The Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice (FACJJ) held a virtual meeting July 29, 2020, to discuss ongoing issues in juvenile justice and to hear reports from its three subcommittees—Special Topics, Facilitating Compliance With the Juvenile Justice Reform Act, and Territory Outreach.
After welcoming FACJJ members, Administrator Caren Harp discussed how OJJDP is addressing the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In May, OJJDP issued guidance for states considering the early release of detained youth following the emergence of the novel coronavirus. Administrator Harp said the COVID-19 guidance emphasizes the need for intensive care and supervision of youth in detention and correctional facilities, the difficulty youth released into the community likely will experience accessing health services, and the greater reentry challenges youth can expect to face in the midst of the pandemic.
FACJJ members then described how their states are dealing with COVID-19. Several praised their court systems’ strategies for assessing the health risks in detention and correctional facilities as compared with the potential risks of accelerated release schedules. Two members highlighted the importance of open communication between the courts and the families of detained youth to determine the best course of action for mitigating the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
Judge David Hejmanowski of Ohio’s Delaware County Probate/Juvenile Court said his state has encountered challenges in deciding what health screening criteria to use when admitting youth to juvenile justice facilities (e.g., whether to require a quarantine upon admission). Kate Richtman, former director of the Ramsey County Attorney’s Juvenile Division in Minnesota, stressed the importance of ensuring that youth released from facilities continue to obtain support services, particularly mental health services and substance abuse treatment.
Administrator Harp noted the challenges for detained youth—particularly high-risk, high-need youth—as facilities shift to no-contact services to lower the risk of contracting the coronavirus. She asked FACJJ members whether states would benefit from a greater use of technology, as facilities across the nation have adopted virtual family visitations and other new approaches to cope with the pandemic. Committee members indicated that many of the technological adaptations states have employed likely would become permanent, even in the absence of COVID-19.
Following the discussion about how OJJDP and the states are addressing the pandemic, Program Manager Keisha Kersey informed the committee that the Office has decided that the 2020 State Relations and Assistance Division National Training Conference will be a virtual meeting. The conference will be held October 6–8, 2020.
The chairs of the three subcommittees then reported out to the full committee on the subcommittees’ progress.
Ms. Richtman said the Special Topics Subcommittee is focusing on initiatives aimed at the needs of younger children and the problems of truancy and running away. She said these initiatives should address behavior problems in a holistic manner rather than simply sanctioning kids for missing school or other infractions. Ms. Richtman cited a behavioral health pilot program that subcommittee member and school principal Russ Riehl implemented at his Bismarck, ND, middle school as an example of the kind of intervention the subcommittee plans to showcase to state advisory groups (SAGs). That initiative has resulted in a dramatic decrease in suspensions and expulsions, police citations, and court referrals. The subcommittee plans to highlight promising programs that do not require significant funding and could work in all types of jurisdictions, possibly through webinars hosted by OJJDP.
The Subcommittee on Facilitating Compliance With the Juvenile Justice Reform Act, chaired by Judge Hejmanowski, is studying whether the administrative cost for states to comply with the requirements of the Title II Formula Grants program is deterring them from participating in the program. Judge Hejmanowski said that members reviewed an analysis of states’ compliance costs during the FACJJ meeting’s subcommittee breakout session. Based on their analysis, the subcommittee is considering a recommendation to raise the minimum funding level for participating states, which historically has been $400,000. The Act does not include an upper limit on the minimum, allowing OJJDP flexibility to raise the funding level.
Anthony Pierro, Chief Juvenile Attorney in the Ocean County, NJ, Prosecutor’s Office, chairs the Territory Outreach Subcommittee. He reported that the subcommittee is embarking on a series of listening sessions with the SAGs of U.S. territories to find out how OJJDP can better support the territories and learn more about their challenges in complying with formula grant requirements. The subcommittee has drafted letters to send to each territory’s SAG along with questions, and listening sessions are scheduled to kick off in August. After obtaining feedback from the territories, the subcommittee will submit recommendations to OJJDP.
|The Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice is a consultative body established by the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974, as amended (Section 223), and is supported by OJJDP. Composed of members of state advisory groups on juvenile justice, the committee advises the President and Congress on matters related to juvenile justice, evaluates the progress and accomplishments of juvenile justice activities and projects, and advises the OJJDP Administrator on the work of OJJDP.|