Acting Administrator Chyrl Jones' Keynote Address at the Transformation of Youth Justice Symposium
OJJDP Acting Administrator Chyrl Jones highlights the ways in which the Office's support for the RFK National Resource Center is helping transform the way that youth and families experience the juvenile justice system. She discusses the OJJDP-funded training and technical assistance project the center is leading to enhance community supervision practices for youth with co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders who are on probation or being released from secure placement. The Acting Administrator also describes OJJDP's Comprehensive Juvenile Justice System Reform Initiative, which is helping states implement statutory and policy changes through intensive training and technical assistance.
Hello. I am Chyrl Jones, Acting Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, also known as OJJDP.
Authorized by the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, OJJDP provides national leadership, coordination, and resources to prevent delinquency and victimization among youth.
In fiscal year 2020 alone, we awarded nearly $370 million to states, communities, and tribal jurisdictions to help fund prevention and intervention programs for youth.
Before I was appointed Acting Administrator in January 2020, I served as OJJDP’s Deputy Administrator. In this role, I oversaw OJJDP’s mentoring, gang prevention, drug courts, and reentry programs, and supported state efforts to reform their juvenile justice systems.
I also oversaw our training and technical assistance programs and coordinated our research agenda with the National Institute of Justice.
It’s been an honor to work with OJJDP for more than 20 years, helping to advance justice and safety for our youth throughout the nation.
When John Tuell asked me to join you today, I was thrilled. Some of you may know that John worked at OJJDP during the late 90s. I saw firsthand his commitment to youth then and a commitment that deepened in the ensuing years.
I don’t need to tell you how dedicated John and his team are to helping you—as leaders and changemakers—transform the way that youth and families experience the juvenile justice system. OJJDP is proud to support this important work.
The 2018 Juvenile Justice Reform Act, which amends OJJDP’s authorizing legislation, includes several focus areas that are consistent with the mission of the RFK National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice.
These focus areas emphasize evidence-based practices, addressing trauma in children exposed to violence, and reducing racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system.
The Act also encourages family engagement, community supervision practices, and services for youth who have contact with both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. We’re working with the RFK National Resource Center, under a Second Chance Act grant program, to meet some of these mandates.
OJJDP’s Second Chance Act programs provide specialized services to youth who are reentering their communities after detention. They also promote family engagement between incarcerated parents and their children when it is in the best interest of the child.
Following a competitive selection process, OJJDP tasked the RFK National Resource Center in 2018 with providing training and technical assistance to improve outcomes for reentering youth.
The program seeks to enhance community supervision for youth with co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders who are on probation or being released from secure placement.
RFK graciously named the venture the “Dennis M. Mondoro Probation and Juvenile Justice System Enhancement Project” in honor of Dennis Mondoro, a well-known and respected OJJDP colleague and friend to many. Dennis was a former probation officer and a fierce advocate for justice system reform.
I had the opportunity to work with Dennis for many years. He was a true champion for youth and I was happy to learn that RFK had named their program in honor of his legacy. He is sorely missed.
The RFK National Resource Center and its partners are helping six competitively selected sites—in Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Missouri, Virginia, and Washington—incorporate adolescent development into their practices, screen for and treat trauma, and increase their use of alternatives to formal involvement in the juvenile justice system.
The sites are already reporting encouraging outcomes, such as increased rates of desistance, early and successful completion of probation, and improved functioning in the behavioral health, education, and family domains.
You will learn more about these innovative projects during the symposium and about the Probation System Guidebook, 3rd Edition—the center’s framework for transforming probation and juvenile justice policy and practice in local jurisdictions.
I believe representatives from the Mondoro project sites are here today. I would like to give kudos to them and encourage them to keep up this vital work. You’re making a very real difference and tangible impact in these young people’s lives and in their communities.
And that is the very reason we all signed up to do this work—to instill hope in our youth, provide them with opportunities to succeed, and inspire them to work toward a brighter future when things seem bleak.
While preparing for today’s talk about our responsibility as juvenile justice professionals, I found myself returning to a very personal experience that I’d like to share with you. It may not at first seem related, but bear with me because I think it is clearly connected.
Overwhelmed. Not sad. Not scared. Just overwhelmed.
That’s what I remember feeling when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. I was stunned, shocked, dazed—completely overcome. I had cancer. I was in trouble.
Years later, and after much reflection, I realize that this experience has helped me relate to the very young people we all strive to serve.
What do you think they feel when they enter the juvenile justice or child welfare systems? That’s right: overwhelmed. They are in trouble—and they know it.
I was incredibly fortunate to have a strong support system beside me throughout my journey with cancer.
My mom or my sister was with me for every appointment. They heard what I couldn’t hear. They believed in me and my ailing body when I simply didn’t have the energy.
I am so glad to say that I have been cancer free since 2013. I am a different woman now—stronger, yes, but more humble too—more cognizant of just how vital my support system is.
Justice-involved youth also need a support system. They deserve a network of dedicated professionals who believe in them—who they can count on for support, rehabilitation, education, guidance, and treatment. They need a reason to believe and to not give up.
Thankfully, our modern juvenile justice system does give young people the opportunity to recover and restart.
Based on the principle that youth are developmentally different from adults—more amenable to effective interventions, treatment, and rehabilitation—the modern system provides more opportunities than ever before for youth to find a positive path.
But there is always room for improvement.
OJJDP is committed to supporting state, local, and tribal efforts to continue to improve the juvenile justice system. I’d like to highlight just a few OJJDP programs that may be of interest to you.
Since 2014, OJJDP’s Comprehensive Juvenile Justice System Reform Initiative has funded intensive training and technical assistance for states, helping them implement comprehensive statutory and policy changes.
Many participating states have realized dramatic improvements to their juvenile justice systems with this help. For example:
South Dakota transformed its juvenile justice system and saw a 66-percent decline in youth placements between 2014 and 2018.
And after passing reforms in 2016, Kansas saw a 63-percent reduction in out-of-home placements, closed a youth correctional facility in 2017, and redirected more than $30 million into a fund for community-based programs and services.
The Davidson County Juvenile Court—right here in Nashville—has implemented a risk assessment pre-screener, trained judges and other staff on evidence-based practices, and developed tools to improve data collection and reporting.
This is only a fraction of the encouraging results many states and counties are reporting after reducing their reliance on secure confinement and increasing community-based programming for nonviolent youth.
We want to keep that momentum going. In fiscal year 2020, OJJDP awarded nearly $20 million to support state efforts to improve their juvenile justice systems.
Funded initiatives include the Juvenile Justice and Mental Health Collaboration, Coordinated Assistance to States, Juvenile Justice System Enhancements, Enhancing Juvenile Indigent Defense, and Reducing the Use of Isolation in Juvenile Facilities programs.
Our 2021 funding also includes many programs that will intersect with your work. In the interest of time, I’ll highlight only four, but please visit our website—at OJJDP.ojp.gov—to learn all about the new projects we’re funding in 2021.
First, our new Family-Based Alternative Sentencing program will help state and tribal governments implement alternative sentencing programs for parents in the criminal justice system to improve child and family outcomes.
Through the Juvenile Justice System Reform initiative, OJJDP will help states create sustainable policies to reduce recidivism and reinvest cost savings into effective prevention and intervention programs.
The Second Chance Act Youth Offender Reentry program will provide grants to states, local and tribal governments, and, for the first time, to nonprofit organizations for direct services and system-improvement efforts that benefit reentering youth.
Finally, our Reducing Risk for Girls in the Juvenile Justice System program will help decrease risk factors and promote protective factors for girls who are in, or at risk of entering, the justice system.
If you didn’t apply for funding in 2021, look for fiscal year 2022 funding opportunities on our website or subscribe to our JUVJUST listserv to receive notification of new funding opportunities. I encourage you all to apply!
On behalf of everyone at OJJDP, I would like to thank each one of you for your continued efforts to improve our juvenile justice system so that it better serves youth, families, and communities. We are proud to call you our partners in this important work.
Enjoy the symposium and the tailored trainings that the RFK Resource Center has curated for you. Take advantage of this opportunity to engage with and exchange ideas with your peers.
I am confident you will leave this event with a clearer understanding of how to inspire hope and provoke change within your jurisdiction so that every child has the opportunity to realize the kind of future we dream of for our own children.
Opinions or points of view expressed in these recordings represent those of the speakers and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. Any commercial products and manufacturers discussed in these recordings are presented for informational purposes only and do not constitute product approval or endorsement by the U.S. Department of Justice.