No More Delays Mr. President: Appoint the Nation’s Next Juvenile Justice Chief

Four years ago, President Obama was inaugurated, and we expected that within a few months the President would nominate a permanent administrator for the Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). But this past week, as President Obama renewed the oath of office, we are still waiting. Each administration since the office was created in 1974 has made the appointment except President Obama’s.

The President should end this delay and here’s why:

The OJJDP is the leading federal agency responsible for juvenile justice and delinquency prevention issues. Created under the landmark Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) of 1974, the OJJDP plays a vital role in assisting state and local governments in addressing juvenile delinquency through federal grants, research and guidance. For nearly 40 years, the OJJDP has helped states to create and sustain effective approaches to reduce juvenile delinquency, and develop programs that are cost-effective, improve public safety and treat court-involved youth appropriately.

The OJJDP administrator articulates a national juvenile justice agenda that is based on research on what works and what doesn’t, as well as on adolescent development, and helps states use the research, and implement best practices in reforming their juvenile justice systems.

In particular, the administrator’s role is to ensure the relevance and effectiveness of the main federal piece of juvenile justice legislation, the JJDPA, which has provided critical federal funding to states to comply with a set of core requirements designed to protect children and meet their unique needs.

While successful, the JJDPA could be substantially strengthened to address more of the pressing needs in the juvenile justice field, such as reducing the overuse of incarceration, reducing racial and ethnic disparities and closing the loopholes that allow some status offenders to be detained and some youth to be placed in adult jails, despite the original intentions of the law.

Further, the administrator advocates for juvenile justice funding appropriations from Congress. Unfortunately, for more than a decade, federal juvenile justice funding has steadily declined — down 83 percent from 1999 to 2010 — and the appropriations caps contained in the Budget Control Act of 2011 have only accelerated the pace of cuts.

The JJDPA has been sorely underfunded, and has not been updated in more than a decade; it continues to languish. Neither the House nor the Senate has introduced reauthorization bills this past session, and the Obama administration has been surprisingly silent on the matter.

Given the importance of this appointment, why the delay?

It’s not clear to this advocate.

There’s been no shortage of good candidates willing to take on this job. The White House has received names and resumes on numerous occasions, and now that the Senate confirmation requirement has been removed the administration can make this appointment without approval from the Senate.

Juvenile justice stakeholders have made hundreds of calls, written letters and contacted key White House officials. Still, there has been no response.

Members of Congress have also asked about the delay, including some House members who wrote to the President.

And several news outlets have editorialized on this, including The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, whose editorial declares “It’s well past time for Obama to name a leader for the office.” The Washington Post editorial states, “A lengthy vacancy at the top in the federal office charged with combating juvenile delinquency and improving conditions of youth incarceration requires President Obama’s swift attention.”

No more delays Mr. President. It’s been long enough. We need a juvenile justice expert and a leader as the nation’s next OJJDP administrator. And we need one now.




The Battle Lines Over Guns Often Drawn by Funding

Gabrielle Giffords and Obama
Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was severely wounded in a shooting in her home state of Arizona, hugs Obama during last year’s State of the Union address / Photo from Creative Commons

Story produced by the Chicago Bureau.

President Barack Obama delivered his second inaugural address Monday, promising to focus on climate control and pursue greater equality for gay Americans. Those issues, however, are just the beginning of the challenges he must face as he starts his second term.

Fixing a broken global economy still ranks first in the minds of many Americans, along with ending our conflicts abroad. On the domestic front there’s no getting around the debate over gun control, with both sides digging in for a fight in Congress – spurred on by a mounting body count that now includes a family in New Mexico, shot dead by a 15-year-old boy.

But as much attention is being paid to the politics, the fight over whether our nation’s gun laws are too strict or too loose has also raised the tricky question of how money factors in to both sides’ push to get their point across.

Emerging from the sudden debate on gun control elicited by the Dec. 14 massacre in Newtown, Conn., is a discussion of how gun laws are made, and who is spending money to sway votes. In an opinion piece in USA Today last week, former Arizona Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly took aim at national funding imbalances as they rolled out their newly formed political action committee, Americans for Responsible Solutions.

The column came 10 days previous to Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden’s extensive plan for combating gun violence. A victim of gun violence herself two years ago, a still-recovering Giffords attempted to spotlight the need for more money to counter the overwhelming fundraising advantage of the National Rifle Association and state and local organizations.

“[Americans for Responsible Solutions] will invite people from around the country to join a national conversation about gun violence prevention, will raise the funds necessary to balance the influence of the gun lobby, and will line up squarely behind leaders who will stand up for what’s right,” Giffords wrote of the purpose of her PAC.

Although Gallup polls show that almost 58 percent of Americans favor stricter gun control laws, gun control groups are being outspent by their opponents by eye-popping amounts in the battle for Washington. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-profit, non-partisan that tracks campaign spending, the National Rifle Association alone spent 10 times the amount of all gun control groups combined in 2011 and 2012, spending 2 million dollars on lobbying in 2012. In addition, 1 million was directly given to candidates and political action committees.

Colleen Daley, executive director of the Illinois Council Against Handguns, told JJIE and The Chicago Bureau that there is a major disparity between lobbying funds and public opinion.

“We’re far outspent. They have a dues paying membership that brings in millions. They also, in addition to that, get a lot of money from the manufacturers,” Daley said.

However, Daley disagreed with the idea that such imbalances necessarily reflect the views of Americans accurately.

“The majority of money that they’re getting is actually from the gun manufacturers, not necessarily from membership. So you do get a strong amount of money that way,” Daley said. “Their membership does not always agree with them, either. I don’t necessarily think that all of them know what they’re doing, half the time, because the majority of individuals are for reasonable gun control laws.”

Yet Dave Workman, senior editor of The Second Amendment Foundation, a gun-rights advocacy group based in Bellevue, Wash., which claims over 600,000 members, said the individual nature of contributions to the various gun groups underscores the fact that gun groups have popular support. He notes that a large amount of funds for organizations like his come from individuals.

“This myth that’s been floated around for years that the gun rights movement is funded by all the gun manufacturers, I have to sit back and chuckle at that every once and a while,” Workman said. “If you look at the people who contribute at the grassroots levels, to the various gun organizations, they’re sending in $10, $25 checks, whatever they can afford…. The NRA for example reported the other day that their membership has surged by 250,000 [to 4.25 million] in the last 30 days, and that is a phenomenal amount of growth.”

Rather than leading to more funding for gun control, Workman suggests that Giffords’ new PAC might eventually succeed only in spreading the same funds to a larger number of organizations.

“This is an interesting situation, because on either side of the issue one presumes there’s a finite number of people who will consistently and repeatedly contribute to either a pro-gun or anti-gun organization,” Workman said. “This new movement by Gabby Giffords very well might end up as a competitor to some of the existing organizations when they go looking for money. Right away they’re going to get quite a bit of money for all those organizations because the gun prohibition community is looking at this as probably the best opportunity they’ve had in the last 20 years to push their agenda.”

Indeed, while there have been several deadly and tragic mass shootings over the years, including the one directed at Giffords herself, few have drawn the immediate and massive response that Newtown has received. The public outcry on Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets have helped launch a serious discussion on the nature of gun violence in America and our attitudes towards mental health, with politicians like Obama and Biden calling for stricter restrictions on assault weapons and magazines.

In a nation of high murder rates, many guns, and a lot of violence balanced by a Constitution and a host of local laws that allow for closely held liberties and provide for gun ownership, the narrative on guns is being rewritten across the country, in towns big and small, on Facebook walls and in formal political debates. It is a narrative with real consequences for real people – Chicago topped the nation in homicides last year with 506 but is certainly not alone in feeling the effects of gun violence – but one that, like most things in Washington, is likely to be defined by money.




White House Taps Juvenile Justice Advocates for Expertise on Gun Violence

Vice President Joe Biden leads the first meeting to develop policy proposals as part of the Administration’s response to the Newtown shootings and other tragedies. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

Representatives from a group of more than 300 juvenile justice and delinquency prevention organizations at the national, state and local level have met with White House staff and Congressional minority leaders at their invitation in recent weeks to provide evidence-based expertise on ways to reduce gun violence in the country, a coalition leader said.

As tasked by President Barack Obama in the wake of mass shootings at an elementary school last month, Vice-President Joe Biden and his staff have spent the last few weeks meeting with gun-control advocates, pro-gun rights groups and dozens of concerned organizations in preparation for the release of the vice-president’s recommendations for the prevention of gun violence.

According to Politico, Biden indicated today that the president could use an executive order to act on some of his recommendations, which are expected to be made public next week.

On Jan. 4, representatives from the National Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Coalition and other advocates met with aides to the president and vice-president, including Tonya Robinson, a special assistant to the President on the White House Domestic Policy Council; Evan Ryan, an assistant to Biden; and Mary Lou Leary, the acting director of the Office of Justice Programs, said Nancy Gannon Hornberger, a coalition leader who was present at the meeting. Hornberger also serves as executive director of the D.C.-based Coalition for Juvenile Justice.

Advocates present included Liz Ryan, founder and CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice; Mark Soler, founder and CEO of the Center for Children’s Law and Policy; and Rey Banks from the National Juvenile Defender Center, Hornberger said.

The group emphasized actions that Congress and the Obama administration could take to address factors that feed violence in communities and recommended a number of evidence-based strategies to help young people and families who are at risk of becoming involved. Such strategies, which have drawn bipartisan support in the past, include comprehensive prevention and intervention measures addressing youth development, behavioral health, mental health and education policy, Hornberger said.

The White House aides said they were meeting with small groups from the field to gain insights into certain questions, Hornberger said. “They were very interested in the recommendations particularly that had to do with administrative leadership and greater coordination and concentration of federal efforts. They recognized too that the White House could advance legislation with the Congress,” she said.

The White House aides were also interested in coordinating and concentrating resources for school and community safety. “We got into a lot of specific evidence-based practices,” Hornberger said. “We also talked a lot about conflict resolution, restorative justice, positive behavior support and mental health strategies.”

On Jan. 3, the day before the “listening session” with White House staff, the coalition released a list of recommendations aimed at President Obama, Biden and Congress. Effective action on its recommendations would require passing legislation, demonstrating administrative leadership and appropriating adequate resources, the coalition pointed out.

The document called upon the Obama administration and Congress to respond to the 26 lives lost at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., by remembering the many American communities where gun violence remains a common occurrence.

“While the Newtown incident was horrifying and shocking, it represents a small portion of the violence experienced by America’s youth,” the coalition wrote.

Nearly two out of every three children in the United States experience trauma from abuse, crime or violence, the coalition wrote, referring to findings from a report released just two days before the Newtown shootings by a special taskforce appointed by Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the pervasiveness of violence in children’s lives.

In the wake of the Newtown shootings, some pro-gun rights advocates have called for the government to arm teachers and guards at every public school. Such a response would take entirely the wrong approach, the coalition wrote in its letter to Biden. “It is our view that true safety will not result from having more guns in schools or other places where youth congregate,” they wrote.

Two weeks earlier, on Dec. 19, some of the same advocates were invited to meet with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), along with nine other House representatives and their staff, to discuss comprehensive solutions to preventing gun violence, Hornberger said, who was there.

“I believe that it was one of many meetings being held in response to Newtown tragedy and in response to the president and vice-president stating very publicly and openly that they were looking for solutions and a comprehensive approach,” Hornberger said.

Others at that meeting with House members included Marian Wright Edelman, the founder and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund; Ryan of the Campaign for Youth Justice; Soler of the Center for Children’s Law and Policy; and Nick Alexander, the senior policy director for Fight Crime Invest in Kids and Council for a Strong America.

The group discussed prevention and intervention strategies that have been proven through research to help those at risk of becoming involved in violence, as well as cross-sector support for vulnerable families and youth, Hornberger said.

As a result of these meetings, Hornberger said, Reps. Pelosi and Scott will hold a youth violence prevention summit on Jan. 22 to discuss ways to improve community safety and youth development. The summit is open to the public.

Official White House Photo by David Lienemann.




California Youth Crime Plunge Challenges Conventional Thinking

Unlike economists, if all criminal justice experts were laid end to end, they actually would reach a conclusion: there’s no way today’s young people could possibly have lower rates of murder, rape, other serious offenses, and all-around criminality than the sainted youth of the 1950s.

Just look at the sweeping changes in American childhood: widespread family breakup beginning in the Sixties; escalating poverty levels since the 1970s; the rise of gang and drug cultures in the Eighties; widespread, vastly more explicit popular culture in the 1990s; soaring drug abuse, crime, and imprisonment among their parents’ generation; and defunded schools, services, and programs.

Consider also the fact that there are 6 million more American teenaged youths in 2011 than in 1990, with the fastest growth in racial groups with higher arrest rates. The rapid growth and increasing racial diversity of youth populations is a development two influential crime authorities branded “deadly demographics.” They forecast in 2003 that the United States would endure a skyrocketing youth and young-adult crime epidemic bringing well over 10,000 murders annually.

Yet, falling crime numbers were debunking scary predictions. Now, the FBI’s latest 2011 data  shows youth arrests plummeted to lows not seen since the mid-1960s for robbery, assault, and drugs, and the lowest rates ever reliably recorded for homicide, rape, property offenses, and misdemeanors. Given that before the 1970s, many juvenile crimes were not recorded due to lack of fingerprint records or were masked under general labels like “delinquent tendencies,” the modern crime decline is even more dramatic.

In 2011, the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report shows that youths accounted for just 4.1% of homicides and 9.5% of violent crimes. There are now considerably more violent crime arrests, including 40% more murders, among 40-49 year-olds than among juveniles under age 18—an eventuality conventional authorities never anticipated.

By prevailing theories, California would seem especially unlikely to experience a youth crime drop. Yet, as the state’s juvenile teenage population transitioned from 80% white in 1960 to 73% of color (Latino, Asian, African, Native, and other nonwhite American) by 2011 and suffered substantially higher poverty, new figures from the California’s state Criminal Justice Statistics Center show juvenile crime decreased more rapidly than it did nationally.

California juvenile arrest rates rose to a peak in 1974 and have generally plunged since to levels 50% lower today than in the 1970s. The drop in both felony and misdemeanor crime occurred among all races/ethnicities and both sexes.

Around 25% of the youth crime decline from 2010 to 2011 is attributable to a new law that reduced simple marijuana possession to an infraction. The remainder appears to reflect a real decrease in youth crime.

In fact, among California’s diverse youth population, rates of homicide, rape, and crime of all kinds have now fallen to levels substantially lower than those of a half-century ago. These trends should send a shock wave through the criminal justice establishment. Even with more sophisticated data and analytical techniques, no one predicted this.

Certainly, many crime authorities, such as the National Crime Victimization Survey, Monitoring the Future, and public health statistics, have acknowledged that standard measures show youth offending has been dropping rapidly for two decades. Unfortunately, many attribute the decline to unproven factors, such as more policing, demographic change, and various programs and campaigns.

For examples, we now know the 1990s “Boston miracle”—greatly reduced juvenile murders—occurred in most cities (San Francisco’s drop was even more impressive), including ones with no coherent anti-violence strategies. Studies generally find get-tough policing, including curfews and stronger sentencing, are not effective. In fact, the numbers of California juveniles confined and detained also have fallen to all-time lows in recent years, as have curfew arrests.

Emotional quips, anecdotes, generalizations of rare events, and radically expanded definitions designed to exaggerate supposedly “new” negative youth behaviors, such as bullying, sexting, dating violence, girls’ violence, and supposedly biodetermined “risk taking,” need to become as unacceptable to inflict on young people as they are to apply to other groups in society. We may even see a startling reality emerging: when their socioeconomic disadvantages are figured in, modern youth may be no more “crime prone” than older adults. From President Obama to academic halls to the local news, it is time to abolish prejudicial terms like “youth violence” and move beyond equating young people with crime.




Senate Confirmation Rule Dropped for Federal Juvenile Justice Office

Melodee Hanes, acting OJJDP administrator

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Juvenile justice advocates are dismayed by a new law that they say threatens to accelerate the fading relevance of juvenile justice reform within the federal government.

To the chagrin of many, President Barack Obama has not nominated anyone for the U.S. Senate to confirm as a permanent leader of federal juvenile justice efforts since he took office. For three and a half years, the federal office responsible for setting national policy, sharing research on best practices and funding state initiatives on juvenile justice and delinquency prevention has chugged along on temporary leadership, first under acting Administrator Jeff Slowikowski and since January, under acting Administrator Melodee Hanes.

If the White House does name a person to fill the long-vacant position – something unlikely to happen soon, advocates say, given a looming presidential election — such a Senate confirmation will never come.

That’s because effective Aug. 10, the process of confirming a person to lead the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention has fundamentally changed. Under the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act, passed by Congress and signed by the president earlier this summer, the Senate will no longer have to confirm the nominations of 170 government positions, including that of the administrator of the OJJDP. The president can now simply appoint someone to that office.

“I’m certainly not in favor of it. I think it downgrades the position of the office,” said Gordon Raley, who was staff director of a House subcommittee at the time that the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974, which created an office focused on juvenile justice and delinquency issues within the U.S. Department of Justice, was being drafted.

“Kids generally don’t have high priority when it comes to the way things are done in Washington,” Raley said. “Kids in trouble even less so. To get someone who will be able to get stature in the position and be able to work across agencies — that’s what the office was supposed to do.”

Ira Schwartz, who was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to lead the federal office, echoed Raley’s characterization of the original intention of the 1974 legislation. It drew tremendous bipartisan support for bringing attention to the “many, many problems” faced by children who came into contact with the juvenile justice system, he said.

“Children were not receiving adequate due process, proper representation in the courts, they were being incarcerated for relatively minor and often times non-criminal offenses,” Schwartz said. “They were also being incarcerated for longer periods of time than their adult counterparts who had committed similar offenses.”

The position of the office administrator came up a lot during the drafting of the 1974 Act, Raley said. “The point we wanted to make at the time was that this was a position that needed a presidential nomination and Senate approval at the same time. It needed this stature.”

JJIE spoke to many other people in the juvenile justice field, including another former administrator of the office, and their views on the change were nearly unanimous: removing the Senate confirmation requirement, even in the name of expediency, will have a negative effect on the ability of the office to advocate for juvenile justice issues at the federal level. Hanes, acting administrator of the OJJDP, did not respond to requests for comment.

“I just don’t think you have as much power or as much clout if you don’t have Senate confirmation. They don’t really know you then,” said Marion Mattingly, Washington editor of the Juvenile Justice Update, who has followed the juvenile justice field for decades.

Liz Ryan, president of the nonprofit Campaign for Youth Justice, says removing the requirement for Congressional confirmation opens the doors to more partisan and less-qualified appointees for the office in the future.

“Particularly in a situation where you have an unfriendly administration or an administration that views this as a low priority, we won’t have the ability to stop the appointment or hear their views prior to a vote,” Ryan said.

The director of Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform, Shay Bilchik, who served as administrator of the OJJDP from 1994 to 2000 under President Bill Clinton, also said he was “disappointed” when he heard the law had been signed.

Sponsored by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act is intended to make it easier for the Obama administration to fill 170 vacant federal positions, some with nominees whose confirmations have been blocked or delayed for months by a partisan or distracted Congress. Schumer’s office did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Some juvenile justice practitioners, however, take a pragmatic approach. Like Irv Katz, president of the National Human Services Assembly, an association of the country’s largest youth and human services organizations, including the Coalition for Juvenile Justice.

“What I would observe is that we have had good and bad people in that position regardless of the congressional approval process,” Katz said. He doesn’t blame the administration for the change.

“The whole appointment and confirmation process is so dysfunctional and fractured, that it leads to nominees who are not confirmed in the appropriate period of time, and nominees that withdraw, and a reluctance on part of the administration to put names forward knowing that it will not move forward,” Katz said. “So it appoints an interim person in the chain of command who they know will do a perfectly fine job.”

Jim Moeser, deputy director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, who serves on the federal advisory council for juvenile justice for OJJDP, also doesn’t see a problem with the change.

“If the confirmation process is so cumbersome and politically problematic that we end up with no one there, then that’s not very useful,” Moeser said.

But, several people have pointed out, there has never been an Obama nominee for the job of OJJDP administrator, even though, as JJIE’s sister publication Youth Today reported at the time, two candidates, Karen Baynes of Georgia, and Vicki Spriggs of Texas, came close in 2009 and 2010 respectively before withdrawing from consideration.

“The fact that this administration wasn’t even able to provide a name, or feel strongly enough that they could find someone, tells me that’s a problem with this administration giving this a priority, than it is with the Senate not pushing it through,” Raley said.

Photo by Justice.gov




Food is Fundamental, Only Don’t Ask Newt Gingrich

On January 21 Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina Primary. But he did it, in part, by using racist rhetoric, characterizing President Obama as “the best food stamp president in American history.” Since then, he has continued to drive this distortion hoping it will somehow resonate with voters. It’s not likely to work, because most Americans understand that food is fundamental. Presidents do not put people onto the food stamp rolls. People, predominately people with children to feed, become eligible for food stamps.

The food stamp program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, is a critical safety net for families living in poverty. SNAP eligibility rules require that participants be at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level.

Recent studies show that 49 percent of all SNAP participants are children (age 18 or younger), with almost two-thirds of SNAP children living in single-parent households. In total, 76 percent of SNAP benefits go towards households with children, 16 percent go to households with disabled persons, and 9 percent go to households with senior citizens.

Newt Gingrich’s attempt to paint Obama as the president who oversaw the largest increase of SNAP participation is inaccurate. It was President Bush, not President Obama who has that distinction.  This stands to reason, as it was during President Bush’s administration that our country’s economy plummeted.  Newt Gingrich’ race-baiting tactic is repugnant, of course, and he is just flat-out wrong.  As Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) so eloquently voiced on the floor of The U.S. House recently, “Hunger is color-blind. Of recipients whose race we know, 22 percent of SNAP recipients are African-American. And 34 percent are white. Hunger knows no race, or religion, or age or political party.”

Hunger in America is real.  Programs such as SNAP, WIC, free- and reduced- school lunches, and summer feeding programs exists because there is a need.  These are not fraud-ridden systems somehow sucking the life out of our budgets as some politicians would like you to believe.  According to a recent USDA analysis, SNAP reached a payment accuracy of 96.19 percent in 2012 (the highest ever achieved by the program).  Trafficking rates — the number of benefits exchanged for cash — are at 1 percent, according to 2008 statistics, the most recent available. There is always room for improvement, but the integrity of the SNAP program is solid.

As evidenced by no subsequent primary wins, America is not buying Newt Gingrich’s assault on children, families, disabled, or our senior citizens.

In a recent NPR interview, correspondent David Welna spoke to Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions from Alabama, and Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu from Louisiana. Per capita, Sessions’ Alabama is one of the top food stamp recipients in the nation; so is Louisiana.  Sen. Sessions said, “I think it’s a policy of the administration, just get money out of the door to try to stimulate the economy, and not look closely at who’s getting it and why they’re getting it.”  Sen. Mary Landrieu said, “It is blaming the victim, and it’s making a mockery of some of the most important, I think, social safety net programs in the country.”  Welna asked about government freeloaders?  Sen. Landrieu responded by suggesting Congress should “take away the special tax loopholes for the rich.”

Candidate Gingrich would never advocate for that. Take away tax loopholes for the wealthy? Blasphemous indeed. Hungry children, being hungry, families living from paycheck to paycheck, having a language barrier that limits your ability to navigate our system, being part of the working poor, struggling to find a job, or experiencing financial fear, all these are beyond the realm of reality for Newt Gingrich.

No, he can more easily identify with his patrons such as Sheldon Adelson, a casino mogul who donated 5 million dollars to Gingrich through a super PAC. Then his wife Miriam, quickly followed with a 6 million dollar donation. This was just before the South Carolina primary and we know who won the South Carolina primary.




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

This story originally appeared on YouthToday.

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

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

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

Juvenile Justice

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other notable items from the Department of Justice proposal:

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

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

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

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

Education and Labor

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

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

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

Other notable items from the Department of Education:

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

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

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

Health and Family Services

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

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

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

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

Other notable items:

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

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

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

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

Service Learning

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

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

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

Photo by Flickr | rachaelvoorhees




Administration’s Turn-About on Juvenile Justice

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

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

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




Congressional Earmarks Fund Georgia Programs for Kids; Future Earmarks in Jeopardy

The Justice Department has published the list of OJJDP congressional earmarks for the 2010 fiscal year.  Twenty-one programs in Georgia got funding for a total of $3.2 million.  Here are some of the largest awards along with congressional sponsors:

  • $500,000   City of Valdosta    Sponsors: Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Savannah), Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
  • $300,000   Georgia Bureau of Investigation     Sponsor:  Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
  • $250,000    University of West Georgia    Sponsors:  Rep. Phil Gingrey(R-Marietta), Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
  • $250,000    Rockdale County    Sponsors:  Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Lithonia), Rep. David Scott (D-Jonesboro), Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
  • $250,000    Project Rebound, Inc.    Sponsor:  Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Albany)
  • $200,000    City of Moultrie Police Department    Sponsors:  Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Macon), Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
  • $150,000    Truancy Intervention Project Georgia, Inc.     Sponsor:  Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA)

Earmarks may be on the endangered list next year, according to Youth Today, which tracks federal earmarks for youth projects.  Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Tea Party supporters want a ban on earmarks. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) are also on board. President Obama wants to limit earmarks, and some congressional Democrats facing reelection in 2012 are under pressure to stop the practice.

Earmarks aren’t the only source of federal funding for juvenile justice projects. Another $2,480,463 in competitive grants also went to agencies based in Georgia. Here’s that list from OJJDP:

  • $349,969     Family drug court programs in Chatham County Juvenile Court
  • $300,000   GBI law enforcement strategies to protect children from commercial sexual exploitation
  • $409,390    Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force at the GBI
  • $296,104     Juvenile Drug Courts and Mentoring Initiative in Columbus
  • $625,000     Young Adult Guidance Center, Inc. for the Second Chance Act Juvenile Mentoring Initiative
  • $500,000     The Center for Working Families, Inc. for Strategic Enhancement to Mentoring Programs

In addition, $42 million was allocated to the Boys and Girls Clubs for mentoring programs across the nation through their headquarters in Atlanta




President Obama: Anti-Bullying Message

President Obama has joined nationally syndicated columnist Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” Project to fight against gay bullying. In a video released last week, Obama said he was “shocked and saddened” by the recent suicides of several young people who were bullied and taunted for being gay.

Click here for the full video, in case you missed it.