentiality subcommittee has completed a recommendation supporting good expungement practices and is now studying the methods of disclosure of confidential juvenile information in the search for how to make confidentiality real.

Our Research and Publication group has recommended the end of juvenile sex offender registries and is now working on recommendations for effective treatments for this population as well as effective prevention approaches. The newest workgroup has just formed around LGBTQ issues and is deeply involved in considerations of policy, training and technical assistance, research and data with concentration on transgender issues.

Finally, a bylaws group will have recommendations for the September in-person meeting of the FACJJ to expand the membership and to streamline process in the operation of the committee. The entire committee will consider implementation issues for the recommendations.

There are a limited number of positions available and they are attached to a specific group of states, territories and tribal groups. If you are a State Advisory Group member, please consider applying. If you are not a member, please look at the names on your SAG’s website and talk to any member whom you consider to be a useful FACJJ member.

Please go to the OJJDP or FACJJ website and learn more about the scope of work and then DO IT NOW. Please.




White America Needs a Good Long Hangover

TimberlakeOver the decades of a long career, I’ve attended countless professional conferences, and more often than not, I’ve come away reinvigorated with a briefcase filled with new research and business cards of experts I will contact later.

The recent annual Coalition for Juvenile Justice Conference in Washington, District of Columbia, did not disappoint and, in fact, had the added joy of seeing Rob Vickery, a friend and one of the new generation of rising stars, win the National Juvenile Justice Specialist Award. It is especially encouraging to see Rob and so many other young professionals bringing change and achieving results.

Occasionally, these conferences surprise. And for me, this year’s surprise came from some even younger voices.

For more information, visit the JJIE Resource Hub

Robert Listenbee, administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, introduced three young artists of the spoken and written word. They represented Split this Rock, a group of poets who represent the diversity of American poetry today.

All three, two males and a female, had written excellent poems, in formal structure and meter and each had a compelling content and tone. The audience was moved. They knew the role of gifted poets — to describe and speak of events and feelings that evoke strong emotional response from the reader and listener. They all succeeded.

The youth with a James Earl Jones voice was angry — with an understandable rage at being labeled a black teenager who was likely headed to prison, labeled without knowing who he really is. He recognized that most black teens are often seen in stereotypical terms — poor, uneducated, out of step with acceptable society perhaps because of his clothes, his music, his friends, his hair, his color.

The second young man had a softer edge but told of similar experiences of being stopped by police without cause, treated roughly for no reason. He described feeling both feared as a young black man and fearful of what his life might become in a dominant white society. The young woman’s voice and words kept the audience in rapt silence as she related the facts and feelings of being young, black and female — a different stereotype than the males — but no less moving.

I can neither repeat nor explain the truth in these young voices — you need to read or, better yet, to hear their poems yourselves — but I can tell you that they all felt victimized by living in a society that must change in order — to borrow a current phrase — to “Make America Great.” After the presentation, someone said that it was “sobering.” That seems accurate if we consider both the drunkenness and the hangover that follows.

White America can be seen as drunk on power, privilege and money, things that too many people of color do not have. Being drunk brings a certain blindness to what goes on around you, an inability to see the reality of racism and institutionalized poverty and the hopelessness that results.

Drunkenness makes us stumble — to trip over matters of public policy and legislation like the War on Drugs that contributed to the appearance of a War on African Americans and to the siege state of mind brought on by a neighborhood police state.

What this country needs is a hangover — a post-party opportunity for reflection, a quiet time for sober thought about what we have done right and what we have done wrong. Feelings of guilt and shame usually accompany the search for an antidote to the headache. During such an interlude, we need to learn, think and feel what it is like to be a person of color in America — to be poor, to have fewer opportunities because of a lack of power, privilege and money.

Hangovers often lead to resolutions — to drink less, to do better, to be kind — to use our heads to make a better life. In public policy, we need to step back from the loud crowd in politics and the media and to listen to the good in us all. Our resolutions must be to improve the experience of people of color in our country.

Step one: Listen to those young poets about their experience in our nation. Their message is about much more than teen angst. It is the truth about being young and black in America. That is the sort of youth engagement needed for juvenile justice reform.




Interrogations Encourage False Confessions from Students

TimberlakeAmong the many advances in juvenile justice reform propelled by a developmental approach is the reduction of the school-to-prison pipeline. Across the country, zero tolerance statutes and strict school suspension and expulsion practices are being scaled back. Positive school environment policies are reducing the number of school disciplinary referrals, and restorative justice practices are improving conflict resolutions.

But, as in many large and complex systems affecting juvenile justice, there is still work to be done to diffuse the knowledge gained from research. Schools across America face daily mysteries as to who is guilty of rule or law infractions, and administrators are tasked with seeking the perpetrators. Like police agencies, they use information from students and often rely on admissions of guilt to “solve the case.” They sometimes adopt police practices, including interrogation techniques.

When confessions are extracted from suspects, it often ends the investigation because law enforcement, prosecutors, judges and juries as well as laypeople believe that confessions are statements against self-interest and are unlikely to be said unless true.

The problem with that logic is that false confessions are not at all unusual. As the hundreds of overturned cases in recent years demonstrate, the phenomenon of people confessing to crimes they did not commit is real and replicated by studies around the world.

Causes for such statements of guilt are varied, but one major contributing factor has been interrogation practices. Crime novel readers and movie and TV audiences will recognize the components of the “Reid Technique,” a manualized approach to eliciting confessions. Principal steps include confrontation, repetition, refusal to accept denials, providing false “evidence,” suggesting a confession will reduce the possible punishment and the use of alternative questions about the same set of presumed facts.

Research offers overwhelming proof that these techniques result in far more false confessions by the mentally ill, people with developmental disabilities and juveniles. Youth are impulsive and may simply believe — as is sometimes implied or overtly stated — that they will be allowed to go home if they just answer the question in the way the interrogator — whether law enforcement or school personnel — is requesting.

I was surprised and disappointed to read in a recent commentary in The New Yorker that the Reid Technique is being taught to school administrators, including some in my home state of Illinois. The article is headlined: “Why are educators learning how to interrogate their students?” I can’t think of any legitimate reason to justify it.

If a crime has been committed on school grounds, they should leave interrogations to the police. If they’re just trying to enforce rules and school culture, it is a mistake to approach discussions with students with an adversarial attitude. The whole idea of “interrogation” is contrary to a developmentally appropriate approach, a restorative justice approach and a procedural justice approach.

The guilt-presumptive and confrontational interrogation process results in false confessions from adults also, but juveniles make false confessions at a much higher relative rate. The International Association of Chiefs of Police recognized the danger of prevalent practices and created its own guide to interrogation in 2012. That guide cautions against even mildly coercive questioning of youth.

The number of overturned verdicts and vacated sentences coupled with the hundreds of millions of dollars paid by taxpayers to those wrongly convicted has led to laws requiring video recording of the police questioning of suspects. Initially opposed by many law enforcement bodies, video is now voluntarily instituted by many agencies because it obviates note-taking during the inquiry, increases accountability, provides instant replay for review, reduces court testimony to defend practices and improves trust.

As research shows heightened risk for false confessions by youth, limits or safeguards should be instituted for school use of coercive interrogation techniques. “Police-Induced Confessions: Risk Factors and Recommendation,” a white paper published by the American Psychology-Law Society, advises developmental characteristics and limitations should be part of any training, and video recording of questioning also can protect children.

Given the much higher incidence of false confession by juveniles, my opinion is that the researchers’ suggestions should apply if school personnel decide to adopt police interrogation practices. Video recording can provide another safety valve for the school-to-prison pipeline. If school principals want to play the part of police detectives, they should be willing to do it in front of a camera.




Felony Murder Rule Should Not Apply to Juveniles in Illinois

TimberlakeOver the last decade, the juvenile justice system in my home state of Illinois has undergone many changes and become more attuned to research on adolescent development, more restorative and less reliant on punishment.

But one area not yet reformed is the so-called “felony murder rule,” which allows anyone involved in murder to be charged with that murder even if someone else pulled the trigger and even if the others involved are children.

Justin Doyle, a rural Illinoisan involved in a 2008 crime, is now growing up in prison because he was at the scene when his 14-year-old friend was killed.

A recent Chicago Tribune article recounted what happened when five teenage boys decided to burglarize a home they believed was unoccupied. Unknown to the boys, the homeowner’s friend had been sleeping inside and pulled a pistol from a dresser drawer when Doyle and two of his friends entered the house.

The homeowner’s friend fired the fatal shot, in self-defense, and Doyle was charged with felony murder.

If a murder is charged, juveniles in most states can be transferred to adult court. As the result of a plea agreement, Justin Doyle was sentenced to 30 years in prison, and is likely to spend at least 15 years behind bars. He now has a clemency petition pending before Gov. Bruce Rauner.

While some states have heeded the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decisions to consider the diminished abilities of youthful offenders when situations like these arise, many teenagers continue to accept pleas to escape much longer sentences applicable in felony murder cases.

[Related: It Is Possible to Heal Our Caged Children]

Last year, however, Indiana and Massachusetts high courts overturned murder convictions, allowing resentencing for the underlying felonies. Those courts recognized that brain development science should apply in cases where youthful offenders have not killed anyone and did not intend to kill anyone. The impulsive nature of teens, their susceptibility to peer influence and inability to comprehend long-term consequences makes the felony murder rule illogical at best.

How should the juvenile justice system change? Accountability for an event that results in a death cannot and should not be ignored. Steve Drizin, the well-known professor from the Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, told the Chicago Tribune: “The answer is not to charge someone who did not commit a murder with murder and to punish them equally with those who do. The answer is to punish him more harshly for the crime he did commit.”

I agree. Felony murder statutes should not apply to juveniles, but the fact that someone died should be a factor in determining the sentence for the actual crime committed by the youth.

Accountability should also include the effect upon the victim of the underlying crime. In the Illinois case, the homeowner’s friend who shot the 14-year-old burglar has been through a long period of counseling to try to cope with the death. The harm done to this man is real and could be the subject of a victim-offender mediation.

Restorative justice is rarely used as part of a court-imposed practice in crimes of violence, but this situation seems suitable as a response to the yearslong plight of the shooter.

Particularly for juveniles, logic and procedural justice argue against charging felony murder. In these terrible situations, the use of restorative justice tools would be a system change that benefits everyone.

More related articles:

Millions of Us Are Affected by Draconian Prison Penalties

Solitary Reform Shows Power of Brain Science to Change Policy

Witnessing Murder: My Life’s Turning Point




We Do Need Candidates for Change — in Justice System

TimberlakePresidential politics is in full swing and while the number of candidates is being reduced, those remaining are still in the platitudes stage. You know how it goes: Each speaker states his or her faith in America, the strength and world leadership of the United States, the need to right the wrongs of past politicians, that progress must be made and that only “Change!” can save our future.

Change to what?

We have candidates on both ends of the political spectrum whose prospects seem dim in comparison to decades of experience that tells us that a centrist establishment contender will make it to the White House.

As the primaries whittle away at the number of people on the political stage, those remaining will have taken positions on a variety of policy issues, and some may even explain how they would accomplish their policy goals. This structured progression of politics will be repeated by candidates in state and local elections without as much media coverage but with the same orchestrated familiarity.

Some commentators believe that there is something new in this election cycle. They believe that the popularity of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders contains a difference from past elections. An inexperienced billionaire and a self-identified socialist are unlikely contestants in a presidential race, but they both champion “change” in a way that is attracting millions of likely voters.

The candidates’ beliefs about what change means are worlds apart, but the phenomenon of voter interest in fundamental change is undeniable. What drives those thousands who gather to hear the words of the change candidates? Perhaps it is the dissatisfaction with lowered real wages after an historic world recession, the enormous educational debt of millennials or the wealth gap in our country. Politicians and parties would do well to recognize the reality of dissatisfaction with the world as it is.

[Related: Juvenile Reforms Included in Senate Criminal Justice Package]

On the off chance that a change in rhetoric becomes a work plan, I hope it means voters will support candidates who argue mass incarceration is not good policy or economics. Reducing jail, detention and prison populations and redirecting the dollars involved is now a point of agreement of policy wonks on the right and the left.

Successful candidates should be able to explain that out-of-home placement of any kind is likely to produce continued problems for those kids in foster care or on probation. Adequate assessment leading to effective case management provides better outcomes for kids, and that produces lifelong savings for taxpayers. We know that appropriate services can intervene in cycles of crime and family failures in ways that punishment and incarceration can never provide.

Juvenile justice reform advocates need a realistic plan to produce officeholders at every level of government who understand the current science of brain development and how to apply that science to practice in publicly funded agencies. We can begin by voting. Also, we must contribute our dollars to those candidates who will commit to change in meaningful ways: adequate funding for community services and probation and enacting budgets to produce positive outcomes for kids in conflict with the law and kids enmeshed in the child welfare system.

We must hold the candidates accountable to the electorate. We can ask questions in public forums and suggest questions to moderators and media commentators. Demand plans, not platitudes.

Even with this kind of specifically targeted inquiry, we all know that money still drives candidates and officeholders alike. Money in politics is not an evil. It is just a fact of how Americans choose their government leaders.

So, we need some money. How about a PAC supporting juvenile justice reform candidates? Let’s call it the “P-soup PAC.” It could support Politicians who commit to adequately fund Probation, provide adequate training to Prosecutors and Public defenders, replace Prisons and Punishment with adequate assessment and community services, restructure Payments to provide Positive outcomes — in other words, real change.

We can use the tried and true method of spending dollars to influence elections, but first we have to acquire some. Start with cooking P-soup.

More related articles:

Advocates, Analysts See Pivotal Moment in Push for Reforms

Georgia’s Gov. Nathan Deal: ‘The Ultimate Criminal Justice Reform’

California’s Justice Reform Leaders Explore What’s Next On Agenda




Astute Governments Will Budget for Programs That Keep Kids Out of Justice System

TimberlakeLike most families, mine has been busy ending one financial year and beginning another. As soon as the Christmas decorations are removed, we begin collecting records for the coming tax season, reviewing last year’s expenditures and preparing for next year’s needs.

If you own a small business, you probably create a profit and loss statement and a balance sheet to reflect your current position. Wage earners sit around kitchen tables and make plans based upon past performance and future needs.

Governments go through a similar exercise, and more and more of them put their revenues and expenditures on websites for review by taxpayers. What is missing is a report of the outcomes of those expenditures.

What has this to do with the justice system? Because incarceration is such a large part of public budgets, there is growing attention to its high price tag and limited effectiveness. Many states and cities are trying to decrease costs by reducing jail and prison populations. Some speak of “reinvestment” of savings gained by closing facilities and eliminating staff.

Is justice a zero-sum game in government budgets? Must we look at past expenditures as a cap to future spending? Please don’t misunderstand — redirecting dollars spent on prisons to evidence-based alternatives is good policy, but the basic question should be directed toward outcomes for any dollar spent.

There are mountains of research pointing to better results for kids and families from alternatives to justice system involvement, and that realization by the public and government is driving significant reform. On the other hand, there are even more mountains of research about how best to prevent justice system involvement in the first place. That includes early childhood screening and services, nurse-family partnerships, evidence-based practices in child welfare interventions, adequate mental health services and substance abuse treatment, to name a few.

In Illinois, we are entering the seventh month without a budget. This does not mean that no taxpayer dollars are being spent. Court orders and partial deals between the governor and General Assembly have created exceptions for executive and legislative salaries, prison costs, state police payrolls and several other spending needs.

What is lost in this tug of war are those very services mentioned above that are most needed to keep citizens safe, communities healthy and the use of incarceration on the decline.

[Related: Youth Voices Are Central to Effort to Reauthorize JJDPA]

The federal government has reached a budget deal that has interrupted the habit of expenditures by continuing resolution and it even includes a small increase in OJJDP funding. Unfortunately, that deal was driven by the bipartisan desire to clear the public space for the presidential and legislative races. Federal government policymaking is likely to be extremely diminished before 2017.

What can be done? Maybe a little lesson from kitchen-table financial planning would be helpful: Count the number of children in the city, state or federal “family,” determine their needs for the coming year and decide what services will best meet those needs. Of course, the next step is to find the funds to pay for those services that will create the best outcomes for those needs.

In families, we know we cannot always easily pay for the needs of our children but we have to find a way — a second or third job, delaying some discretionary purchase, tightening our belts, making our financial decisions more effective. Spending the same amount of money in the same way just won’t work to meet the long-term needs of our families. In other words, reinvestment of funds saved from reduced incarceration will not meet the goals of public safety, better outcomes for kids and fiscal responsibility.

We should start by calculating how much needs to be spent to meet the needs of kids and families, to reduce the number of youth entering the juvenile justice system; and to deliver services that youth deep in the system need to succeed when they return to their homes. Then, our governments need to find a way to pay for it — just like families do at this time of year.

Because this is an election year, officeholders are making budget decisions at the same time they are running for re-election. They should be listening, and all of us should be telling them what is needed to make our communities safer and to help our youth lead productive lives.

Judge George W. Timberlake, Ret., is chair of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission, and an alternate member of Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice. He was a trial court judge for 23 years before retiring as chief judge of Illinois’ 2nd Circuit. He is a member of the Illinois Models for Change Coordinating Council, the Illinois Juvenile Justice Leadership Council, the Redeploy Illinois Oversight Board and the board of the state Juvenile Justice Initiative.

More related articles:

Holder Speaks Out Against Solitary Confinement of Mentally Ill Youths

After Decades of Spending, Minority Youth Still Overrepresented in System




Cops in Schools Need Special Training About Children and Trauma

Timberlake-headshot-2015-bThe headlines and sound bites described behavior gone wrong — a teenager in a South Carolina classroom refusing to put away her cellphone and a police officer using physical force to respond to a nonthreatening situation. He arrested her for disturbing the classroom after upending her desk and dragging her across the classroom.

The viral video of the event creates disturbing questions about cops in schools. Less media attention was paid to the student demonstration that followed — 100 students walked out of the high school in protest of the firing of the sheriff’s deputy. The principal addressed the student demonstrators and acknowledged their feelings and viewpoints and then asked them to return to class with the reminder that “Spring Valley High is all about the business of teaching and learning.”

Unfortunately, this intersection between the frustration with teenage behavior and forcible police conduct is repeated throughout the United States. In September 2014, three Houston officers forcibly detained a teenage girl who refused to give up her cellphone in class. The video shows them taking her to the floor, with one officer kneeling on her head and another kneeling on her legs, while the third cuffs her. Even more shocking are the allegations in an ACLU suit against the Kenton County (Kentucky) Sheriff’s Office in another September 2014 incident. The suit alleges that an 8-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl were handcuffed because of a school disturbance. The question is why?

School Resource Officers (SROs) were placed in schools during the 1990s as one of the responses to the perceived increase in school violence and as part of the evergreen war on drugs. Government grants were and still often are used to fund the salaries of SROs. When these funds run out, schools and municipal police departments negotiate the costs, often without considering the talents of the officers or the effects of their services.

hub_arrow_2-01Through this funding, schools found a way to outsource discipline and create more time for teaching and learning, but effective use of the resource requires much more than handing over the keys to the school. Community policing strategies support the informed use of police relationships in schools. When done right, officers perform good service to children and educational institutions alike.

How do we explain the kind of police behavior described above? I have no definitive answers, but I think there are areas to explore.

[Related: ‘Disturbing Schools’ Law and School Resource Officers Criminalize Teens]

First is staff selection. Some officers are assigned to schools because they don’t fit into traditional police roles. The public has little ability to judge this police management responsibility because much of their information comes from TV and movie dramas instead of real world knowledge or experience.

Second, all law enforcement officers operate outside the view and presence of their supervisors. For SROs, it may take active participation by parents or advocates to call attention to problem officers. In fact, I heard a very senior commander in a very large city ask “What is an SRO?” when asked about school policing during a recent public seminar. If management doesn’t know the role of a police officer in a school, it is difficult to know how that officer is performing.

Finally, we need to understand the training for new and continuing SROs. All cops need and receive training for personal safety, firearms, restraints and crowd control. Cops in schools need more than that: adolescent brain development, mental health conditions in children, the effects of trauma on behavior and much more. Fundamentally, SROs need to learn de-escalation techniques, crisis intervention and how to use their most effective tool — talking.

What can be done to improve or lessen the use of police in schools? State advisory groups can and should collaborate with law enforcement trainings and conferences to utilize the tremendous wealth of science, knowledge and experience around youth in the justice system. Law enforcement must be invited to educational forums and community conversations. Advocates for reform must carry current knowledge to schools and stationhouses. State advisory groups on juvenile justice can advocate against outsourcing school discipline and for data-driven approaches like Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports.

I know conscientious, well-trained school officers who are key players in ending the school-to-prison pipeline, who practice restorative justice approaches to school conflict and who are leaders in decriminalizing adolescent behavior. SROs can be part of keeping all kids safer. We have to make sure they are doing that job with the right selection, temperament, training and supervision wherever there are cops in schools.

Judge George W. Timberlake, Ret., is chair of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission, and an alternate member of Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice. He was a trial court judge for 23 years before retiring as chief judge of Illinois’ 2nd Circuit. He is a member of the Illinois Models for Change Coordinating Council, the Illinois Juvenile Justice Leadership Council, the Redeploy Illinois Oversight Board and the board of the state Juvenile Justice Initiative.

More related articles:

Children’s Rights Groups Against Giving School Cops Military Hardware

L.A. Judge Objects to School Police Getting Millions Reserved for Struggling Students

North Carolina Complaint Alleges Excessive Force by Police in Schools

OP-ED: UN Calls Out US on Police Violence, Criminalization of Youth of Color




JDAI Starting to Sound Like a Systems Revolution

TimberlakeTwo decades ago, the Annie E. Casey Foundation began to pilot the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI) and put America on course to change the way communities respond to youngsters in trouble.

As with most change, it has been a difficult journey with some course corrections along the way, but it has helped reduce the number of children locked in jail cells and better informed a national debate about what needs to be done to keep them out of jails and prisons.

At the conclusion of JDAI’s recent annual conference, I became convinced that not only are juvenile justice systems undergoing positive changes nationwide, so is JDAI. The JDAI core strategies and principles remain but were showcased in new ways, and some new themes were evident.

Closing youth prisons. The goal of reducing confinement in locked facilities has begun to evolve into the once unthinkable dream that we can have a society that does not lock up any children. A rapt audience viewed the video of the TedX speech by Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. In clear and convincing terms, he laid out the case for closing youth prisons: Incarceration is traumatizing; education is not provided in most juvenile lock-ups except by other inmates; solitary confinement is neither humane nor developmentally effective; and victimization is rampant. The goal is now plainly stated and ripe for real debate.

hub_arrow_2-01More collaboration. Involving the court and probation as detention alternatives is not enough. Probation must evolve to be an intervention rather than just a surveillance plan. Probation and the court must collaborate with each other and the community of families and service providers in order to keep kids at home with appropriate treatment in order to close prisons. Simple to say but hard to imagine how — except that JDAI has already shown the way in hundreds of sites across America.

[Related: House Committee Hears Strong Calls for JJDPA Reauthorization]

More than numbers in racial/ethnic disparities. It is time to move beyond the counting of the number of black and brown youth in our system and in our prisons. More system players must be brought into  conversations about race, and that includes engaging police. Examples from around the country illustrate that these conversations can have a meaningful effect on what local communities can do to limit the number of kids coming into the system. Illinois has piloted “Bridging the Divide,” a YMCA  project to create safe conversations between youth of color and police. Other projects are finding success in Indiana, New Mexico and New Jersey. This diversity of environments demonstrates that we can talk about race anywhere in our country.

Measuring outcomes. Some communities have begun to measure outcomes for kids rather than outputs from probation and service providers. More need to make use of measurement tools to create systems that provide public safety for fewer taxpayer dollars.

Family engagement redefined. Too many approached family engagement as involving part of the problem, but there is beginning to be a better understanding that families can be a major part of the solution. And the definition of family must include some nontraditional persons such as aunts, cousins, in-laws or just friends who are willing to step up for a kid.

Restorative justice in the mix. JDAI actors have begun to make greater use of Restorative justice to divert children from incarceration. These practices can benefit all stakeholders, including system participants whose caseloads can be reduced by relying on community collaborators.

The topics described above are not simply systems change — it is starting to sound like a systems revolution — one that creates public safety, better outcomes for kids and fiscal responsibility in the justice system.

Judge George W. Timberlake, Ret., is chair of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission, and an alternate member of Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice. He was a trial court judge for 23 years before retiring as chief judge of Illinois’ 2nd Circuit. He is a member of the Illinois Models for Change Coordinating Council, the Illinois Juvenile Justice Leadership Council, the Redeploy Illinois Oversight Board and the board of the state Juvenile Justice Initiative.

More related articles:

Report: Supreme Court Opinions Changing Juvenile Justice Landscape Beyond JLWOP

OP-ED: One Case Makes the Case for Community Based Service

Summit to Bring Together Juvenile Justice Pros, Youthful Advocates




Money Talks! (And Policy Changes Walk)

TimberlakeWe have all heard that marriages fail for lack of communication and that money is the topic most often avoided in relationships. The same principle applies to the juvenile justice system at the macro and micro levels. As our states look to restructuring, reinvesting and rightsizing, stakeholders should talk  about the financial future.

Policy changes in several states have created new models. For juvenile justice, the desire to do more with less spurred innovation in funding and that, in turn, improved outcomes for kids for fewer dollars spent. Rollout problems in many instances is caused by a lack of coordination among state agencies, local courts and local, mostly nonprofit providers.

Legislatures across the country are approving or considering fundamental changes to how to fund services to kids in the court system. If passed, the executive branch must converse with its agencies about how change must be implemented, and statewide court administrators must create rules, regulations, forms and training for judges, probation staff and others.

Coordination among the three branches of government is not always considered, and local government agencies and providers are seldom at any of these tables.

I learned these lessons while I was chief judge of the 2nd Judicial Circuit of Illinois — 12 counties in the southeastern corner of the state. Legislators and advocates were discussing the passage of reform legislation known as Redeploy Illinois. Counties participating in Redeploy Illinois have achieved a more than 50 percent reduction in the number of youth they send to state prisons.

Our circuit was interested in applying for the 2005 pilot program. Armed with an MBA earned in the 1970s, I began looking into how to pay upfront for services that later would be reimbursed by the state.

Because each county budget was independent and each county’s circuit clerk collected fees and fines separately, there was no single source of funds to the circuit as a whole. After discussions with other judges, I learned that some circuits had centralized probation service fees in the chief judge’s office. In fact, one circuit had amassed a total of more than $1 million.

As chief judge, I could establish a centralized system of these fees by a simple order. I did so but only after a lengthy preparation process.

[Related: JJDPA Could Clear Way for Other Juvenile Justice Reforms]

In concert with several judges, court staff and probation staff, we mapped the funds flow in each of the counties and in each probation district. We did a comparative analysis of the probation services fees over the circuit as well as the distribution of those fees by the clerks. We looked to probation staff and judges to establish “Pay or Appear” dockets to check on payment collection.

When the preparation was complete, I drove the 4,800-square-mile circuit to meet with stakeholders, including county boards and the array of potential service providers. We gained new ideas and partners and also learned of objections and obstacles to implementation of the consolidated funding and to Redeploy itself. I did enter the order; we did secure a spot as one of the original pilot sites; and the circuit is still a successful Redeploy program. And, yes, some people still think it was a bad idea.

JJIE Hub The Real Price of Youth IncarcerationThis story is but one example of the difficulties in reforming a system and the preparation necessary to do business a new way. Some early adopters of Redeploy left the program because state financial crises slowed reimbursement times to six months or more.

The planning for and acceptance of financial realities allowed the 2nd Circuit to survive the lean times and to continue services to kids with mental health, trauma, child welfare and substance abuse needs. That effort continues to pay dividends today as the governor and legislature battle over political differences and Illinois does not have a budget.

We currently have national resource centers that respond to the problems experienced by kids in conflict with the law. Maybe we missed a step — we don’t have a center for government agencies and service providers who need assistance in thinking through the financial realities of a reformed system — one that reinvests savings to create high-quality, community-based services and supports.

Like marriages that last a long time, maybe it is time for stakeholders in juvenile justice to talk not just about the lack of enough money but how to make better use of what we have as we search for more.

Judge George W. Timberlake, Ret., is chair of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission, and an alternate member of Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice. He was a trial court judge for 23 years before retiring as chief judge of Illinois’ 2nd Circuit. He is a member of the Illinois Models for Change Coordinating Council, the Illinois Juvenile Justice Leadership Council, the Redeploy Illinois Oversight Board and the board of the state Juvenile Justice Initiative.

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Justice System Must Not Worsen Harsh Realities of Life for LGBTQ Youth

Timberlake headshot 2015-aRecently, I had a visit from a couple I have known for decades. Let’s call them Butch and Mary. They had a problem: Their daughter, Jane, had just split from the father of her child, and custody and other issues had arisen. During the conversation, I asked about family relationships and resources and Mary said that the whole family was supportive except one grandmother.

That grandparent had become estranged when she learned a few years ago that Jane was “dating a girl.” There was no hesitation in relaying this information, and no judgments about this history were indicated in this statement of fact. My friends’ willingness to openly discuss these family issues was enlightening.

If we were to seek a label for Jane — as her paramour’s attorney might do in a custody battle — would she be lesbian, bisexual, curious or “cured?” And what effect would that have on the court system in its duty to do justice?

If the U.S. Supreme Court has declared gay marriage to be part of the fundamental rights of privacy, speech and expression for all American citizens, does that signal the acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals as illustrated by my friends?

For the juvenile justice and child welfare courts, the answer is decidedly “No.” In a 2010 report, the National Council of Crime and Delinquency found that LGBT youth comprise 5 to 7 percent of the general population but approximately 15 percent of detained youth. Subsequent research has verified that finding and has looked for causes of this disproportionality.

One factor stems from the family conflict when a child displays or attempts to discuss his or her feelings and sexual orientation. Too often, arguments and confrontations lead to running away or being pushed out of the home environment.

Sometimes, domestic violence leads to prosecution or child welfare system involvement. The result is foster home placement with similar conflict and flight. Running away from placement may lead to detention through a court-ordered contempt citation.

[Related: Runaway and Cast Off: One LGBT Teen’s Story]

The school-to-prison pipeline is another entry point to the justice system for LGBT kids. Taunting, harassment and bullying push young people out of school and sometimes lead to fighting back, which results in suspensions or expulsions. Truancy can lead to court involvement and more detentions for failure to follow court orders.

Homelessness — whether from running away or being pushed out of family and school — leads to disproportionately high arrest rates, too. If a kid is living on the streets and looks or acts differently from others, it is hard to get a job. A place to bathe, clothes to wear and a sense of self-worth are all necessary to find employment. LGBT youth report joblessness at many times higher than their straight peers. Survival crime results — retail theft, burglary, drug use and sales, prostitution — and arrests and detention rates go up.

We must remember that these juveniles share the developmental characteristics of their age group. Combine peer influence, lack of judgment, impulsivity and the burden of being different, and a disproportionate justice system impact is created. If a child is transgender, the effects are even greater.

What do we do?

We must develop or modify risk assessment tools to reflect the difficulties faced by this population. Homelessness, lack of family connections and lack of positive peers must be seen in the light of LGBT realities. Alternatives to detention mean much more to these kids, as both staff and other detainees may harass or violate them. Segregation or solitary is not a just practice and can increase suicide risk.

Courts must not increase the arrest, prosecution and detaining of LGBT truants and must be watchful for school policies that push kids out.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender kids want to be accepted, as do all teenagers — even in court.

Most important to the perception and reality of procedural justice is judicial leadership in refusing to tolerate name-calling, joking and discrimination against LGBT youth by anyone in the justice system. Judicial leadership is necessary to find and use LGBT-compatible services and providers.

Our job is justice for all, including those who are different from the socially accepted norm. That is what the Supreme Court just said.

Judge George W. Timberlake, Ret., is chair of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission, and a member of Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice. He is also national vice-chair of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice. He was a trial court judge for 23 years before retiring as chief judge of Illinois’ 2nd Circuit.

More stories related to this one:

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‘Mission Critical’ Documentary Calls for End to School-to-Prison Pipeline

Bokeh Photo Blog: Young, LGBTQ and Homeless

LGBTQ Youths Detained for Status Offenses Twice as Often as Others

Big Easy Stories of LGBT Youth Light the Apple’s Stage