Book Review: The Art of Holistic Security

We live in a world of best practices. Some call themselves evidence-based best practices (EBP), some are simply promising practices based on evidence from somewhere, and a few are practices grounded in evidence-based research (EBR).

Confusing, eh? Part of the confusion stems from the difficulty and complexity of achieving successful outcomes with youth in custody. In part, the striking effectiveness of recent juvenile detention reforms, particularly JDAI, has removed from secure custody those youth who can thrive in nonsecure alternatives, leaving behind the most at-risk and troubled youth. Confusing has now jumped to complicated and challenging.

Evidence-based practices with their concerns about model fidelity sometimes sound too formulaic for practitioners. The flipside of evidence-based practice is case law-driven practice. Here, author D.L. Reed does a good job of using case law and juvenile rights as justification for certain practices, especially grievances.

If evidence-based practice and case law tell us what to do, the ongoing challenge is how to do those things. The realities of daily life in secure custody settings rarely lend themselves to precise problem-solving, and the reactions of youth never seem to follow the script from staff training handouts.

We continue to search for some field guide that acknowledges that what we tell new detention workers to expect rarely happens, so, in Boy Scouting parlance, we need to be prepared — prepared to respond quickly and effectively to fluid circumstances and changing situations that more accurately characterize secure custody. So, trial and error moves the field slowly in the direction of progress despite the frequent disconnects between new models and their outcomes with youth.

Successful secure custody practices are more an art than a science, and the scarcity of effective, safe and humane conditions of confinement serves as evidence that the art still needs substantial help. In that regard, this book is a basic primer of understandable and useful insights that are helpful to practitioners in implementing effective programs and services.

Reed uses long-standing and straightforward concepts to connect what and why with how questions. Information and explanations follow essential theories of human behavior to support his positive approach to physical and emotional security. While many of the references are to anecdotal research and secondary sources, the utility of the book is just that: The content starts with the assumption that the reader knows very little about the theory and practice underlying Reed’s model. Juvenile care workers sometimes have formal education, sometimes in related fields, and sometimes beyond a year or two of full-time study. For these individuals, the book is a constructive resource.

One example of its utility is the description of a behavior management system. Reed provides a basic introduction of behavioral principles that serves as a refresher for new and veteran staff members. More importantly, he presents the information using multiple adult learning styles. The graduated rewards/privileges continuum is a visual representation of a comprehensive and expansive system that serves as a workable tool for immediate adaptation in a variety of different facilities.

The same applies to the discussions about de-escalation and safety. Appropriately, the book also contains a section on reentry. Without the need to know the intricacies of evidence-based research and references, direct-care staff still have a great affinity for strategies that make sense, are understandable and are effective; and these are precise descriptions of Reed’s book.

Other sample forms and data-collecting materials are also excellent, and the uncomplicated explanations of them raise questions as to why the reader would not implement them immediately. The topics left uncovered suggest the need for a volume 2, and experienced practitioners can generate their own list of deficiencies.

But that is not the point. This book is positive, encouraging, hopeful and above all else relevant. It moves the field forward, emphasizing how to apply Edward P. Mulvey and Carol A. Schubert's concepts of content and process (see Pathways to Desistance research). Employing the wisdom and techniques in this book will improve any secure custody practice regardless of its current status. To the juvenile detention practitioner, you will do better after reading it.

David Roush, Ph.D., has been active in juvenile detention and corrections for more than 45 years. As a facility superintendent, he earned four national awards for innovation and excellence, two from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. A specialist on conditions of confinement, he conducted compliance monitoring for the U.S. Department of Justice. While at Michigan State University, he taught classes on juvenile detention, conducted research and coordinated federally funded training and technical assistance to juvenile justice agencies.

Keep the Conference Insights Alive With This Technique

“The 2017 JDAI National Intersite conference was so inspirational!” “It was awesome to be in the company of so many reform champions,” “The conversations about advancing equity were just what our delegation needed to hear,” “I can’t wait to take these lessons back home to my colleagues.”

These statements reflect all the passion and energy that the National Intersite Conference invokes in us all. Then the conference is over, and it’s time to get to work.

Once back home, work begins, as do the challenges of implementing the lessons learned. Other reflections emerge, like “I wish they could have been at the conference. Then they’d understand why we have to do more,” “There’s no more ‘low-hanging fruit.’ But there’s still disparity at multiple contact points,” “We have a responsibility to protect public safety. How are we holding these children ‘accountable’?”

These impressions represent the realities of doing good reform work, once we’ve left the “container.” In the safe, supportive learning environment that is the container, reform results show us what we are capable of accomplishing when committed to the challenge. Before we see the results, however, we are typically confronted by the obstacles.

What gets in the way of achieving the best results on the projects, ideas and commitments that mean the most to your organization? Has your passion been challenged once too often? Has organizational commitment to the change waned? Has the idea lost its value? Maybe the collaborators aren’t ready for the change you believe is needed.

These potentialities may exist. The fact is, as the leader, you are responsible for mitigating all these possibilities. This may seem unreasonable or unattainable. Well, don’t be so fast to change course or stop altogether. There are tools and techniques that help leaders achieve the results that can make a difference. These tools and techniques are part of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Results Count, or results based leadership (RBL) framework.

The most meaningful ideas generally come from a place of passion, like detention reduction. Who in their right mind would challenge a nation of juvenile justice systems with an idea to shrink institutions’ admission numbers? This idea came from a place of passion; for children to live a good life. The thing is though, passion is aspiration. Truly helping children live the good life requires transferring the aspiration to operation. And, that’s how we get to the results that have meaning.

Let’s dig into the transfer of aspiration to operation, using the RBL framework — the 5-2-2: five core competencies, two foundational frameworks and two foundational skills. For now, we’ll consider one of the core skills (facilitation) in the context of a practice issue. Results-based facilitation (RBF) helps leaders design, lead and contribute in meetings that effectively move groups from talk to action and hold participants accountable for advancing the work.

Here’s a challenge: The stakeholder group has completed a strategic plan for further system enhancement initiatives. There are three stakeholders who want to address sentencing to juvenile probation as the first priority. There are three stakeholders who want to address commitments to adult corrections as the first priority. And you represent the 10th stakeholder, the committee chair. How will this virtual deadlock be resolved?

Here’s the result: The facilitator, applying the RBF skill of “holding a neutral position,” uses a prepared data walk exercise to inform the stakeholder group with a visual representation of the population at each decision point, highlighting the most over-represented population. The stakeholder group, presented with evidence, will make an informed decision, moving them to action.

Here’s how we got here: The facilitator planned for the meeting result (a decided target), brought the data to inform the decision and affirmed commitment from all stakeholders of the determined starting point. Each step is a practice in one of the foundational skills of RBL and in leading for results.

There is not always a direct, clear path to the results we set as our target. Still, the tools and techniques of RBL help us mitigate the obstacles and lead with confidence.

For more on results-based facilitation, the 5-2-2 framework of results-based leadership and the JDAI Applied Leadership Network, visit us on

Miquel A. Lewis is a deputy chief probation officer at the Cook County Juvenile Probation Department. He is also the president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s JDAI Applied Leadership Network. Connect with him at

Why Aren’t We Celebrating This Advance in Pretrial Detention?

Juvenile detention and its practitioners have experienced landmark reforms due to research-driven changes and the operationalizing of philosophical changes in detention conditions and practice via the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI). We have seen enlightened actions by juvenile court and juvenile detention leaders nationally, including expanded use of best practice and evidence-based knowledge about adolescence, brain development and trauma. Barry Krisberg calls it a new positive philosophy for juvenile justice systems.

We continue to see empirically supported efficiencies take priority over dated ideologies through the use of less costly community-based detention alternatives that do not sacrifice public safety. We continue to be vocal that any youth incarceration done badly is harmful, that locked facilities should only be last resorts, that a vast majority of juvenile offenders do not need secure custody in order to thrive and that more alternatives available to the bench equates to fewer youth in secure custody.

We also continue to affirm that objective, risk-driven custody decisions are far superior to traditional methods, and that this strategy significantly reduces total days in care in most secure detention facilities. While it may be too soon to declare the death of crowding, we are more likely to overhear juvenile detention practitioners discussing staffing challenges or facility closure implications than average daily population populations.

But these lessons are not new. They are core beliefs from the juvenile detention leaders who formed the National Juvenile Detention Association (NJDA) in 1968 and are ours now. So, why aren't we celebrating?

We have been listening, trying to implement the JDAI core values, lessons learned and applied takeaways described at JDAI conferences and in its publications. However frustrating, we also understand the occasional overgeneralization that casts all practitioners as abusive due to the undeniable harmful practices of a few. Our below-the-radar history of appropriately removing these individuals from the field and closing dangerous facilities goes largely unreported.

[Related: JDAI Help Led to More Travel, Collaboration, Less Bench-Sitting]

We continue to work for improved conditions of confinement in the face of the advocates’ messaging: “detention is harmful” and “do no harm.” Many interpret the message to be, “Do no detention.” That message frequently resonated in pre-JDAI times before low- and medium-risk youth were diverted to community-based and less restrictive environments, but not now, not with the few remaining high-risk youth detained appropriately based on standardized risk assessments.

Not discouraged, we have promoted these best practices, applying much of the JDAI wisdom to the reform of the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC) in Chicago. That perseverance has paid off: A new daily program based on helpful concepts significantly reduced not only incidents of youth detainee violence but also recidivism.

Yes, reductions in recidivism — the elusive “Holy Grail” of juvenile justice outcome research. At least that’s how researchers from the University of Chicago Crime Lab described the findings in a Brookings Institute paper three years ago. The President’s Council of Economic Advisers reviewed and commended on the findings in its July 2015 White House Report. Now the Quarterly Journal of Economics (QJE), the most rigorously peer-reviewed professional journal of economics, has published the full research report.

Thoroughly vetted “gold standard” research, evidence now exists that disadvantaged youth from Cook County, a JDAI model site of successful detention intake reform, had some positive life outcomes as the result of a pretrial detention experience done right. So why isn't juvenile justice jumping for joy? What more do we need to do to get support for a transformed model of conditions of confinement? Is it because the National Partnership for Juvenile Services (NPJS) has not gotten the word out and no one knows?

Well, not really. Powerful players in juvenile justice reform know a lot about what happened at JTDC. Consider the following:

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention sent two researchers to Chicago two years ago to learn about the findings, but we’ve read nothing about it in their publications. Same applies to the JDAI; senior staff has had the findings for two years, but we’ve read nothing about it in their publications.

Ironically, this happened in the MacArthur Foundation’s backyard but nothing about it in their publications. Finally, we shared the findings with Northwestern University’s prestigious Medill School but, again, nothing. Only the Chronicle for Social Change has asked why no response.

So, why aren't we celebrating? Stifling is a word that comes to mind. It is perplexing why so many organizations that ardently advocate for positive outcomes for justice-involved youth would not be enthusiastically vocal about results that clearly show that when done well detention (for youth who need that level of care) can and does have significant positive results. A system that assesses individual types and degrees of youth need, accurately places them at a particular level of care in order to meet their needs and then meets them with verified and measurable positive outcomes is exactly what we presumably all strive for.

So it is surprising that there is not more open discussion and even enthusiasm for the results found in Cook County. Maybe when the child advocates who care about improving outcomes for the few who need some form of custody ever respond, a productive dialogue might ensue. Until then, we remain hopeful that this good news with a QJE stamp of approval will eventually be cause for celebration, and further, perhaps wholesale transformation of secure custody.

Wayne Bear is CEO of the National Partnership for Juvenile Services.

More related articles:

Should We Close All Youth Prisons and Is Now the Right Time?

JDAI Help Led to More Travel, Collaboration, Less Bench-Sitting

Judge Steven Teske“What do you do when you travel to all these places?”

I get this question a lot because judges in the traditional sense don’t travel — they sit.

And this typically leads to the next question, generally accompanied with dull laughter: “Do you ever sit on the bench?”

“No,” I say, “I prop up a blow-up lookalike of me with mechanical arms and a voice box that says two words — ‘overrule’ and ‘sustain.’”

All joking aside, these are perfectly understandable questions to ask a judge who doesn’t seem to fit the traditional mold of judges — robe-clad people who sit high on a bench sustaining and overruling objections every day and all day.

Ugh — how boring!

It didn’t take long for me to reframe my role as a juvenile court judge.

OK — so it really wasn’t the monotonous nature of judging that was the predominant reason for my judicial self-reframing.

It was my introduction to a monotonous juvenile justice system operating more like a never-changing metallic machine, fueled by the convenience of its operators, that reframed my judicial self.

I think Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal summed it up best when he referred to me once as a “revolutionary jurist.”

But I must confess there are plenty of judges out there who fit this “revolutionary jurist” tag. You may not necessarily know them, though.

The common thread that runs through these revolutionary jurists is their collaborative work off the bench to prevent vulnerable kids from entering the front door of our court system. The more we champion community services collaborating to achieve prevention, the fewer cases we see when sitting on the bench.

We are a different breed because the subject of our legal jurisprudence involves a very unique and vulnerable population — children. At the core of our legal obligation is the protection of children, and this doesn’t begin at our front door — it must begin in the community.

What I see in my courtroom is a microcosm of the community, and what I saw when I took the bench was a bunkerlike system waiting for referrals and seldom engaging the surrounding community.

After a short time sitting on the bench, I recognized a paradox in our bunker approach: Regardless of how much we tried to insulate ourselves, the courtroom was the one place that all stakeholders gathered at one time over a single child — schools, mental health, social services and probation.

A bunker on one hand, but an intersection of providers on the other.

I have sat on the bench and looked down on the sea of silos and watched in dismay the argument over who will be responsible for the kid. The thought that they’re all responsible never enters their mind.

[Related: Should We Close All Youth Prisons and Is Now the Right Time?]

In all fairness to those standing before me, they’re mimicking the rules of their respective agencies — and the rules are different. They may share the child, but their respective rules dictate how much sharing, if any, is permitted.

Our system of bureaucracy, despite its many advantages, is not inclined toward cooperation. Rather, it’s a systemic culture of centeredness that renders the juvenile justice system a nonsystem.

The solution is in the problem. The solution was in the paradox we had created. Despite our fortress approach, stakeholders were forced to intersect in my courtroom. If the juvenile court is the intersection of the juvenile justice system, that would make the judge the traffic cop.

My frustration led me to the revolutionary concept that I am only as good on the bench as what I do off the bench — champion collaboration.

The JDAI Model, which puts collaboration at the foundation of its eight core strategies, gave me practical help. This led us to creating a school-justice partnership to combat zero tolerance policies: As school arrests increased over 2,000 percent, our graduation rates had plummeted to 58 percent since those policies began.

How goes graduation, so goes crime — and so our juvenile arrests skyrocketed.

Reversing this trend required a revolutionary response — a collaborative agreement to reduce school arrests replaced with smarter alternatives.

The trend showed signs of reversing within six months, as arrests declined by 54 percent. As of this year, arrests decreased 83 percent compared with the year we started, in 2004.

As arrests fell, the graduation rates steadily increased to more than 24 percent over the 2004 rate. Keeping kids in school and out of court does increase graduation rates, and we found that the more we graduated, the fewer juvenile crimes — now down more than 62 percent compared with 2004.

This is not by happenstance. It is by design, and people want to know how.

Knowing that hindsight is always 20/20, we asked ourselves, “If we could go back, knowing what we know today, what tools would’ve been helpful to hasten the school-justice partnership?”

We then developed a school-justice partnership toolkit that helps communities develop their own unique partnership agreement. What took us nine months, today takes two days for other communities.

JDAI inspired us to improve our quality of life, and now they ask in return that we help others do the same.

Yes, I sit on the bench and hear all my adjudications, dispositions and everything in between and thereafter. I even have time to sit almost every week as a designated superior court judge with adult jurisdiction.

With 62 percent fewer cases, I have more time to champion a collaborative system that focuses on prevention, not detention.

It also gives me time to pay it forward.

What a revolutionary idea!

Steven Teske is chief judge of the Juvenile Court of Clayton County, Ga., and vice chairman of the Governor's Office For Children and Families. He is a past president of the Council of Juvenile Court Judges and has been appointed by the governor to the Children & Youth Coordinating Council, DJJ Judicial Advisory Council, Commission on Family Violence, and the Governor's Office for Children and Families.

More related articles: 

States Should Mandate School-justice Partnership to End Violence Against Our Children

Law Enforcement Forced Into Role Confusion in Schools

For Not Shackling Kids to Work, Adults Must Behave


Should We Close All Youth Prisons and Is Now the Right Time?

Marc SchindlerAt the JDAI (Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative) conference in Phoenix last month, about 1,000 people from around the country heard Annie E. Casey Foundation President (and former juvenile corrections administrator) Patrick McCarthy repeat his recent call for America to close its youth prisons.

Let’s be clear: Having the president of the largest youth-serving foundation in the country make this statement, and offer to help any states willing to heed his call to action, is monumental. It’s a call to end a model of youth confinement that has existed in this country for a century.

It could serve as a dramatic change for adult and youth corrections systems that together result in the U.S. having the highest incarceration rate and the largest prison systems in the world.

Thinking about McCarthy’s call to action, I reflect on my own experiences with youth prisons. I spent much of my career as an attorney either trying to keep youth out of such facilities (as a public defender representing youth in Baltimore’s juvenile court) or bringing litigation challenging abusive and unconstitutional conditions of confinement and advocating for policies that would result in fewer youth being locked up (as a staff attorney with the Youth Law Center).

Then, like McCarthy, I was part of a leadership team attempting to reform an agency running a dangerous and abusive facility (Washington, D.C.’s Oak Hill Youth Center, which had been described as among the most dangerous and abusive facilities in the country in the 1990s).

hub_arrow_2-01So I literally went from suing youth prisons to running one. Though it was a battle and I discovered that it was much easier to sue facilities than reform and close them, in Washington we succeeded in significantly reducing the number of youth confined in secure settings.

We did this by limiting secure confinement  to the small number of youth committed to our agency for serious and violent offenses, creating a broader and more effective range of community-based services, supports and opportunities, and grounding our approach to working with youth and their families on the principles of positive youth development.

Additionally, we closed the old, decrepit 188-bed Oak Hill facility and replaced it with a much smaller 60-bed facility with significantly improved conditions and a focus on programming, including having one of the highest-quality educational programs in a secure youth facility in the country.

But while we have seen a dramatic reduction in the number of youth confined or placed out of the home nationally — from a high of 100,000 a decade ago to about 50,000 today (i.e., actually achieving the “Cut-50” target being called for in the adult system) — far too many youth are still confined in dangerous, large prisonlike institutions.

In its recent report, “Maltreatment of Youth in U.S. Juvenile Corrections Facilities,” the Casey Foundation documented the abuses and atrocities occurring on a regular basis in large secure facilities across the country. We recently saw images out of Connecticut of abusive practices by youth prison guards.

[Related: Revised JDAI Standards Call for End to Unnecessary Solitary Confinement]

This occurred in a state lauded for its reforms based on best practices and developmental research, including reducing the use of incarceration and raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction. Seeing these horrific images in a state that has made such progress in its youth justice system is an example of how these types of youth prisons will always be places where violence and maltreatment can happen.

While McCarthy said some would consider the idea of closing all youth prisons a radical idea, he also pointed to the growing recognition that locking up too many at high costs and with poor public safety outcomes shows that this idea shouldn’t be considered radical at all. Calling youth prisons “factories of failure,” he pointed to the high rates of recidivism of youth coming out of these institutions; the fact that the approach ignores all we know about adolescent development, brain science and what works in responding to delinquency; and that most of the young people in these prisons are young people of color. He also said that the youth prison model fails the “my child test,” rightly noting that if one of our own children were in trouble with the law, we would do all we could to keep them out of a youth prison.

As someone who, like McCarthy, ran one of these youth prison systems, I also believe that based on what we know, there is no moral or ethical choice other than to close these facilities, and to do it now.

McCarthy and others are also rightly asking what the alternative is to youth prisons and how we get there. Broadening and reframing this question, as McCarthy suggests, is the right way to go. We should be asking: How we can show the public that we can hold youth accountable, help youth transition to adulthood and address the harm when young people move through the phase of delinquency?

For example, do we have a robust continuum of community-based supports, services and opportunities, (including programs with no reject/no eject policies) to serve every child? Do we have a system in place where all the players, from judges to prosecutors to probation and defenders, will only recommend out-of-home secure placement for the very small percentage of youth, if any, who absolutely need to be placed in a secure setting? In addition, it is critical that we push to have other youth-serving systems — from education to mental health, child welfare, housing, recreation and others — do their parts to prevent youth from having to enter the justice system to have their needs met.

That said, in places like Connecticut and others that are making progress in some areas, we still need to ask ourselves if the reforms are going far enough. Can we be satisfied with any system that still includes a large, secure facility that relies on prisonlike hardware and security, even for a small percentage of youth committed for violent behavior who pose a significant public safety risk?

To this day, while I’m proud of the work we did in Washington, even though we downsized and created what I believe is a much better system, we still had what I would describe as a “youth prison.” While it is much smaller and better than what existed before, due to its institutional nature and power dynamics that will always exist in an incarceration setting, these types of institutions are always vulnerable to reverting back to the abusive practices that we worked hard to eliminate.

We need to really challenge ourselves. We need to work together, including with those outside the justice system, putting as much energy and resources as possible into a robust continuum of care in the community. And then for the very small number of youth who do pose a significant risk to public safety, we need to have small rehabilitative facilities, close to their homes, where we can work with youth to get them safely back in their homes and their communities as soon as possible. By doing this, we can once and for all do away with large prisons for our youth.

Marc A. Schindler is the executive director of the Justice Policy Institute, and former general counsel and interim director of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services in Washington, D.C.

More related articles:

JDAI Starting to Sound Like a Systems Revolution

Casey’s JDAI Releases LGBTQ Practice Standards at Annual Conference


Protecting School Campuses and Unintended Consequences

During my testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on The Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights last month, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), chairman and majority whip, asked me if I am in favor of police on school campuses. To the dismay of some of my friends who stand by my side in this fight to dismantle the "school-to-prison pipeline," I answered a qualified yes. Police on campus, I explained, must be specially trained in adolescent development, crisis intervention and fostering positive relationships with students.

Two days later, a deranged shooter entered the campus of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. killing 20 children and six adults.

Now, the aftermath debate includes placing police on every campus. This issue is reserved for my friends in the other branches of government, but as a judge I am concerned. If police are placed on campus without written protocols defining their role, the results will be disastrous -- just as removing existing police from campus can have unintended consequences.

These friends are adamant that the "simple" solution to dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline is the removal of police from campus. This "simple" solution assumes that police are the cancerous cause of the significant spike in the number of low-level offenses.

At first blush my friends seem to have a valid point—the greater the police presence, the greater the risk for arrest. This greater risk does not bode well for most kids because they are wired to do stupid things. Kids are under neurological construction and require the time for maturation.

This logic assumes that it's the police who have interest in arresting students for school fights, disorderly conduct, and disrupting public school. I have visited, along with my technical assistance team supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI), many localities from California to Massachusetts to Florida and as far north as Montana and North Dakota, and can positively state that the vast majority of campus police are frustrated with their role. They desire a mission statement with clear objectives, the first being that they are not disciplinarians to be used and abused by school administrators.

I have many police testimonies but will share a recent visit to Broward County, Fla. that is typical of my encounters with school police across the nation. The presiding juvenile judge in Broward County, Judge Elijah Williams, read my articles on school-justice partnerships and developed a stakeholders’ group to develop an agreement to reduce low risk school arrests.

Juvenile court judges are integral players in bringing stakeholders together to develop innovative strategies that can benefit children and the community. This convening power of the judge has proven a key factor in the success of replicating protocols similar to my court, now referred to as the "Positive Student Engagement Model for School Policing."

Broward County was no exception. Judge Williams invited me and Clayton County Police Lieutenant Francisco Romero to Ft. Lauderdale in September 2012 to present the model to the stakeholders. Lt. Romero, a veteran school resource officer, helped me implement our model in 2004. His experiences bring examples of positive student engagement, how developing a relationship with students opens the door of communication and, in turn, sharing of information that prevents weapons and drugs from entering the campus -- not to mention solving crimes in the community, including murder. (What kids hear over the weekend they bring to school on Monday!) Gathering police intelligence requires a positive relationship with students.

During the presentation, the audience of law enforcement displayed the typical stoic demeanor -- no expression. They are difficult to read and if I were a poker player I would refrain from playing with my law enforcement friends. When we concluded, Judge Williams took the podium and asked this question: "By a show of hands, how many would agree to a protocol that prohibits you from arresting a student for any non-violent misdemeanor offense, including possession, not sale.”

They all raised their hands!

The stoic looks were replaced by animated hand gestures with frustrated facial expressions. They spewed opposition to the disciplinarian role school administrators demand. A role oftentimes expected of police by virtue of their presence on campus. A role that has led to SRO's referred to as "Sorry Road Officers" or "Kiddie Cops."

These derogatory descriptions are false for the many trained school resource officers who have chosen to work with adolescents. I refer you to Mo Cannady, director of the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO). School policing is a specialized field of police work, no different than SWAT, narcotics, DUI Task Force and other areas requiring specialized training.

Any system that relegates a trained and certified peace officer to the role of student disciplinarian is exercising very poor administrative judgment. The disciplinarian role does not require someone with peace officer certification carrying handcuffs and a firearm. That would make them overqualified for the job. A misuse of police officers on campus will not protect the campus from another massacre. It will likely take the officer off the campus due to the high incident of misdemeanor arrests and allow for many to die in the wake of a deranged gunman's wave of bullets.

God forbid there is another shooting and the media asks this one question: "Where was your SRO when the shooting began?" The answer: "At juvenile court booking a kid for a schoolyard fight."

It's not good enough if the SRO calls a road officer from the street to transport the student--it now cuts down the response time for a robbery, burglary, or serious assault in progress.

Major Miguel A. Martinez of the Hallandale Beach Police Department in Broward County, Fla. summed it up: “If the only tool is a cop – than every problem is a crime.”

SRO's were removed from the middle schools in my county to cut costs after the economic downturn. The arrest of middle school students drastically increased. Administrators simply called 911 and got a road officer, untrained in adolescent development.

Be careful what you ask for. You just might get it.

Mississippi may Reform Juvenile Detention

In a state regularly beset by lawsuits about conditions at some of its juvenile detention centers, an official Mississippi task force is starting work on diversion and setting higher standards.

“This lack of sufficient staff has caused the facility to practice imminent and deliberate harm to youth … the facility is forced to place the kids on lockdown most of the day; not because they want to, but because it’s the only way to maintain any type of control,” reads a court-appointed inspector’s report on the Henley-Young Juvenile Justice Center in Hinds County, Mississippi.  “This lack of appropriate staffing dictates the level of violence that is experienced in the facility.”

The lockup for up to 84 youth is unclean and “has a dungeon-like feeling.” Two juveniles admitted to the facility were allowed no phone call or shower.  While there’s some limited recreational programming for boys, there’s none apparent for girls.

That July 2012 report is a recent, but not unique, verdict on some of Mississippi’s juvenile detention centers.

“That’s the reason we want to put this system in place, so that we can come up with a good system that will prevent some of these things from happening,” said state Sen. Willie Simmons (D-Cleveland), author of the 2012 bill that created the Mississippi Juvenile Detention and Alternatives Task Force.

Its 17 members are to support expansion of juvenile detention alternatives, according to the language of Senate Bill 2598.  They have until Nov. 1, 2013 to make recommendations.

Mississippi handles juvenile detention locally, with 16 county-run detention centers.  Counties that don’t have a center must bus youth to counties that do, sometimes more than 100 miles from home.

The task force’s first job is to recommend ways to prevent unnecessary detention of juveniles, according to chair and Adams County Court Judge John Hudson. They also plan to recommend licensing rules for juvenile detention centers, and recommend better standards of operation.

His county is one of five in Mississippi that has already been at work on changes, with assistance via the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative. JDAI aims to help system-involved youth develop into healthy, productive adults by promoting juvenile justice policy reforms.

“I think JDAI kind of gave our state-level partners a feel of how they could broadly experience juvenile justice reform in their state,” said Gail Mumford, senior associate with AECF’s Juvenile Justice Strategy Group.

The number of juveniles detained in four pilot JDAI counties declined between 4 and 12 percent in 2011, according to the Mississippi Administrative Office of Courts.  Among other things, counties used a points system to decide which juveniles should be detained and which could safely be sent back to community supervision.

Mississippi has seen, said Mumford, the way that JDAI can reduce inappropriate and unnecessary use of detention, and help improve conditions for the kids who are securely confined.

“Who wouldn’t want to do that, right?” she said.

JDAI numbers are part of the data the task force has as it starts work. Its recommendations must be ready in time for consideration during Mississippi’s 2014 legislative session.

That’s a shift from the original version of the bill, which would have given the task force the power to write licensing standards and would have required detention centers to get licenses by 2016.

If the Mississippi legislature adopts the task force recommendations, they will build on a 2005 law that first set uniform minimum standards for juvenile detention centers.  The law requires juvenile detention centers to conduct mental and physical health screenings, provide recreation, counseling, education and things to read, along with private communication with family, among other things.

In five years’ time, “I think it will be better, I think we will see improvements,” said Simmons.  “I think there’s a commitment to look at what is going on with our juveniles and try and take care of it.”

When Two Insecure Worlds Collide, Kids Are Hurt

Wouldn't it be nice if life were simple--that the answers to our problems were obvious and problems solved with painless ease? Take for instance Johnny, the boy I described in my last essay, who from birth was toted around by his Mom to trap houses to get her fix. No telling what he saw--or much worse, what others did to him--in those places. Johnny is a confused kid, emotionally pained by fear of insecurity. His weapon of defense: defiance fueled by anger.

Johnny pains us too, because he is aggravating with his chronic disobedience of the rules. We keep sanctioning him, with the misguided notion that punishment will change his attitude, until we give up, wash our hands, and commit him to the state thinking we did all we could do. The paradox of juvenile justice is that on one hand we do have the capacity to diagnose his cause of delinquency and we do know what it will take to improve his behavior, but on the other hand most systems don't know what to do or don't have the resources or both.  Our response is to give up and take the road of least resistance--detain or commit by default. When the means to do what is right for a kid is not readily available, we dump our problem somewhere else--a detention facility, state custody, or in a long-term secure facility.

Consequently, most states, including mine, have a lot of low-risk, high-needs kids in state custody that could otherwise remain in the community if judges had the resources necessary to effectively treat these kids. We commit them to a place we call secure, but the truth is they are insecure. They aggravate the insecurities of the Johnnys who will return home one day worse off than when they entered.

I admit that I fell victim to this default system during the first few years on the bench, and it was frustrating. Our detention and commitment rates were high--and so were our recidivist rates! Something had to give in my community to reverse this vicious cycle of detention to commitment to re-offending. Juveniles entering our system were getting worse, not better. This is true in many states--including my own!

I did not get that help until 2003, after four years into the job--and it wasn't in the form of money. My court joined over 100 courts from around the country to participate in the Annie E. Casey Foundation Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI). The JDAI modelm, along with the networking, taught me to think outside the box.

The foundation of any successful local juvenile justice system is leadership through collaboration, and JDAI helped us to realize this need. Something had to give, and that “something” was us!  We had to stop pointing fingers and saying, "Its not my problem," or coming up with social, legal, political and who knows how many other reasons our creative minds can conjure to excuse why we can't be and do different for the good of our kids--and ultimately our community.

We created a juvenile justice cooperative and from it many cooperative protocols were produced in accordance with the Community Based Risk Reduction law that exists in our juvenile code (OCGA 15-11-10).  That's right! It is public policy that judges exercise leadership to bring stakeholders together to develop cooperative agreements to address and prevent delinquency, deprivation and unruliness.

Over time, this cooperative caused a cognitive shift through the relationships that ensued between the agencies--a realization that the juvenile justice system is not a single entity, but a collection of independent public and private groups that can do far more for kids and families if their resources are shared and realigned to focus on a desired outcome--prevent delinquency and reduce recidivism.

This cognitive group shift resulted in a 70 percent decrease in the average daily detention population and 43 percent fewer commitments to state custody.

Johnny is now on GPS and he and the family are being evaluated by our Clayton County Collaborative Child Study Team (Quad C-ST), our single point of entry into our System of Care (SOC). This group of multi-disciplinary stakeholders meets weekly to assess kids and families to develop a plan that targets the reasons for his behavior, his childhood trauma among others. The stakeholders share resources, a concept foreign to us in the beginning, but a way of life now.

Recently, I made a presentation as part of a panel at the Carter Center, an annual symposium on mental health sponsored by former First Lady Rosalyn Carter. I had the privilege to share the panel with Dr. Julian Ford, a leading researcher on child trauma and delinquency.

He shared studies focusing on trauma child victimization as a pathway to delinquency, including clinical and epidemiological studies indicating that three in four youths in the juvenile justice system have been exposed to some form of trauma. Trauma could include violence, abuse, neglect, or an accumulation of stressful life events such as family problems, including death, drugs, parent-child conflict and mental illness.

Studies indicate that victimized children under age 12 are at serious risk, especially if in a family of low function, and may respond as a victim and act out in self-protection. Their self-protective responses, in their child’s mind, can translate into defiance of rules and authority.

Dr. Ford states it this way--a traumatized youth's "thinking tends to be reactive, rigid, impulsive and defiant. This, in turn, leads to distorted views of self, peers and relationships and difficulty solving ordinary social problems."

Sound familiar for us in juvenile justice?

Dr. Ford and others have recommendations for judges--require an assessment tool to determine the presence of trauma stressors to design an order that targets the trauma needs of the child using proven interventions, such as emotional dys-regulation and survival using victim based information processing to help the kid recover from victimization.

Detention and commitment re-traumatizes the kid--yet it happens too often because commitment becomes a default when the hammer is the only tool.

Most systems of funding are ineffective and wasteful--not to mention hurtful! We spend more money removing kids from their home, even though about half could be treated at home at a cost far less expensive--and with greater success.

A number of states have made changes in how they do business, with good outcomes. The changes were dramatic--the type that makes people insecure and push back, making excuses why we cant do it, for fear of change.

For those feeling the insecurity and want to push back, now you know how Johnny lives every day of his life.

Our insecurities keep many of our kids locked up in a world of insecurity. Something has to give.

Finding the Time to Make Real Change in Juvenile Justice

It is a fundamental principle in effective supervision of juvenile offenders that the optimal caseload size should be 25. It is still common throughout the country to find caseloads exceeding 60 and sometimes more than 100.

When I took the bench in 1999, our caseload size was 150 - it was not pretty! Today, it’s 25. The kids who scare us get intensive supervision, the kids who make us mad are referred to a system of care for services.

The commission of a delinquent act doesn't always mean the kid is delinquent. Many of us can recall our own youthful indiscretions.

The studies declare that overreacting to low-risk youth will likely have unintended consequences, such as making them delinquent. Telling a low-risk kid he's delinquent and requiring probation can have a debilitating effect on the psyche - it’s the labeling theory working at its best. If you’re told you’re bad, you will become bad.

Other unintended consequences include the watering down of supervision for high-risk youth who need it the most. Again, studies are clear that community protection demands intensive supervision of high-risk youth to reduce the risk of re-offending. The more time devoted to the kids who make us mad will translate into less time to a kid who scares us.

We must be smart in how we treat our kids and not be fooled that probation or jail is the cure-all. The "get tough on crime" rhetoric is a great sound byte, but how to "get tough" is what separates some politicians from the practitioner. The sound byte may get votes, but it doesn't always reduce crime.

The more low-risk cases that enter the front gates of our juvenile justice systems, the more difficult it becomes for other players in the system to perform at optimal capacity. Many years ago, after a school fight case, I asked the prosecutor if he thought such cases were worthy of his prosecutorial efforts. He replied "No--most of these kids don't belong on probation." He added, "I could use more time to prepare for the difficult cases--the kids who do scare me!"

It then dawned on me - the domino effect. What affects the prosecutor, affects the probation officer and ultimately me, the judge.

My effectiveness is compromised when cases unworthy of court intervention keep me from work in the community and activities that promote the administration of juvenile justice. People often inquire how I am able to write, lecture, provide technical assistance to others and attend community functions and keep up with my court docket? It's quite simple - we have far fewer cases today than when I took the bench in 1999 - 63 percent to be exact.

Many years ago, we changed the way we do business implementing best practices such as Annie E. Casey Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI) strategies and the Model Guidelines for Delinquency Courts produced by the National Council of Juvenile & Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ). We introduced risk instruments to help us know who can be diverted and who needs to be targeted for intensive supervision. Needs assessment tools were also created to determine the most effective programs to ameliorate those criminal tendencies identified in each high-risk kid. We implemented graduated sanctions to swiftly respond to probation violators. Most important of all, we brought the community of stakeholders to the table to create a system of care to get services to the kids who are low risk in need of services - those that make us mad and are diverted.

It’s a systemic paradox - on one hand probation officers, prosecutors, defenders, and judges require more time to be effective, but on the other are trapped in a fortress called the office or courtroom mostly to keep up with kids who have made some adult mad, usually a school administrator or parent! It’s difficult to find the time to be effective in a system that is lacking diligent gate-keeping mechanisms.

To the prosecutor it translates into more time needed to prosecute the serious cases. To the probation officer, it translates into fewer low-risk kids to spend more time supervising the kids who scare us. To the judge, it translates into more time to get involved in the community to sustain an effective system of care and to improve the administration of juvenile justice altogether.

The American Bar Association's Model Canons of Judicial Ethics encourage judges to "engage in extrajudicial activities that concern the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice, such as speaking, writing, teaching, or participating in scholarly research projects." The Model Canons further encourage judges to "share their expertise with legislative governmental bodies and executive or legislative branch officials." Judges are allowed to "accept appointments to entities that concern the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice."

Of course, the Canons also include an operational phrase - "when time permits." Several years ago I did not have the time for extrajudicial activities that today integrate me into the community and allow me to try and promote the administration of juvenile justice. Today, we are able to help other communities change their juvenile justice systems so they too will have more time to be effective - and in turn, they too will be able to pass it on!

Bart Lubow on the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI)

Bart Lubow, who has been working for more than 20 years to reduce the number of youth being sent to detention centers, told a gathering of 700 attendees at the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) conference in Houston last week that now, “may prove to be a unique moment in juvenile justice history, a time when, as a nation, we shed some of the system’s worst baggage - including our unnecessary and often inappropriate reliance on secure confinement” of youth.

Center for Sustainable Journalism Executive Director Leonard Witt, publisher of the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange and Youth Today, caught up with Lubow to get his take on JDAI initiatives that have expanded to 38 states across the country and become the most widely replicated juvenile justice system reform project in the nation.

Learn more about Bart Lubow, Director of Juvenile Justice Strategy for the Annie E. Casey Foundation.