OJJDP Acting Administrator Speaks at National Racial and Ethnic Disparities Conference
OJJDP Acting Administrator Chyrl Jones provided opening remarks at the virtual National Racial and Ethnic Disparities Conference that was held November 2–3, 2021.
Good morning! I’m Chyrl Jones, the Acting Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, which most of you know as OJJDP.
Thank you Naomi and CJJ for inviting me. I’m very appreciative of our partnership.
I’m excited to have the opportunity to speak to you today. Bringing together stakeholders to share solutions to the problem of racial and ethnic disparities in juvenile justice is so important. OJJDP is proud to stand with you as you stand up for young people—of every race and ethnicity!
To the racial and ethnic disparities coordinators, State Advisory Group members, law enforcement, court officials, advocates, community activists, and young people here today, thank you! You are making a difference in the communities you represent in your states, territories, and tribes.
The focus of this virtual conference is working together. Given that theme of partnership, I want to highlight how OJJDP works with states, tribes, and communities to improve juvenile justice systems and reduce racial and ethnic disparities. Statistics show that black youth are more than four times as likely as their white peers to be held in juvenile facilities. They also come into contact with both the juvenile justice and child welfare systems at far higher rates.
Today, I’d like to briefly cover some areas relevant to your work. I want to highlight the incredible efforts states and territories are making to address racial and ethnic disparities in juvenile justice. I will also draw attention to our partnerships with tribal communities.
Minority youth are overrepresented in our nation’s juvenile justice system. That is a fact—and a tragedy. The best way we can serve young people is to keep them out of the juvenile justice system in the first place. If they do come into contact with the system, it is OJJDP’s vision that the contact be rare, fair, and beneficial to them.
Rare. Fair. And beneficial. We clearly have a lot of work to do. OJJDP is committed to doing it—together with all of you.
We are lucky to have the support from the very top of this Administration. President Biden proclaimed October National Youth Justice Action Month. This month was designated to draw attention to the need for youth justice reform—with a focus on preventing youth from entering the system and addressing racial inequity in the system.
Through our Formula Grants program, OJJDP has a long history of working in partnership with states to reduce the overrepresentation of minority youth. The Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018, or JJRA, reauthorized and substantially amended the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974.
The amendments require states and territories to identify and reduce racial and ethnic disparities among youth who come in contact with the system. States are focusing on key data and developing achievable goals to reduce racial and ethnic disparities.
As part of our Formula Grants program, OJJDP funds the Center for Coordinated Assistance to States. The Center provides vital training and technical assistance to states, including helping them develop and implement their plans to reduce racial and ethnic disparities. I encourage you all to visit OJJDP’s website where you will find the CCAS link to access high-quality resources and research-driven training and technical assistance.
Recognizing the importance and complexity of this work, OJJDP partnered with the Center and state representatives to create a racial and ethnic disparities certificate program.
Our State Relations and Assistance Division convened experts to build this dynamic program that will include live training modules, interactive activities, and assignments that relate directly to the requirements of the Formula Grants program. This valuable professional development opportunity will be offered next year.
Finally, as states and territories submit their plans to reduce racial and ethnic disparities, the Center will conduct qualitative analyses of plans to identify trends, challenges, and promising strategies. OJJDP and the Center are determined to give you the training and tools you need to succeed.
While there have undoubtedly been challenges to reducing racial and ethnic disparities, there have also been many successes. I’ll highlight just two.
The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice partnered with the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, known as NOBLE, to initiate a pilot program designed to foster positive relationships between youth and law enforcement. The program brings officers into 7th grade classrooms at schools with high numbers of school-based arrests.
The officers give interactive presentations that enhance students’ understanding of federal, state, and local laws. They focus on hot button issues like bullying and sexting. These interactions improve communication between law enforcement and minority students, helping to build trust and mutual respect. The program is expanding throughout Florida.
Oregon’s Youth Development Council worked with the state to launch the Community Healing Initiative. The program uses proactive interventions to help youth of color who are referred to the juvenile justice system for a low-level criminal offense. The program also serves youth on informal probation to reduce the likelihood of recidivism.
These are just two examples of the great work that you all are doing in your communities and states. I want you to know that OJJDP sees you! We are fully aware that this is challenging work, and we know that you are committed to making juvenile justice systems more equitable. We applaud your efforts!
Finally, I want to touch on OJJDP’s work with tribal nations.
OJJDP's tribal youth programs help tribal communities prevent victimization and juvenile delinquency, reduce violent crime, and improve tribal juvenile justice systems. We are expanding our efforts by listening!
In June 2020, we conducted a consultation via webinar with 288 tribal representatives on how our office can better assist tribes with youth and juvenile programming. During the consultation—and in all our work with tribes—OJJDP is focused on gathering information directly from tribes. We need tribal input, tribal representation, and tribal buy-in to properly serve tribal youth.
OJJDP’s response to the tribal consultation was released in July of this year. The full report detailing action items is available on our website at ojjdp.ojp.gov.
The response demonstrates our dedication to supporting American Indian and Alaska Native communities in their work with tribal youth. We are already instituting the action items. For instance, tribal solicitations will include specific language that recognizes tribal best practices, indigenous practices, and traditional healing methods as strategies to prevent and respond to juvenile delinquency.
To continue the dialogue with native communities, OJJDP anticipates hosting its second tribal consultation in June 2022 and will incorporate a listening session into the biennial Tribal Youth Conference in 2023.
We also intend to include planning grants in our 2022 tribal solicitations to help tribes implement youth programming and juvenile justice system improvements.
As we all strive to make our juvenile justice systems more responsive and less biased, we must work together. OJJDP cannot reform systems alone—and neither can any individual state, tribe, or community. Together, we can make changes and transform lives. We can ensure that our juvenile justice systems respond to the pressing needs—and fundamental rights—of minority youth.
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.