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

Phasing Out the Juvenile Justice System in California

Photo by David Gross / KQED
San Francisco’s KQED public radio offers this piece about California Governor Jerry Brown’s proposal to eliminate the state’s juvenile justice system over the next three years, a move that could save the state more than $100 million.



A Look at Youth-Related Spending in Obama’s 2013 Budget

This story originally appeared on YouthToday.

President Barack Obama unveiled his 2013 budget proposal today, which calls for $3.8 trillion in spending and projects a $901 billion deficit for the year. It was quickly met with resistance from Republican leadership.

“The President’s budget falls exceptionally short in many critical areas – including a lack of any substantive proposal for mandatory and entitlement spending reform,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), in a statement issued this morning.

Rogers promised to “go line by line through the President’s budget, prioritize programs, and make decisions on the appropriate investment of discretionary funds.”

Juvenile Justice

The president would fund the Office of Justice Programs at $1.7 billion in 2013, down from $2.7 billion in 2011 and $2 billion in 2012. The budget would increase spending on the juvenile justice and delinquency prevention programs at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, a division of OJP.

Formula grants to states (Title II): $70 million
2012 appropriation: $40 million

Delinquency prevention grants: $40 million
2012 appropriation: $20 million

Block grants to states (JABG): $30 million
2012 appropriation: $30 million

Mentoring programs: $58 million
2012 appropriation: $78 million

Community-Based Violence Prevention: $25 million
2012 appropriation: $8 million

Other notable items from the Department of Justice proposal:

-A $20 million “evidence-based competitive demonstration program” for juvenile justice reform. This, of course, is the concept that the administration proposed for nearly all juvenile justice funding in 2012.

-Moving the Missing and Exploited Children program funding ($67 million proposed) from OJJDP into the Crime Victims Fund.

-There is $80 million included for the Second Chance Act, which aims to assist states with reentry services for adult and juvenile offenders. There is $20 million set aside within that proposal for “Pay for Success” projects, which is the administration’s term for social impact bonds.

-Obama does not include spending for OJJDP’s Victims of Child Abuse program, or for the Court Appointed Special Advocates program, but does include $23 million for the Defending Childhoodinitiative, created by Attorney General Eric Holder to address the trauma experienced by children who are exposed directly or indirectly to violence.

Education and Labor

The big change for 2013 is Obama’s proposed Community College Initiative, an $8 billion venture that would be carried out jointly by the Department of Education and Labor. This is the project referred to earlier this month in the State of the Union, which is aimed at helping community colleges develop worker-training programs for nearby companies with jobs they cannot fill because the potential employee pool lacks critical skills.

The Education budget also proposes a freeze on interest rates for federal Stafford Loans. The rate is scheduled to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent in July. Obama includes a long-term plan to expand the Perkins Loan program from $1 billion to $8 billion, raising the interest rate on those loans from 5 percent to 6.8 percent and restructuring the program to prevent colleges and universities from increasing tuition costs.

Obama includes $824.4 million for Department of Labor youth activities under the Workforce Investment Act, $80 million for YouthBuild programs, and another $80 million for reintegration of ex-offenders, which is down from $109 million in 2011. The budget would fund the Workforce Innovation Fund at $50 million, down from $125 million in 2012.

Other notable items from the Department of Education:

-$850 million for Race to the Top and $100 million for Promise Neighborhoods in the Education budget.

-Level funding of $1.15 billion for after-school programs through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

-The budget would maintain the maximum Pell Grant award at $4,860, but raise it to $5,635 for the 2014-2015 school years.

Health and Family Services

The president’s budget for HHS does not reflect many changes to funding for the Administration for Children and Families, which oversees the majority of family, foster care and adoption services. It does propose $350 million for the Community Services Block Grant, which was funded at $677 million in 2012, but this is not the first budget proposal in which Obama has expressed an interest in cutting back the program.

The expansion of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Programs was included in the controversial Affordable Care Act, and is slated for an increase from $350 million this year to $400 million in 2013.

The Department of Agriculture budget includes $19.7 billion for Child Nutrition Programs, which is $1.5 billion over the 2012 appropriation. The Women, Infants & Children Program would receive $7 billion, a $400 million increase from 2012.

The Agriculture budget also includes an increase from $264 million to $325 million for theAgriculture and Food Research Initiative, which offers competitive grants for number of potential subjects, including childhood obesity.

Other notable items:

-Within the level-funding proposal of $2.3 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, the president includes $1 million for toll-free hotline and website that parents can use to access local child care services.

-Funds Head Start at $8.1 billion, slightly more than it received in 2012 and significantly more than Obama has requested in the past. The proposal also “supports the implementation of new regulations to strengthen Head Start by requiring low-performing grantees to compete for continued funding,” a process that is actually already underway.

-In the endnotes of the HHS budget appendix, there is mention of a program to reduce pregnancy among youth in foster care. It would consist of competitive grants or contracts, made available in September of 2013, and would be funded by the certain unspent funds from previous fiscal years.

-Within the budget of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, there is $20 million proposed for a drug prevention media program and $88.6 million for the Drug-Free Communities Support Program, which provides small grants to seed local community drug-free coalitions.

Service Learning

Obama proposes $760.5 million for the Corporation for National and Community Service. This includes more or less level funding for AmeriCorps grants ($345 million), the trust that pays out AmeriCorps education stipends ($208.7 million), and the National Civilian Community Corps ($30.1 million).

The budget includes $53.2 million for the Social Innovation Fund. It does not address CNCS’ Foster Grandparents program, which was appropriated about $110 million by Congress in 2011 and 2012.

To see federal spending figures on youth services in 2012, click here. To access the agency-level details for the president’s 2013 budget, click here.

Photo by Flickr | rachaelvoorhees

Funding Cuts to Juvenile Justice System in Georgia could be Restored to Levels Closer to those of 2009

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed 2013 budget for juvenile justice, after three years of deep cuts, could bring spending a bit nearer to 2009 levels, state officials say.

Deal’s spending priorities, though, reflect a harsh trend inside Georgia’s youth prisons. They house a much different population — older, more violent and much more difficult to manage — than they did just a few years ago.

“We certainly find them more volatile and more physically demanding,” said Jeff Minor, Georgia’s deputy juvenile justice commissioner.

The trend was underscored last year when disturbances at youth detention facilities in DeKalb and Dodge counties could only be quelled with the aid of state and local police. The violence culminated in November when a 19-year-old was beaten to death at the state’s Augusta Youth Development Campus. A 17-year-old was charged with murder in the incident.

The Augusta incident led to the firings of the center’s director and several staffers and helped lead to the appointment of a former GBI agent and parole board member as commissioner of the Department of Juvenile Justice.

Georgia’s highest-security facilities for juveniles now house violent and sex offenders almost exclusively. The number of so-called “designated felons” in the YDC population has more than doubled in a decade, climbing from 349 on an average day in 2000 to 718 last year. They’re older, too, with youths 18 and older making up nearly 38 percent of the YDC population, up from just 7.3 percent in 2000.

The trend has had a ripple effect on other DJJ programs, as other designated felons who are awaiting placement are housed in less-secure detention facilities alongside juveniles accused of non-violent offenses. “Kids are tougher at every stop,” Minor said.

Deal’s 2013 proposal, unveiled last week, calls for a $15.4 million uptick in spending after the department’s budget had been slashed by $57 million since 2009. Two line items would target the tougher, older population of youthful offenders:

  • $1 million to create two 12-member Security Management and Response Teams, or SMART). Members would be trained for emergency response but would also be available to shake down juveniles’ cells for weapons and contraband, review security policies and perform other duties.
  • $7.7 million to open a new 80-bed youth prison in south Fulton County, the first to be located in north Georgia. DJJ had retrofitted an old detention facility for adult probationers, but had to wait for the economy to start to turn around before asking for the money to operate it.

DJJ also hopes to invest in new community-based programs for less serious offenders, including an additional $576,000 for 60 slots in new Evening Reporting Centers, which would offer structured programs such as counseling, tutoring and anger management, and $2.7 million for 50 residential beds at wilderness camps.

Juvenile justice officials say they hope Deal’s budget signals an end to forced cuts that have eliminated 862 jobs and more than 900 beds for juvenile offenders in recent years.

The governor’s proposals “help us get our feet under us,” Minor said. Over the last few years, “we feel like we’ve been knocked pretty hard.”

Georgia legislators will begin considering Deal’s proposals Wednesday afternoon, when new Juvenile Justice Commissioner Gale Buckner testifies before the joint House and Senate appropriations committees.

Photo: Well&

New Year, New Opportunities for Reform

Emily Luhrs and Selena Teji

California’s budget crisis may sweep in the state’s most drastic juvenile justice reforms as early as January 2012. Gov. Jerry Brown’s latest budget measure involves implementation of “trigger cuts” on January 1st which will affect virtually every facet of social services in the state.

For juvenile justice, this includes requiring counties to pay more of their tab for housing their most serious and violent offenders in the state’s Department of Juvenile Facilities (DJF). Currently it costs the state taxpayer approximately $200,000 per year to house a youth in the ineffective and irreparable state system, while counties have contributed only minimally to the cost.  Under the triggers, the counties will be responsible for $125,000 of this cost per youth, or they can recall their youths and serve them locally.

This is great news for state taxpayers in California who have been shouldering the burden of an incredibly dysfunctional, inadequate and ever-shrinking institutional system for the past decade.  While the DJF population has decreased drastically since the 1990s, it has been under a consent decree since 2004 and currently houses only 1,054 youth in three remaining facilities, with 80 percent of wards being rearrested within three years of release.

It is also good news for advocates of best practices. Research overwhelmingly supports that local custody and supervision with access to community-based treatment options is more beneficial for youth and provides greater hope for successful reentry. While it is true many of these youth are the highest-needs population, the punitive and violent environment of DJF has demonstrated that it is even less equipped than counties to house, let alone treat, this population.

Looking back, the trigger should come as no surprise; this is not the first time realignment has been on the table in the state’s capitol.  In fact, in 2007, despite considerable trepidation, counties rose to the challenge of low-level offender realignment, and have been serving 99 percent of juvenile offenders at the local level; they do a much better job than the state ever could.  In June of this year, Gov. Brown proposed a three-year scaled full realignment plan that provided funding to counties to serve the remaining population under the state’s care, which is less than 1 percent of the state’s juvenile delinquent population.

It was rejected and opposed by the Chief Probation Officers of California (CPOC), the California District Attorney’s Association (CDAA) and the California State Association of Counties (CSAC), among other advocacy groups. A “buy back” legislation was then proposed, in which counties would have a choice — take the money and serve youth locally, or contract with the state and send all of the county’s eligible youth to DJF. This was also vehemently opposed and eventually juvenile justice realignment was shelved, despite warnings from the governor that budget triggers could come into effect in January 2012.

However, recent data shows that juvenile crime is on the decline at the same time as juvenile de-incarceration is taking hold in California.  In a study of California’s most populous counties, between 1998-2010 juvenile incarceration rates dropped 45% as felony juvenile crime rates plunged 32%.  These promising trends provide ample reason to believe that full juvenile realignment can and should happen.

Yet a few counties continue to rely heavily on the state system. Several individual counties have criticized the trigger measure, including Monterey, Tulare, and Stanislaus counties. According to the most recent 2010-11 data, Monterey ranks as the most state-dependent county among California’s populous counties (more than 100,000); sending juveniles to DJF at the highest rate per felony arrest. One-third of the youth Monterey sent to DJF were categorized as the least serious offenders DJF accepts.

Tulare and Stanislaus counties also ranked higher than the state average for DJF use. In fact, out of California’s 48 counties, 13 accounted for 46 percent of all DJF commitments and only 37 percent of juvenile felony arrests in 2009. It is their overuse of state institutions as a solution for local problems that caused the original overcrowding of DJF in the 1990’s and is ultimately creating the barrier to realignment now.

It is understandable that these are the counties with the most resistance to Gov. Brown’s trigger cuts. They are historically state-dependent and will struggle to build the infrastructure and culture necessary to serve this high needs population, without funding or support.

California counties need to re-consider the opportunity they were given in the June realignment proposal for DJF closure, and advocate for its reinstatement while there is still funding remaining that could be funneled to counties to serve this population.

In a December 7, 2011 letter to Gov. Brown, CSAC, CDAA and CPOC continued to oppose attempts at realignment. Meanwhile, innovative self-reliant counties such as Alameda, San Francisco and Santa Clara are open to the opportunity to take full responsibility for their own.  Alameda Probation Chief David Muhammad noted that “they are a challenging population, but we have the space and potential to do a much better job than the state.”

He is asking Gov. Brown to reinstate a realignment proposal that would provide counties with $150,000 per serious juvenile offender. Overall, the majority of counties would not be significantly impacted by the closure of DJF because they have already been serving their juvenile offenders, even the high-needs and high-risk youth, locally.

This budgetary reform measure is no doubt drastic, but it presents an opportunity for counties to utilize best juvenile justice practices, forcing them to relinquish the mentality that state incarceration is the only way. No longer can our most high-needs, high-risk youth be pushed out of site and out of mind, transferring the burden onto the state taxpayer. There is no justification for maintaining the state facilities at such high costs when so many other areas of our social services are being cut deeply.

If counties decide to take back their youth and provide comprehensive individualized treatment and placements, it would ultimately result in not only cost-savings, but lower recidivism rates and increased long-term public safety.

Early Numbers Show 10 Percent Decrease in Florida Juvenile Delinquency

Early figures show a 10 percent decline in Florida juvenile delinquency reports for FY 2010-2011, ending June 30th.

Delinquency referrals peaked in 1994-1995, according to the Associated Press, with 123 for every 1,000 kids age 10 to 17. Since then the rate has dropped every year to it’s current low of 59 for every 1,000 juveniles in the state.

Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice plans to further reduce the number of referrals in the coming years with an increased emphasis on civil citations in lieu of criminal charges and community-based treatment programs.

While the exact number of juvenile offenders has yet to be determined, the department expects it to be below 110,000 for the year.

Delinquency Prevention is Latest Area to Face Big Cuts

Prevention seems to have become a four-letter word in Washington.

The latest evidence? Last week, the Department of Justice finally announced how much money the states would get through grant programs under the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The numbers are ugly.

Georgia saw its share of the money decline by 28.6 percent, from $3.72 million to $2.66 million. That was a good bit deeper than the nationwide reduction of 17.2 percent, because minimum awards ensured that small states weren’t hit quite as hard.

“This is the first wave of crippling cuts,” Joe Vignati, justice programs coordinator for the Governor’s Office for Children and Families in Georgia, wrote in an e-mail. “We will struggle to maintain.”

In Washington for a meeting of juvenile justice specialists (as well as to pick up an award for his work), Vignati said he was spending some time “educating our congressional delegation on these matters.”

But Congress is faced with increasingly difficult budget choices — and most members of the Georgia delegation have committed to reducing the deficit only by cutting spending, while avoiding any tax increases.

The wisp of good news is that the programs overseen by Vignati’s office may have a little breathing room. Last week’s announcements regarded money for federal fiscal year 2011, which is already half over.

“We have alerted our juvenile justice partners and this means that in the coming year we will have to look at awarding fewer juvenile justice grants to local communities,” he wrote. “We anticipate being able to continue current projects at existing levels for the next year. These grant funds will affect our operating as we move into the fall of 2012.”

The grants fund juvenile court projects “designed to provide intervention to juveniles that have come to the attention of the system as well as other projects provided by local government/non-profit agencies that aim to prevent juveniles from engaging in delinquent activities,” Vignati wrote. The cuts mean, “we will have less [money] to provide to courts and other child-serving agencies. Realistically, less services for kids and families mean a greater possibility for increased use of secure detention and greater chance of youth ultimately becoming involved with the adult criminal justice system.”

The delinquency program cuts are only the latest in a series of budget reductions in longstanding programs designed to prevent violence among juveniles. Among the others to face cuts are Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities grants; their disappearance is now rippling through school districts.


Administration’s Turn-About on Juvenile Justice

In the Good News Department it seems the Obama administration has come to the conclusion that cutting juvenile justice programs and making them competitive isn’t such a good idea after all.

A few days ago, the administration announced it had altered it original proposal maintaining and adding certain crucial programs.

See the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention press release for more details.

Coalition Responds to Cuts in Juvenile Justice Funding

The Obama administration’s FY 2012 budget proposes to significantly cut funding for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and make the remaining funds available to individual states through a competitive process.

This proposal would eliminate OJJCP’s existing grants program, the only dedicated federal source to the states for juvenile justice system improvements.

The National Coalition for Juvenile Justice and its partners has responded to this proposal with a letter to the president.

Illinois to Cut All Alcohol and Drug Treatment Spending – Will Other States Follow?

Blogger Benjamin Chambers brings up the subject of debilitating state budget cuts, pointing out the depressing news that the state of Illinois plans to zero-out its budget for alcohol and drug prevention and treatment programs and asks, just how bad can it get?

As of March 15, the state of Illinois is cutting its $54 million budget for alcohol and drug treatment and prevention services to zero (full disclosure: I wrote the news summary linked to here).

That’s right: zero.

According to providers, that means many of them will shut down.

What’s left, without state money? According to provider representatives, about 80 percent of their clients (or about 55,000 people) get treatment funded by the state, leaving 20 percent of their clients who are covered by Medicaid — — women only, though. The state will reportedly be cutting the amounts it reimburses for Medicaid services by six percent.

What’s not precisely clear from news reports is the impact on youth treatment. Prevention services serving about 230,000 youth a year are definitely gone, but children’s treatment can be covered by Medicaid – I’m not sure how that’s handled in Illinois. However, in my experience, most treatment agencies rely on the volume of their adult treatment programs to support their youth treatment programs. Without the mix, I would guess that many youth programs — even those billing Medicaid — might not survive.

Will other states follow?

The above story is reprinted with permission from Reclaiming Futures, a national initiative working to improve alcohol and drug treatment outcomes for youth in the juvenile justice system.