By Senior Attorney Susan Broderick and Program Director Kristi Browning
National District Attorneys Association
The role of the juvenile prosecutor is constantly evolving. Across the country, prosecutors are developing programs to divert low-risk, nonviolent offenders from the juvenile justice system. In addition, prosecutors no longer merely react to juvenile crime; they are engaged in strategies to prevent it. They collaborate with community partners to respond to risk factors through screening tools and early intervention. At the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA), we believe it is essential to help juvenile prosecutors develop expertise on best practices and the most current science and research.
OJJDP has been a valuable partner in NDAA's work to enhance the skills and knowledge of juvenile prosecutors. That partnership was reaffirmed in fiscal year (FY) 2019, when OJJDP awarded a grant of $875,000 over 3 years for NDAA to support states that are developing training opportunities, technical assistance, and publications for juvenile prosecutors, their staff, and allied criminal justice professionals. We are currently fielding requests for information and technical assistance from across the country.
In 2019, we piloted the in-person training, "The Role of the Juvenile Prosecutor," at the National Advocacy Center in Columbia, SC. The training addressed a range of contemporary topics, including key considerations in diversion, brain development in children and adolescents, the science of addiction, and the exploitation and trafficking of minors. The 2.5-day training was filled to capacity, leaving many people on the waiting list and generating a lot of enthusiastic feedback. We will be providing additional trainings in other regions across the United States.
After the pilot training, we organized a juvenile justice advisory board composed of leading prosecutors from eight states that currently participate in OJJDP's FY 2018 and FY 2019 Addressing the Training Needs of Juvenile Prosecutors program. The states are Alabama, Arizona, California, Illinois, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Oklahoma. These experts are informing us of the emerging needs of juvenile prosecutors in their states, offering input on future NDAA trainings, and providing contacts to connect professionals to resources.
We have also created an email discussion board, which provides a venue for NDAA to disseminate the latest research and legal updates, and for juvenile prosecutors to communicate regularly with their peers—and with us—about successes and challenges in their jurisdictions.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been an opportune time to launch web-based learning. In early August, we held our third webinar for juvenile prosecutors. The webinar, "Substance Use Issues in Juvenile Court," focused on the latest research on substance use disorders and recovery, the correlation between problematic substance use and offending, and the influential role prosecutors in juvenile court can play in preventing and addressing these disorders early on. The first two webinars discussed the guiding principles of juvenile prosecution and the science of child and adolescent development.
In the spring of 2020, we updated the juvenile justice section of the Prosecutor's Encyclopedia, a leading online resource developed by the New York Prosecutors Training Institute. The section provides new information and perspectives on restorative justice, the engagement of offender support networks in community supervision, and the strengths and limitations of the Adverse Childhood Experiences scoring tool.
Technical assistance requests can be submitted directly to NDAA.
More information about OJJDP's FY 2018 and FY 2019 Addressing the Training Needs of Juvenile Prosecutors program is available on the OJJDP website.
To learn more about OJJDP's FY 2020 Strategies To Support Children Exposed to Violence program, visit the Office's website.
Points of view or opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.