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

Washington State’s High Court Rules Legislature Not Doing Enough to Fund Education

The Washington State Legislature has failed to meet its constitutional responsibility to fund public education for the last three decades, according to a ruling by the state’s Supreme Court.

“By the Legislature’s own terms, it has not met its duty to make ample provision for ‘basic education,’” wrote Justice Debra Stephens in an 85-page opinion. “This court cannot idly stand by as the Legislature makes unfulfilled promises for reform.”

In 2009, the Legislature passed a bill meant to reform funding formulas, HB2261, and update the 1977 Basic Education Act by 2018. In Justice Stephens’ opinion, the high court reaffirmed its jurisdiction to oversee the Legislature’s timely implementation of those changes.

“Ultimately, it is our responsibility to hold the State accountable to meet its constitutional duty,” Justice Stephens writes in the opinion. “This court intends to remain vigilant in fulfilling the State’s constitutional responsibility.”

According to the Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, welcomed the ruling and called for a half-penny sales tax increase to further fund education.

“This is not about partisan politics,” Gregoire said during a press conference on Jan. 5, adding that the state sales tax hasn’t been increased since 1983. “This is about stepping up to the challenge despite the tough times and asking, ‘What does the state want to look like when we get out of this recession? Are we going to invest in our future or are we going to compromise things and set our values behind and leave people out, which is not good for them and not good for us?’”

Kirby Wilbur, the Washington State Republican Party chairman, placed the blame on Democrats, noting that the state’s governor’s office had been controlled by Democrats for the previous 27 years.

“Their failure to prioritize state spending on our kids and our future economic health is exactly why we need fresh thinking in Olympia,” Wilbur said in a press release calling the issue a “fiasco.”

Education advocates, including the Washington State Board of Education, called the high court’s ruling a “huge victory.”

Photo by Flickr | designatednaphour

Finish Line Grants Focus on Athletics and Wellness

Finish Line Youth Foundation, a division of Finish Line, Inc., offers two grant opportunities with a specific focus on wellness and athletics. Grant proposals from eligible non-profits should focus on delivering direct services to youth under the age of 18. Additionally, proposals must come from specific locations served by the Youth Foundation.

Interested organizations can take the Online Eligibility Quiz to determine if they meet the requirements. Finish Line, Inc. is an athletics retailer with more than 650 stores in 47 states.

Grants come in the form of “Founder” and “Legacy” grants ranging from $5,000 to $75,000. Founder’s grants are specifically reserved for emergency funding following a natural disaster or other extenuating circumstances that prevent a youth-oriented organization from delivering services. Legacy grants, ranging from $10,000 to $75,000, are awarded to qualified organizations in need of improvements or renovations to existing facilities.

Grant applications are accepted on a rolling deadline.

Ronald McDonald Grant Doesn’t Clown Around With Kids Health

The Ronald McDonald House Charities try to improve the health and well being of children directly. The charity takes a holistic, family-centered approach to helping bring kids care. The Ronald McDonald House Charity hopes to partner with organizations that take an innovative approach to addressing the health needs of the population of kids. The deadline for this grant is November 13, 2011.

Virginia-Centric Funding: Science, Technology and Literacy

Virginia-based Cox Charities offers annual funding for eligible non-profits focused in the areas of “science and technology, mentoring, literacy and other areas promoting the education of youth” within the state of Virginia.

Grant requests should be for either $5,000 or $10,000 outlining the specific community(s) and services your organization seeks to impact. Second year funding is availanle pending a review of outcomes measures from the previous funding period.

This grant is local, specific and has a tight grant window. All grant applications for the 2012 fiscal year must be in by Nov. 11, 2011. Late or incomplete applications will not be considered.

Senate Committee Approves Funding to OJJDP, With Cuts

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a spending bill this afternoon that would fund the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Programs at $251 million, approximately $24 million below the diminished budget that the agency faced this fiscal year after a last-minute spending deal.

The committee broke up the $251 million in spending this way:

-$60 million for the missing and exploited children programs.

-$55 million for mentoring grants.

-$45 million for state formula grants, given to states on the condition that they adhere to basic standards in regard to the detainment of juveniles, and address racial disparities in the system.

-$30 million for Juvenile Accountability Block Grants (JABG), which go to state juvenile justice planning agencies based on the size of a state’s youth population.

-$20 million for the Victims of Child Abuse Programs.

-$15 million for tribal youth

-$10 million for alcohol-abuse prevention

-$8 million for gang and youth violence prevention

-$8 million for the Community-Based Violence Prevention Initiative, a project conceived by the Obama administration in 2009.

Those specific lines may be important if and when there is a conference involving the  Senate and House funding legislation, because the House Appropriations Committee approved a funding bill in August that would spend just over $200 million on Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention programs, but eliminates most federal funding for actual juvenile justice activities.The bill is expected to receive a vote from the full House soon.

The House committee cut juvenile justice demonstration grants, Juvenile Accountability Block Grants (JABG) and Title V Local Delinquency Prevention Grants out of its 2012 bill. House appropriators also reduced state formula grants from $75 million in 2010 to $40 million for 2012. But its bill included $10 million more than the Senate for missing and exploited children programs ($70 million) and $28 million more for mentoring ($83 million).

The appropriations vote came after national juvenile justice advocates teamed up on a lobbying campaign where organizations and leaders from the home states of appropriations committee members wrote letters to the senators, asking for: $80 million in state formula grants, $65 million for delinquency prevention programs, and $55 million for JABG.

Although the Senate committee included smaller amounts than that for each program, it kept each of them alive.

The committee report lays out $33 million for “Title V – Delinquency Prevention Incentive Grants,” which are supposed to be distributed by state advisory groups. But the committee instead designated all of the funding for tribal youth, alcohol prevention and youth violence prevention.

Overall Department of Justice funding is set at $26.9 billion in the Senate bill, a decrease of $482 million from 2011. It includes $232 million for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, which is eliminated in the House version, and a $307 million increase in funding for Bureau of Prisons salaries and expenses.

The Senate recommended $489 million for juvenile justice programs in fiscal 2011, a $66 million increase from fiscal 2010. But a last-minute deal to avert a federal government shutdown slashed the OJJDP budget, cutting the total appropriation for juvenile justice activities to $275 million, a $148 million drop from fiscal 2010.

Among the other youth-related spending recommendations approved by Senate Appropriations today:

Elimination of Second Chance Act funding: “In order to pay for a nearly half a billion increase” for federal prison costs, the committee wrote in its report, it “regrettably provides no funds for the Second Chance Act.”

The act, a bipartisan bill signed by President George W. Bush in 2008 and funded at $100 million the past two years, funds efforts to help adult and juvenile offenders returning to the community after a period of incarceration.

The House included $70 milllion for Second Chance Act programs.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, reiterated his  concern over the cut, which he expressed at yesterday’s subcommittee markup of Justice spending.

“As anybody in law enforcement knows, the vast majority of people you lock up, someday are going to come out,” said Leahy, a former state’s attorney in Vermont. “And it costs a lot more money when they go back in.”

Leahy declined to offer an amendment restoring some of the funding, but may seek to include it when the bill comes up for consideration by the full Senate.

Reduction in Research, Evaluation and Statistics: The recommendation includes $121 million for such work at Justice, most of which is carried out by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National Institute of Justice. Last year’s appropriations included $234 million for research and evaluation.

Protection  of  Walsh Act implementation: The committee recommends $395 million for Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (JAG), the pot of money from which a state out of compliance with the Adam Walsh Act would lose 10 percent. Among other things, the Walsh Act requires states to establish a sex offender registry that adheres to certain national standards, including the addition of certain juvenile offenders.

Only 14 states have complied with the act so far, with many other states voicing financial and philosophical concerns about implementing a compliant registry.

With a $395 million mark in the Senate and $347 million from the House, it is a virtual certainty that JAG funds will be approved this year while other discretionary funds to the states face cuts or elimination. This could raise the relative value of the 10 percent JAG penalty.

The committee also included a separate $23 million pot to help states with Walsh Act implementation.

Continuation of the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention: The committee included $3 million for this initiative, started by the Obama administration, to help cities engaged in plans to reduce gang or youth violence to share best practices and challenges with each other.

Consolidation of youth programs at OVW: The committee recommendation creates a $10 million “Consolidated Youth-Oriented Program” at the Office on Violence Against Women. This would combine four of OVW’s current youth projects, all centered around services for youth who have experienced or witnessed violence, and shave $2 million off of the fiscal 2011 appropriations total for them.

This article originally appeared in Youth Today.

$500 Grants for Youth-Led Hunger Initiatives

Youth Service America and the Sodexo FoundationYouth Service America (YSA) and the Sodexo Foundation are awarding 25 Sodexo Youth Grants, totaling $500 each, in an effort to support youth-led service projects in conjunction with National Hunger & Homeless Awareness Week (Nov. 13-20, 2011).

Applicants must be between the ages of 5 and 25 to qualify and the project idea must take place, at least in part, during National Hunger & Homeless Awareness Week.

More than 17 million kids in the United States are at risk of hunger, according to the YSA, including the one in four children that rely on free or reduced-price school meal programs.

Videos from past grant recipients are available on the YSA website. If considering the grant a good place to start may be the eligibility quiz.

Deadline is Sept. 16, 2011.

Verizon Focuses on ‘Meaningful Outcomes’ with Grants for Non-Profit Organizations

Verizon FoundationThe Verizon Foundation offers grants to select 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations. Individuals are not eligible for the grant.

Perspective grantees must choose an area of concentration – education, literacy, domestic violence prevention, healthcare and accessibility or internet safety – with an emphasis on ‘meaningful outcomes and measureable results.’

Grant applications are considered on a rolling deadline January 1 through October 16, 2011.

Mississippi Joins 38 Other States, Raises Juvenile Age to Eighteen

The Mississippi state sealAn amended law that took effect July 1 made Mississippi the latest state to rethink how youth under the age of 18 are handled in criminal court. The new measure prevents most 17-year-old misdemeanor and nonviolent felony offenders from being tried as adults. Certain felonies including rape, murder and armed robbery may still warrant charges in the adult court system.

Two other states, Connecticut and Illinois, passed similar reforms earlier this year bringing the national total to 39 states that view juveniles as any individual below the age of 18, according to a report issued last week by the Campaign for Youth Justice.

“This is a good news report.” Liz Ryan, director of the Campaign for Youth Justice, — a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit focused on the issue — told USA Today. “This really shows that there is a turning tide in the way states are treating kids in the juvenile justice system.”

Some juvenile advocates consider the amendment a positive change in the treatment of youthful offenders, but Mississippi law enforcement and juvenile officials worry it could adversely impact an already over-burdened Youth Court system.

“It’s going to create a tremendous pressure on our juvenile justice system with no increase in resource,” Harrison County Youth Court Judge Margaret Alfonso told the (Biloxi-Gulfport) Sun Herald. “So, it’s creating pressure on a system that’s already pressed.”

Legislators in Mississippi amended the law following state budget cuts that reduced bed space and maximum detention times, among other things, in juvenile facilities. But officials failed to allocate additional funds to the Youth Court system to deal with added expenses and growing number of offenders.

It costs states more to incarcerate offenders in juvenile than adult facilities due to health, counseling and other obligations, but juvenile inmates tend to have a lower recidivism rate than their counterparts in the adult system, according to the same Campaign for Youth Justice report.

Nationally, the United States has witnessed a five-year trend of states rethinking how juveniles are handled in the criminal justice system in large part due to research in adolescent brain development.

Crimes committed by minors aren’t always done with malice because they can’t fully distinguish right from wrong, Gina Vincent, assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, told JJIE at a brain development conference in early May.

Only 11 states, including Georgia, still try offenders younger than 18 in adult courts for nonviolent offenses. Roughly 250,000 offenders under the age of 18 are prosecuted in adult courts annually, according to the Campaign for Youth Justice report.

Grant Helps Prevent Disproportionate Minority Contact with Juvenile Justice System

The Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention offers funding for the Disproportionate Minority Contact Community and Strategic Planning Project. The project helps states find ways to ensure that all kids in the Juvenile Justice System are treated fairly. This grant offers as much as $50,000 for a one-year period. The deadline for this project is June 27, 2011 at 11:59 P.M.