Foundation Strives to Create Legacy for Juvenile Justice Reform

Models for Change 2012 Annual Conference

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The nonprofit MacArthur Foundation has spent more than $100 million since 2004 on developing blueprints for reform within the juvenile justice systems of 16 states. Earlier this week, its reform initiative, Models for Change, brought together nearly 400 judges, advocates, probation officers and other juvenile justice professionals for two days of workshops in Washington, D.C.

It was the seventh such yearly gathering for Models for Change partners, and it came at a time when the foundation is beginning to wind down funding for new research into juvenile justice reforms and enter a new phase focused on defining, sustaining and disseminating to the rest of the country the reform models its state partners and networks have already developed.

As the foundation moves toward solidifying the legacy of its blueprint initiative, its conference this year emphasized the power of storytelling and collaboration as a way to convey the impact of justice reforms to other states and to the public.

The storytelling theme ran through several events over the two-day event. Public relations professionals held a plenary session to discuss how juvenile justice organizations could craft an effective public message.

University of California at Santa Barbara professor Richard Ross exhibited a collection

Keynote speaker Cheryl Corley of NPR.

of photographs that illustrated the stark conditions within juvenile facilities around the country. Journalists from the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange and CBS This Morning held a hands-on workshop to explain how justice professionals could engage the media without compromising the privacy of minors. And NPR reporter Cheryl Corley gave a keynote address explaining how she came to report a radio series on juvenile offenders in Chicago last year.

More than a dozen people sat down to record short videos of their experiences within the juvenile justice system at a video booth. The videos are up on the JJIE website.

Another conference theme emerged around fostering collaboration: training attendees to recognize the multiple ways individuals, agencies and local governments can work together to improve the treatment of children in the justice system. Workshops addressed ways to involve families of juvenile offenders more closely with their child’s treatment; encourage state agencies to seek common goals with watchdog organizations; get court and child welfare agencies to share data more effectively; and build relationships between public defender offices and local law schools.

Plenary speakers encouraged cash-strapped public entities to partner with private organizations and foundations as a way to grow their resources and further their reach in replicating and sustaining reform models throughout the country.

Collaborative efforts by private foundations like MacArthur are motivating the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to develop its own partnerships with private philanthropic entities, said Marlene Beckman, the counsel to the assistant attorney general at the Office of Justice Programs in the U.S. Department of Justice, at a conference panel.

Federal officials recently met with a group of philanthropic organizations to solicit guidance on how to work with the private sector, Beckman said. The Obama administration was very interested in such partnerships, she said.

Julia Stasch, VP, MacArthur Foundation and Marlene Beckman, Counsel to Assistant Attorney General, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

Among the feedback the federal juvenile justice office received from philanthropic groups at that meeting was that federal agencies needed to collaborate more closely with each other – between the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Education, Health and Human Services, for example – and present a united leadership front when seeking partners from the private sector, Beckman said.

The group also advised the federal office of juvenile justice that it needed to communicate more effectively with private partners so that everyone understands their priorities and goals, and shares a vision for desired outcomes, Beckman said.

“Up until now, we have been more the follower than the leader,” Beckman said of the federal office’s role in developing public-private partnerships in pursuit of justice reforms.

Editor's note: The MacArthur Foundation supports the work of JJIE.

Photos courtesy of Models for Change. 

Kennesaw State University Awards Ruth Ann Harnisch An Honorary Doctorate

Ruth Harnisch
From left: Leonard Witt, William Harnisch, Ruth Ann Harnisch, Dr. Daniel Papp

Kennesaw State University awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to Ruth Ann Harnisch, a philanthropist whose foundation has supported cutting-edge approaches to gathering and disseminating news.

The honorary doctorate ─ the 14th awarded in Kennesaw State’s 49-year history ─ was bestowed today during the university’s commencement ceremony for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Harnisch, a former journalist with more than 30 years of experience in print and broadcasting, is president of the New York-based Harnisch Foundation, which in 2009 awarded $1.5 million to establish the Center for Sustainable Journalism at Kennesaw State.

“Kennesaw State University is pleased to award this honorary doctorate to Ms. Harnisch,” said Kennesaw State President Daniel S. Papp.  “In so doing, we are recognizing the outstanding accomplishments of an exceptional person, known nationally as a philanthropist who truly has made a difference, as well as a ground-breaking journalist.”

A self-described “recovering journalist” and “donor activist,” Harnisch is a proponent of creative philanthropy that produces sustainable social change.  She founded The Harnisch Foundation in 1998.

Harnisch said she was drawn to the idea of funding the Center for Sustainable Journalism after reading blogs by Leonard Witt, Kennesaw State’s Robert D. Fowler Distinguished Chair in Communication and the center’s executive director. The center is designed to research and develop ethical and sustainable new ways to produce and distribute news.  It is home to the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, the only national news website covering juvenile justice. In March, the center announced that it will begin publishing Youth Today, a nationally distributed print and online newspaper targeted to professionals in the youth services field.

“The honor of working with Len Witt and his team is reward enough,” said Harnisch, whose foundation supports other experiments in producing and distributing news and information, as well as collegiate journalism programs. “While I am pleased to receive the honorary doctorate, Kennesaw State’s innovative, cutting-edge experiments in new ways of delivering high-quality information are what is important and what I hope everyone will notice. The Center for Sustainable Journalism is making strides as a leader in a thoughtful conversation that is important for our nation to have about juvenile justice.”

Witt attributes the Center for Sustainable Journalism’s important work to Harnisch’s “intellectual, inspirational and financial support.”

“Thanks to her visionary work, the center can have a lasting impact on the way journalism is practiced and also on the way our most disadvantaged children are perceived,” Witt said.  “She is truly deserving of this special honor."

Harnisch started her career at the Buffalo (NY) Courier-Express and worked 17 years as a columnist for the Nashville (Tenn.) Banner.  She hosted a radio talk show on WLAC-AM and worked 15 years as a television news reporter and anchor for Nashville’s CBS affiliate.

Harnisch’s career expanded to include her interests in philanthropy and professional coaching.  A certified master coach, Harnisch was a founding funder of The Institute of Coaching at Harvard Medical School’s McLean Hospital. The institute is an outgrowth of the grant-making Foundation of Coaching, which Harnisch created with David Goldsmith in 2006 to support academic research in the coaching field.

In addition, Harnisch supports the “Ideas Worth Spreading” mission of the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) community. She is a founding funder of the TED Fellows program, which brings together world-changing achievers, and a co-founder of SupporTED, an independent program offering pro bono coaching and mentoring to the TED Fellows.

Harnisch is a member of Women Moving Millions, a philanthropic initiative of women who give at least $1 million dollars to non-profits benefiting women and girls. She also holds a Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Baruch College in New York.

Truth Telling: Civil Rights Era to

Our Juvenile Justice Information Exchange,, has its roots in part in The Race Beat, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book co-written by Hank Klibanoff, former managing editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I was taken by how important it was for the press to shine a spotlight on the injustices taking place in the South before and during the Civil Rights era. Today that same kind of spotlight must be shone on the juvenile justice system, which, with its share of injustices, remains in the shadows of the collective American consciousness.

When John Fleming came our way as the prospective editor of the, I knew he was a kindred spirit who cares deeply about high quality, ethically sound journalism and equal justice for all. That dual commitment is illustrated in his just published essay in the Nieman Reports entitled: Compelled to Remember What Others Want to Forget.

John Fleming

Klibanoff, Fleming and a small cadre of other reporters explain what has driven them, often for no pay, to report on the long ago crimes against blacks during the Civil Rights era. Of that time, Fleming writes:

I think, believe and hope that through knowing, by accepting the truth of it all, we'd be better. In my dreaming times, I yearn for it. When I awaken, I realize that the way forward is through doing what we do best. We tell stories. We are journalists. And if we, as journalists, don't tell these forgotten stories, who will?

We all must read those Nieman Report essays and reflect on that time, but also concentrate on our time when the work begun during the Civil Rights era is nowhere near complete. We don’t want to have to wait 50 years to tell the stories that reveal the truth of our times – and thus we have the and our small team of writers under Fleming’s guidance, who are here to tell the stories of the kids who are often pushed to the far margins of society and to the far reaches of our collective consciousness.

Help Save Children’s Lives, Join Our Community

The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange is made up of people like you who are interested in doing what is best for at-risk children, including the people who work with children. We believe doing what’s best means staying well-informed about what’s going on in government, courts, schools, nonprofit treatment and prevention programs, and following new research and initiatives that could benefit children and families.

Leonard Witt

We called the, the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange because we believe our audience collectively knows more about juvenile justice and child welfare issues than we do. Plus we want to provide a place for everyone to share their ideas, research, expertise and experiences with our 17,000 unique monthly visitors.

Many of you have written comments, which bring new and unique perspectives to the solid journalism we do each day. Plus our editor John Fleming, has done an outstanding job of recruiting people to write full-blown commentary for our Ideas & Opinions section.

Recently, we tried something new. We gave a try; we asked our readers to help underwrite a story on teen accidents. You helped fully fund the story within a week. So, we know works. If you know of an important story that you think we should be covering, contact Fleming: If he thinks the story fits our mission, he can recruit a freelancer. Then we could use to see if other people agree that that story is worth underwriting. In other words, you could take on the role of an assigning editor, who helps us get important stories reported, written and funded.

Some of you remain passive readers; your visits are appreciated. However, why not become an active part of our community by signing up for our newsletter, liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter. Then, when you find one of our stories or commentaries compelling you can quickly share it with your friends, colleagues and interest groups. They will appreciate the heads-up, and we know from watching our numbers that some of them too will become sharing members of the So together the important stories of juvenile justice and where it intersects with child welfare, behavioral health and education will get heard by the widest possible audience. Children's lives will be saved as the system is made better.

Thanks for any part you play now or in the future at the; it is and will continue to be deeply appreciated by us and the rest of the community.

Hornberger Advice: Juvenile Offenders Need Alternatives to Prisons

HornbergNancy Gannon Hornberger, executive director of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice (CJJ), says research shows that it is important to "keep the kids out of heavy duty lockup as much as possible." In this video interview conducted by Leonard Witt, she says "Reclaim Ohio" is a project that saves money and has better outcomes than the bars and chains approach.

See subheads and time split guide below the video.

Time splits to help guide you through the video:

  • Introduction 00:00
  • Conference theme: Developing sentencing alternatives to harsh punishment 00:30
  • Research shows that normal settings for sentences work best 01:20
  • Settings built on relationships is better than bars and chains 02:10
  • Reclaim Ohio is best practice example; cuts lockups and saves money 3:04
  • Get the Most out of

    As I am sure you've discovered is the best source for daily coverage of juvenile justice issues not just in Georgia, but around the United States. Every week thousands of people are logging on to find out what is happening in the lives of young people and in the issues they face. But did you know that many of the conversations taking place around our stories aren't happening on our website?

    The JJIE community is a lively bunch, chiming in on issues from all corners of the web. Below are some ways you can connect with JJIE outside of this website:


    • Facebook. There are nearly 600 million users on Facebook, so chances are you have an account. We are very active there, publishing content daily and having great conversations with everyone who participates.
    • YouTube. The second largest search engine after Google, YouTube is a great place to find entertaining and informative content. We upload a weekly video that reviews our top stories from the week in a fast-paced, entertaining format. You'll also find interviews, opinions and lots of other great content there too!
    • Twitter. It's been said that Twitter is a lot like a cocktail  party, and we like to think of it that way too. Every day we get on Twitter with the goal of simply chatting with those of you who are interested in the issues that face children and teens. We'll pass along the stories we're reading, links to some of our trending content, plus we just enjoy hanging out with you in the digital space.
    • Tumblr. With three Tumblr accounts focusing on Bullying, Addiction and Trafficking, we are aggregating all of the information being shared on this platform that pertains to these three issues. Our goal is just to stay connected to all of you by not only providing a resource for you to find information on important issues, but also just to see what other people are sharing. We are aggregating information on Twitter around these same three issues as well as from an account dedicated solely to them.

    Just to make this digital introduction a little more personal, let me introduce the faces behind these accounts:

    I am Noah Echols, the Digital Media Manager at When I'm not fiddling with the website, you'll find me out there on Facebook and Twitter looking for stimulating conversations.


    Clay Duda is a Digital Media Specialist at When he isn't shooting or editing video, he's replying to all your comments, questions and suggestions on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Reddit.


    And last, but certainly not least, Lindsay Oberst is the newest member of our digital media team. She is our brilliant social media intern and the face behind those Tumblr accounts.


    I really hope that you'll not only visit the other places around the web that we're posting content, but that you'll join the conversation there. Hit the "like" button on Facebook, the "subscribe" button on YouTube, the "Follow" button on Twitter, or the "follow" button on Tumblr so that you'll get regular updates. We will never spam you or overload your inbox with information, but we do promise to continue to provide you with high quality content every day.

    Show that you care, real juvenile justice depends upon you

    Since the beginning of the Georgia legislative session our reporter Chandra Thomas and our supporting staff of editors, interns and freelancers have been closely watching all legislation aimed at juvenile justice issues.

    Chandra Thomas

    Thomas had two excellent round-up stories yesterday and today targeting which bills would move forward and which would not on crossover day.

    I opened my Atlanta Journal-Constitution today to see how its coverage of these juvenile justice bills compared with ours here at the From what I could see there was nothing to compare. I saw nothing about Senate Bill 127, which is a rewrite of the juvenile code. An issue we covered intensely even before it was introduced into the house. Much to the chagrin of its supporters it will not move forward. We will, in the days to come, analyze why it did not progress.

    Leonard Witt

    HB 185, the Runaway Youth Safety Act, which, as Thomas wrote, would have allowed homeless shelters to provide emergency housing and services to runaway children.

    The two are among more than a dozen bills, which only the has covered on a persistent basis. This is not a dig at the other media. Dropping circulation and falling advertising revenues mean that cuts have to be made. Since areas like juvenile justice do not translate into big audience returns, their coverage is often the first to go. Which means the public will learn less and less about a system that touches more that 50,000 kids a year and thousands of state employees whose jobs are related to the various aspects of juvenile justice from safety to victimization to incarceration to deprivation.

    It’s the mission of the Center for Sustainable Journalism to find ways to sustain niche journalism areas like juvenile justice. Why? Because it is obvious if we don’t cover them no one else will.

    However, in the long run we can’t do it alone. We will need support. We know several thousand people, just like you, care about these issues and visit the to keep informed. The first step is for you to please sign up for our newsletter. Or supply us with story tips. Or write for our opinion pages. Or provide your advice on what might sustain us in the long run.

    Eventually, we, just like public broadcasting, will have to have a funding drive. For now, please just sign up at the newsletter or, if you are in a hurry like us, at Facebook. Please take one of these small steps to demonstrate that you care because we know you do. SchoolHouse Witness Project in National News Challenge

    As you know, the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange is a trial project to find new ways to support the coverage of important niche issues that the mainstream media no longer covers. So we are always looking for ways to improve our coverage, especially in reaching out to you to supply information that our reporters need to know.

    Leonard Witt

    In this digital age we have to make that as easy as possible; hence, our idea for the SchoolHouse Witness Project. I like it a lot and submitted it to the Knight News Challenge, which underwrites innovative ideas. We are now in the Second Round of the competition.

    You can see our submission at SchoolHouse Witness Project.

    This is a partnership with the Konpa Group in the Ushahidi network, which has done great things in information collecting via mobile texting in Africa.

    I do hope the idea moves on to Round Three. Since it is public, please give the SchoolHouse Witness Project a look right here. Also while there, if you like what you see, please give it a good rating. That too would be nice. And if you have ideas for the, please send them our way.

    Judicial Insight

    When a writer comes along who touches your conscience, you want to tell people.  So we are pleased to tell you that Judge Steven Teske of Clayton County Juvenile Court is now writing for the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange at  He is currently sharing stories from his childhood and his life that are filled with surprise and insight. His stories are sometimes funny, often poignant, and always make you think.

    In The Good Shepherd,” we hear about the dare that almost got him arrested, and the middle school principal who saved his bacon.

    In “Making Adults Mad –When Did That Become a Crime?” he reveals what happened when he got his first BB gun for Christmas.

    In “The Silent Majority” he talks about the unsung heroes who help “crossover” kids.

    Judge Teske has been on the bench for more than 10 years. He represents Georgia on the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice, chairs the Board of the Governor’s Office for Children and Families, and serves on the Judicial Advisory Council to the Board of the State Department of Juvenile Justice.  He's a leader in the Annie E. Casey Foundation Detention Reform Initiative and a nationally recognized speaker on juvenile justice issues.

    You’ll find Judge Teske’s regular blog post under Ideas and Opinions on our home page.  Feel free to agree or disagree, and share your stories with our growing community at


    Got a juvenile justice story idea?  Contact editor Ellen Miller at  Miller is a mulit-media journalist, and former television news reporter and news director.  She has more than two dozen awards for her work in newsrooms in Chicago, Nashville, Charlotte, Sacramento and Cleveland.